The Deep Dark Woods use a simple formula to determine when it's time to make a new album. They ask themselves, "Do we have enough songs?"
The exhaustive planning most bands suffer through in crafting a new disc — choosing songs from a pool of possibilities, then recording, re-recording, overdubbing and arranging the tracks — is a process that's lost on this Saskatoon quartet.
Their latest effort, Winter Hours, hits stores on Feb. 17 through Black Hen. To record it, they stepped into the studio, played through all of their new songs once or twice, recorded them live off the floor, and that was that — album done.
"We started recording it in late September and it took us about nine days to complete," says guitarist/vocalist Ryan Boldt. "We just decided to do a record out of the blue, and we called up [Juno Award-winning producer] Steve Dawson and said, 'Come on down and record.'
"We don't really plan records out. We just go in and record whatever songs we have and figure it out from there. A lot of people plan out each song, and how it's going to go and where it's going to be on the album, but we just record what we've got."
Expectations for this third Deep Dark Woods record grew notably high after the band's sophomore effort, Hang Me, Oh Hang Me, was nominated for best roots album at the 2008 Western Canadian Music Awards.
The resulting pressure might have caused another band to lean towards a bigger and bolder sound for a follow-up, but Boldt, guitarist Burke Barlow, bassist Chris Mason and drummer Lucas Goetz went the opposite direction. The music on Winter Hours is gentler, more complex and more reflective than its predecessor's jamboree folk.
"We didn't have a lot of rock songs at the time," Boldt recalls. "We just went in and played, and most of the songs that came out were laid-back numbers. It wasn't something we thought of when we went in to record."
While the band's atmosphere has been tweaked, fans of The Deep Dark Woods can rest assured that, lyrically, Winter Hours will continue in the death-country trend that was set on their first two albums.
"Usually, the lyrics I write are either about death or heartbreak, or something like that," Boldt says. "I love murder ballads — old '20s and '30s murder ballads — and I love old heartbreaking songs and lonesome songs.
"We'll see what happens next. Maybe I'll get into writing love lyrics next, but I doubt it."