Brooklyn boys Woods branching out into a whole new sound
New York duo Woods, who play Belfast this month, tell Edwin Gilson why they just love taking an unusual approach to their unique brand of indie rock music.
The common narrative of the New York rock scene in the early 2000s reads something like this: there was a barren landscape, The Strokes came along and inspired a wave of angular haircuts and riffs, and the Big Apple was awash with stylish bands. Garage acts like The Hives and Yeah Yeah Yeahs prospered off the back of this movement, but Jarvis Taviniere, of Brooklyn group Woods, has contrasting memories of the time.
"I was so disillusioned with the early 2000s," sighs the multi-instrumentalist. "Everything was feeling really stale in guitar music. I like a lot of New York bands, but in every city or scene there are so many bands that are just taking up space. It can be uninspiring if you don't ignore it, and back then it was completely in our faces."
As a reaction against the rat-race of New York, Taviniere and singer Jeremy Earl retreated into their Brooklyn basement. Their quest? "To make the kind of music we liked."
"It actually turned out that a lot of bands were hiding away and recording music," recalls Taviniere. "Then they all suddenly popped up; it was really fun to find bands with the same ethos as us, like New Age and Real Estate. I was finding bands that were mixing influences that I had and thought nobody else did. Like, 'Hey, you like The Ramones and Echo and the Bunnymen?' That's cool."
Since spawning in 2005, Woods have made eight records. The latest, With Light and With Love, maintains the level of experimentation (incorporating traditional folk instruments and noise-rock elements) that has been so important to Taviniere and co. Bracketing Woods into any musical genre is a challenge, and most critics settle for the term 'lo-fi.' The band take exception to such a vague tag. "That is annoying," said Taviniere. "It's largely because we used to record by ourselves in a basement. You wouldn't call a band that recorded in a studio 'hi-fi', would you?"
There is something endearingly wholesome about the way in which Woods, according to the multi-instrumentalist, traipse around the world touring with "lots of homemade, temperamental equipment," that includes loop pedals and tape machines. "Sound guys at festivals especially can be a pain in regards to all of that," adds Taviniere. "A lot of the time they start rolling their eyes when we tell them about our set-up."
When Woods' complex approach pays off, the results can be thrilling. Witness With Light and With Love's title track, a sprawling eight minute affair. Other times, it can all go horribly wrong.
"Last year at Green Man festival (in Wales) was a train-wreck, a complete train-wreck," laughs Taviniere. "Our power extensions didn't work, none of my pedals worked, and it took forever to get it all fixed. We ended up playing for a mere 15 minutes. We've had so many bad experiences like that, but at this stage you learn to get over them pretty quickly. That set was an absolute meltdown, but as you get older your heart breaks a bit less every time a show doesn't go exactly as you want it to."
Taviniere feels Woods are growing more and more professional throughout the band's career, while retaining a DIY streak. "There was definitely a period when we were 'anti-band,' when we were still learning how to play properly, that I enjoyed," he says. "I like the fact we actually know how to play our instruments now, though."
- Woods play McHugh's Bar in Belfast on September 24. For details, visit www.ticketmaster.ie