The Wooden Sky release their third LP, Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun, in the UK next Monday (8th Oct). The album is one of our favourites of the year so far (check out our review here). We were lucky enough to get the chance to ask the band a few questions about the album and their creative process:
1) Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun sees you experiment a bit with your sound from the previous two releases. Is that something you consciously try to force or does the variation come naturally?
I think that the variation comes fairly naturally. We are all maturing and changing as both musicians and people. There is also a conscious decision to not make the same record twice. It’s funny to me when people ask which record I like the best because I don’t think of the records in those terms. I have never felt like I set out to make a record and didn’t achieve what I had set out to do. That’s not to say that I don’t push myself and try new things but that it’s not like we are trying to make a better record then the last, just a different one.
2) I’m very interested in the links between music and literature so make no apologies for focusing on the lyrical side of things. Obviously writing songs is a very different animal to literature but I often find that the best songwriters construct what are essentially short stories, a fine balance of giving and withholding information to allow the listener to consider the finer details. Is literature something that influences your work?
I’ve always wanted to write short stories, and I do on the side but nothing that I would ever really consider sharing with anyone. Fortunately for me I have another vehicle for my work and sometimes I dip into those stories and find songs there. The song is an interesting platform because you are able to leave gaping holes in the story and allow the music to encourage your audience to fill it in themselves. I love that idea. I am constantly striving to say more with less, for me the most powerful lyrics are those that with a few words can conjure up a whole world of imagery and emotion. Something as simple as “Time is on your side”, can bring you to your knees. I think literature influences my work in the same way that other people influence my work, writing is a way of communicating new ways of looking at different situations. An event in daily life can be interpreted so different by so many people and it just so happens that some of my favorite authors have inspired me to look at things from a new angle.
3) As a follow-on from the previous question, do the narratives in your songs exist in a fuller sense for you personally? In other words, do you create a whole story and then condense the idea into a song, or rather choose words which fit the music and build up the picture that way?
That really changes from song to song but rarely do I just pick words that fit the sound of the music. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever really done that. It’s not to say that I don’t edit and re edit and edit again once the song comes together and certain things don’t push it forward or work as well as they could. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by a story I hear and often it’s my suppression of emotion and experience that eventually boils over into a song. It’s often a way for me to explain to myself how certain events have shaped the way I interact with other people and the worlds they’ve created for themselves.
4) To me there almost seems to be two levels to your music; the outer layer of rock music that is often upbeat and energetic, then the second, deeper layer of often painful lyrics that deal with the human condition and such. Is this an intentional strategy, allowing a superficial enjoyment of passionate music plus providing more for those who wish to explore the meanings deeper? Or have I thought about this too much?
There is an intention there but I don’t know if it’s exactly what you’re taking from it, of course that doesn’t mean your wrong. For me there’s a balance between considering and working through the ‘human condition’ and trying to work past it and enjoy the moment. I’m not saying that any of our songs are on an Andrew W K level but sometimes you want to lose yourself in an energy and I hope that from time to time we can offer that. And as you said if you want to go deeper that’s there too. Part of the energy that you’re talking about comes from the chemistry of the band and the fact that we have a lot of fun just playing music together. I think that comes through.
5) Do you have any issues with ‘letting go’ of your music when the time comes to record and release an album? I’ve always wondered how an artist deals with letting others onto something so personal. I know you’ve worked on the latest Evening Hymns record; when I see albums such as Spectral Dusk or The Antlers’ Hospice I wonder if there is a real struggle to reveal such intimate material and then be expected to reproduce it night after night.
For me the hardest part is actually sharing the songs with the band. I have a special gift for naivete. Maybe that’s not the right word, ignorance? I’m not sure what you want to call it. But I was writing our last record “If I don’t come home, you’ll know I’m gone”, which a lot of people have told me they consider to be a breakup record, while I was still living with the person in question. It just never occurred to me that while I was writing lyrics like “A home with a wife and a child just seem so far out of reach” they might hit home for her. I think maybe I was just in denial about that whole situation.
I often find in performing a lot of the songs on the new record that is a cathartic way to exorcise a lot the demons that live in the songs. Sometimes it is hard to go to those emotional places for people you’ve never met and may in fact never meet but in finding the connection with the songs and lyrics it really elevates me and I think the show as a result.
6) Finally, could you suggest five or so songs that you are listening to right now, obscure or otherwise?
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Dancing Late at Night
Strand of Oaks – Diamond Drill
Great Bloomers – In the Distance
Evening Hymns – Spectral Dusk
War on Drugs – Best Night
The band are currently touring Europe with Evening Hymns and can be seen in the UK this week. Get yourself out of the house and take advantage of seeing two of the best bands out of Canada perform two of 2012’s best albums under one roof (full dates below). If you can’t get to a show then buy the album here.
03/10 - CARDIFF, Buffalo Bar
04/10 - LONDON, Windmill
05/10 - PRESTON, Mad Ferret
09/10 - LONDON, Slaughtered Lamb
10/10 - GLASGOW, Captain’s Rest
11/10 - HARTLEPOOL, The Studio
12/10 - SUNDERLAND, Independent
13/10 - OXFORD, Oxjam
We’ll leave you with the beautiful new video for ‘I’m Your Man’, directed by Justin Broadbent. Enjoy.
Questions by Jon.