By all accounts, 2007 was a landmark year for The Deep Dark Woods. The band formed in August 2005 with four friends playing music for fun, and things have been growing steadily since their first show. Chris Mason, who plays bass in the group as well as sharing songwriting and vocal duties, had previously been taking a more modern rock-oriented path with guitarist Burke Barlow and drummer Lucas Goetz, but hooking up with principal songwriter Ryan Boldt sent their sound spinning in an organic, earthbound direction.
“He got us into a lot of really good traditional music, just as a friend," Mason says of Boldt. "He's a great songwriter, and we love his songs. Burke brings songs to the band and so can I, but Ryan has a lot stronger voice. Plus, he can sing and play a lot better at the same time. Burke and I are getting a lot better, but Ryan just always really had it."
Together, they create original acoustic and electric music steeped in a rich, literate country-roots heritage. All four contribute to the vocal blend for a layered sound that's drawn frequent comparisons to The Band, The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Last spring, they'd already completed recording about three-quarters of their second full-length disc with producer and former Northern Pike, Ross Nykiforuk, when a pilgrimage to Vancouver offered them a chance to impress studio magnate and Black Hen Records label owner Steve Dawson. "That trip to Vancouver was huge for us," says Mason, adding that Shuyler Jansen, a fellow Saskatoonian and former member of Old Reliable, had told Dawson about the band. “[Dawson] came out to see us at a place called The Chapel in Vancouver — an old funeral chapel turned music venue. I guess he really liked it. We played at The Railway Club two weeks later and Alice Dawson came out. She introduced herself, and we found out that they were interested in the album and the band." Steve Dawson, better known as one half of Zubot and Dawson, ended up playing on a track and mixing the entire record. Two years after the band’s inception, Hang Me Oh Hang Me was released on Black Hen. The new album's warm reception was further bolstered by a bout of fall touring with labelmate Jansen.
The Deep Dark Woods are kick-starting 2008 with more of the same — they’ve planned another tour with Jansen (they back him up for his set and he plays in the band for theirs), and Black Hen will soon be re-releasing their eponymous debut album in both Canada and Europe. With typical unpretentiousness and honesty, Mason finds himself focused on the upcoming shows and live sound.
"We play electric, but pretty soon we're going to be doing a lot more acoustic stuff,” he says. “There's advantages to both. You can play a song so many different ways. If you're touring and playing tons of shows, which we really want to do, then I think it's important to switch it up all the time, on the spot, to kind of have that surprise factor."