On the cusp of releasing a new album and currently preparing to make their way to British shores is Toronto’s The Wooden Sky. When we premiered ’Take Me Out‘, the first track to appear from the record back in August, Best Fit suggested that frontman Gavin Gardiner’s vocal was half way between Ryan Adams’ Cold Roses and Neutral Milk Hotel’s In An Aeroplane Over The Sea. It seemed only fair to let the man himself respond, which in turn led to a discussion of his early influences, touring, and rock n’ roll history.
“Thats a nice way of putting it. I’ve had a lot of people who have said it sounds like a Richie Valens song. I mean, that’s how I got started playing guitar. I listened to a lot and I guess it was inevitable that it would seep its way in. Plus I love that kind of music, early rock ‘n’ roll. I just got obsessed with that movie La Bamba and recently I went back and saw it again – the songs just sound so cool. He was like, seventeen when he wrote those songs. Rock ‘n’ roll memory is short, especially considering how short it really is. It still seems not legitimate to study the history of that – but it is a really important part of our pop culture. I’ve been reading Dylan’s Chronicles again, and I really like this idea he has of the responsibility of the songwriter, sort of putting history in context.”
Of course, we counter, there are now many more ways to get your music out there, to many more people than the early rockers could ever have imagined. But with so many messages and so many ears to reach, approaches to delivery have changed. Indeed, The Wooden Sky teamed up with filmmaker Scott Cudmore (who has also worked with Timber Timbre, The Rural Alberta Advantage and Fucked Up amongst others) to create the Grace on The Hill Sessions. How did these come about?
“It’s opened up the field of creativity. We’ve known Scott since his work with Timber Timbre, and he came with us on a tour where we played more unusual venues – house shows, gondalas, you know. He wanted to make something more than just a standard tour doc. For Grace on the Hill he had all these grandiose ideas – filming all these different locations and incorporating live performance. We ended up scaling down, and created 5 parts with a narrative line running through it. We were aware that these days people have limited attention spans, so we broke it into five parts rather than one long 45 minute thing.”
With a European tour with good friends Evening Hymns (for whom several members of The Wooden Sky act as a backing band for new album Spectral Dusk) now under way and two previous UK tours under their belts, is touring something the band enjoys or more of a necessary evil?
“A bit of both. We all love playing together, and know how lucky we are. You feel like a pirate or an outlaw skipping from town to town, shrugging off the responsibilities of the 9 to 5 life. But then there’s the aspect of leaving your family and friends. More and more, it becomes like a vortex. I’m more and more feeling that I just can’t afford to loose 8 hours in van.I have so many projects to work on – I just wish there was more hours in the day. But then the sense of adventure is so much more when you’re in a place with more history, like London and the UK. Also, when you tour with another band that allows you some escape from your own band, and who are great friends – it’s like being a travelling motorcycle gang. I’m also really proud of the record we made with The Wooden Sky and I’m proud of the record we helped Jonas and Sylvie [Evening Hymns] make. I’m looking forward to discovering where the songs will go in the live space – musically, it’ll be exciting.”
The UK tour will also present the band with an opportunity to present their latest album Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun to the UK alongside its official release via Loose Records, having seen a Canadian release earlier this year. Arriving two and a half years after the band’s previous album If I Don’t Come Home, You’ll Know That I’ve Gone, we wonder how much has changed between the two records.
“I guess during that time I’ve really been settling into becoming an adult, into being in love. When we first got back from touring If I Don’t Come Home… all I wanted to do was write these fast, loud pop songs. But as time passed, I wrote more songs, that I liked more and that I wanted to listen to over a longer period of time. Often in Canada it feels like there is a temptation to write up-beat indie pop. I like it fine for a party, but I don’t really sit and listen to it. So I guess our record is a step away from that. It isn’t instant, and it isn’t going to work in every scenario. But then, I wouldn’t put my favourite Bill Callahan record on in a club, or in the car with a bunch of bros… well, I probably would do that, but you know…”
“This time also allowed us to be honest with each other. There was a time when things just weren’t working, so we went for a walk, wiped the takes and started again. When we went back in suddenly we just knew that it was working, we were rejuvenated, the engineers were excited – it just clicked and we knew we were moving in the right direction.”
The record itself, Gardiner explains, is formed in three distinct stages: “We engineered it to be listened to as a three sided LP and I would encourage people to listen to it like that.”
Not ones to rest on their laurels, The Wooden Sky will follow up their European jaunt with another tour of North America. Couple that with numerous other projects, including production work for Rituals (featuring Leon of Dusted/ Bruce Peninsula) and a covers EP shining the light on the works of UK Pub-Rocker Ernie Graham (“It’s a hypothetical EP now, but you’re going to love it. It should be a great studio project”) and the rest of 2012 is looking pretty busy for the band.
Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun is out on 08 October via Loose Music and The Wooden Sky will play with Evening Hymns at the following UK Dates:
o2 Oct - Winchester, The Railway
03 Oct - Cardiff, Buffalo Bar
04 Oct - London, The Windmill
05 Oct - Preston, Mad Ferret
06 Oct - Manchester, The Black Rooms
09 Oct - London, Slaughtered Lamb
10 Oct - Glasgow, Captain’s Rest
11 Oct - Teeside, The Studio
12 Oct - Sunderland, The Independent
13 Oct - Oxford, OxJam
See the entire Grace On A Hill video series by clicking here.