FRACTURED AIR

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Chosen One: Woods

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Interview with Jarvis Taveniere.

“There are certain things like we just scratched the surface on in the new record that I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio and really going deep.”

—Jarvis Taveniere

Words: Mark Carry

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Wooden Wand’s James Toth has perfectly described the unique allure of Brooklyn-based indie darlings, Woods — and more specifically the band’s latest country-tinged, psych pop odyssey of ‘With Light And With Love’ — as “an album of deeply psychedelic, deeply satisfying songs for a new age of searchers, of Don Juan and Animal Chin alike”. For the past decade, the core partnership of singer-songwriter and guitarist Jeremy Earl and multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere (alongside a cast of musicians, most notably drummer Aaron Neveu)  have forged a distinct blend of mesmerising pop songs that has metamorphosed into strange, new and enchanting forms with each and every release. At times, the New York group have dabbled into krautrock territory (2011’s ‘Sun And Shade’ comes to mind, particularly the glorious 60’s psychedlica haze of ‘Out of the Eye’ or this year’s hypnotic title-track of ‘With Light and With Love’); gleaming sunshine pop gems (‘Pushing Onlys’ which sings of “time that just slips away” and begins that very same album from 2011); timeless psych-folk cuts (any array of 2012’s ‘Bend Beyond’s towering cannon of songs) and simply put, the art of the perfect pop song (‘With Light and With Love’s opener ‘Shepherd’ is certainly one of those, speckled with a gorgeous Flying Burrito Brothers folk country sound). It is immediately clear with the latest opus that new horizons are reached as a more focused and fully-realized batch of songs come before us. As the seasons come and go, the timeless music — and cherished songbook — of Woods has provided a reliable companion and trusted constant, through which all else fades.

The glorious title-track, ‘With Light and Love’ — and the record’s longest cut at over nine minutes — builds on  an intense guitar groove that wonderfully shifts in and out of focus as a journey of epic proportions descends upon us. The lyric of “I walk with love” resonates powerfully. Sung by Earl, the affecting vocals hover gently beneath the shape-shifting rhythms of guitars and drums. A brooding darkness slowly envelopes the headspace during a later verse: “Death brings us close/Death brings a ghost.” In between the verses, the interludes of organ and electric guitar jams brings forth a transcendental state of mind as a space and dimension is masterfully attained. An urgency and directness is imprinted on the song’s majestic chorus refrain of “With light and with love/Tell me what to do”. The masterful song-craft of Earl, combined with the musical wizardry of Taveniere is a force to truly behold. ‘Full Moon’ contains sunshine-drenched and “tattooed memories” of George Harrison-esque guitar tones and sumptuous pop melodies. A wonderfully sparse folk lament comes on the album’s close, in the form of ‘Feather Man’ that also features beautiful violin accompaniment from Samara Lubelski (Chelsea Light Moving). ‘Leaves Like Glass’ is a pristine soulful pop gem that shares the illuminating sparks of Zombies ‘Oddysey & Oracle’ and the recent Truth & Soul records of Lee Fields & The Expressions. The opening lyric to the opening verse is perhaps my favourite moment of ‘With Light and With Love’: “This life will wait for you/It’s gonna take some time.” Earl sings “Still I hold you dear” towards the close of ‘With Light and With Love’ and this is precisely what the gracious music fan has done for each of the timeless works of this special band.

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‘With Light and With Love’ is available now on Woodsist.

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http://www.woodsist.com/woods/
https://www.facebook.com/woodsfamilyband

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Interview with Jarvis Taveniere.

Firstly Jarvis, the new album feels like a perfect balance between the previous Woods albums in the sense that there is a lovely mix of the country and wonderful pop melodies you have and also the more psychedelic elements. But that balance with the ten songs on ‘With Light and With Love’ is really striking.

Jarvis Taviniere: Thank you. Well I think what you said about having that balance between everything that we kind of do, you know like the country and psychedelic. But also – I don’t know I mean it sounds silly but I’d like to think that whenever we make a record, I think of it as a ‘Best of’ record; of songs that haven’t come out yet, like what now is the best country-flavoured song we can do, you know what I mean? Like all the elements of things we’ve touched on, like how can we do it the best that we can do it, right now. We’re still a band that’s growing. We started six years ago and we couldn’t really play our instruments so in a few years we feel we are actually better, if that’s your definition of better, you know like technically.

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That’s another thing that strikes me is like how you say it’s only six years ago when you started; it’s amazing just how prolific you are.

JT: Yeah, I mean we have slowed down because we are more interested in spending more time on the records because the first few we did, we really just banged out. And I mean we weren’t really thinking of ourselves in terms of what bands are supposed to do, you know, we didn’t play live shows- we just hung out in our living room and we made music; we made records that we thought were cool, you know and we didn’t expect a lot of people to hear them. So it wasn’t like we were churning them out and putting ourselves against some standard of you know, what we thought other bands would do or what we were supposed to do.

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I love the title-track, you know it’s obviously the longest song on the album itself but it works so well as that sort of psych exploration and gives so much space to the album.

JT: Yeah, that’s one of our favourite tracks too. We’ve done not similar songs but we’ve done longer songs on other records and this was one we really developed live. The first half of it is pretty new and the second half has developed really slowly onstage without speaking about it so it was really cool going into the studio and track it live how it’s shaped up and giving it that space to really let it breathe and you know just have fun. It was like a recording project – that one song – where the original version was so stripped down like three guys in a room just going for it.

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That sounds cool because you can sense how the song just evolves over time because you can feel that as you listen to it- it wasn’t something you did in one take.

JT: Yeah I mean that is the first or second take in the studio. We closed our set with something similar to that every night for two years.

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I love the opening song ‘Shepherd’. It takes you to ‘The Basement Tapes’ with Dylan and The Band with that really cool country feel to it.

JT: Thanks, yeah I really love that song too. We had two friends down, Tim Presley from White Fence who was playing with us live. We’re such cavemen in our approach that you know it’s really fun to be like ‘oh well sitar guitar, oh like other instruments’, it’s been such an insular living room/bedroom project for so long that closes our minds to simple things.

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Is your studio at the moment still Rear House Studios or have you moved on from there to a different place?

JT: I moved to a different studio, still Rear House but a little bigger. I miss the old Rear House but it was a little too small. The older house is actually where we all lived and the band kind of started in Jeremy’s bedroom and grew out of that. But it’s nice to be in a bigger space, it’s still in the same neighbourhood.

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You touched on it already with the title-track but I’d love to know more about the spontaneous nature of the songs and how they almost just flow out, more like a spontaneous jam that the band does.

JT: Yeah I mean Jeremy does a lot of the songs by himself but a lot of the things on the new record, there are a lot of ideas that we fleshed out together and I feel like sometimes when we make songs whether it’s a pop song or some sort of instrumental, they do come from the same place where you’re playing and something takes hold on you, you know. It takes you somewhere else. We don’t just say, this is a verse and chorus, and it’s done, it’s gonna be on the record. But we write a lot of those and nothing ever happens with. It’s the ones you get hit with inspiration and you’ll get it finished.

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I love the album cover, it’s a really cool design.

JT: Thank you. Jeremy drew that.

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One of my favourite songs at the moment, it changes a lot is actually the closing song ‘Feather Man’. I love that sparse feel to it.

JT: Me too. You know we recorded most of this record in I guess what you would call a proper recording studio, and ‘Feather Man’ and ‘Leaves Like Glass’ were recorded pretty last minute in Jeremy’s living room. That’s just like a final verse, I guess we were just missing the touch of recording ourselves in a living room – that comfort, that looseness – so, ‘Feather Man’ was one of those. I’m really glad we had the inspiration to add that onto the record.

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And is that strings beneath the vocals or is it keys?

JT: Our friend Samara Lubelski played violin on this song [‘Feather Man’] and ‘Full Moon’. She’s great, she plays in Chelsea Light Moving and some other bands, New York bands and a solo artist too, she’s great. You know it’s funny, we recorded that song like I said in Jeremy’s living room and then drove down to the city and I went to Samara’s apartment and just set up a microphone, we sat on her bed and we just recorded in like twenty minutes. Not everything we do is that haphazard but it’s fun to have some of those moments in with the studio recordings.

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And what I love too about Woods – and you touched on it there – is the whole ethos with the DIY aesthetic and the old tradition about what you do.

JT: Yeah I mean that is something you know, we have loved so many bands that have operated that way and I just really enjoy it. I mean we are pretty DIY – we do have a press agent and a booking agent – but yeah, you know, me recording the records and Jeremy releasing them, it doesn’t stress me out, you know I like the extra work. I love being involved in every process and really getting to shape every aspect of it, you know it’s kind of like a handmade feel.

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Oh definitely and especially in this day and age – you know, obviously vinyl is still as important as ever – but that idea of a download and how technology is changing so fast, it’s a funny situation really.

I love too Jarvis about the Woodsist label is just how many great records that have been released.

JT: Yeah, I mean Jeremy has done a good job on the label. A lot of those bands are our friends too. It’s nice because it feels like a community. All the bands that have ever put some stuff out on his label are still bands that we are friends with, whether they have gone on to other labels or whatever, we’ll always be tied together. Even Real Estate always comes and does the Woodsist festival in Big Sur, you know they haven’t been on the label for a while but still it’s really nice.

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There is a great parallel between yourselves and Real Estate and particularly how the albums grow and keep on growing. For example, your previous albums and Real Estate’s too, you get something different from them each time. It’s fascinating really.

JT: Yeah I know. I really love their new record, you know just like you’re saying, how it reveals itself to you over time, you know just one listen won’t do the trick. I like that, those are my favourite records.

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Would you have particular favourite records?

JT: Well I have a couple stand by favourite albums but I would say in relation to the Woods record, things that came up a lot: the first Stooges album, Gene Clark’s ‘No Other’, Tom Petty, no album in particular. Those were the records that were floating around that we were listening to.

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And what about those stand by ones, Jarvis?

JT: I will always come back to the first Ramones record, maybe the first four but the first one especially; The Zombies ‘Odyssey & Oracle’, you never get sick of it, it’s insane, I still put it on it’s like the first time. I mean that’s a record that it’s a grower yet it is immediately satisfying and then it grows and you find new layers in it. I mean to make a record like that, I mean that’s how you make a legendary album.

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Yeah it’s amazing to think it’s so old as well and yet it’s so fresh.

JT: Yeah, I mean people who are ten years younger than me who are hearing it for the first time and loving it, and inspired to start bands.

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It must be fun having upcoming tours again, playing the new songs to audiences.

JT: Previous records were mainly me and Jeremy and you know, recording everything really quick. This one, we pulled in a live drummer and we rehearsed and recorded the band live which was rarely ever done, maybe one song here and there. So this is the first time we actually played the whole album live and it probably sounds silly that we haven’t done it before but that’s just the way the band happened, you know-more of a recording project than anything else. It’s really exciting that after touring for so many years we can finally just say just drop a bunch of old songs and play the new record.

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It must be exciting to see what comes next too and the records that will follow.

JT:  Yeah it is. Jeremy started to write some stuff and we’ve been talking about what’s next. I mean whenever I finish a record, as happy as I can be I never feel 100% completely satisfied and that just leaves room for the what’s next question, which I think is really fun. There are certain things like we just scratched the surface on in the new record that I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio and really going deep.

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‘With Light and With Love’ is available now on Woodsist.

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http://www.woodsist.com/woods/
https://www.facebook.com/woodsfamilyband

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Written by markcarry

September 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm

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