Vue Weekly: Edmonton's 100% Independent Weekly
Saskatoon's the Deep Dark Woods is a band that has a way of locking into a piece of music on stage, each instrument and voice intertwining and melding into something that is larger than the individual pieces. It's a result of the kind of chemistry that can only come about through many hours of shared songs, both with and without instruments in hand. The band released its third album, Winter Hours, in February this year and the recording is a natural extension of the group's earlier work: nothing is rushed and there's an increased use of subtlety throughout, making for an audio experience that envelops the listener.
The band is currently rolling down southern highways touring its way towards Edmonton and hasn't been near much in the way of Internet service, so the following questions went unreceived until late Monday evening. A quick stop and deception at a Holiday Inn—"No, really sir, we are hotel guests"—and the band's singer/guitarist and main songwriter Ryan Boldt had his answers down and sent back. Here's what he had to say about Winter Hours.
VUE WEEKLY: When did you start writing the songs that made it onto Winter Hours?
RYAN BOLDT: Some were written years ago and are actually older than the band itself. Some we've been playing since we started the band, but hadn't been recorded until the third record.
VW: Were there other songs written that didn't make it onto the album?
RB: We've always had more songs than space on our records and we knew pretty much exactly what songs we wanted on the record before we went in to record. All of them ended up making the cut.
VW: Are there any particular lyrical themes that you found yourself returning to throughout the record?
RB: Death, murder, heartache. That's about it.
VW: Did you record the album live as a band or was it a more layered process?
RB: Most of what you hear was recorded live, including the lead vocals. We then layered harmonies and solos over the live beds. So i guess it was a little of both.
VW: You worked with producer Steve Dawson again for this album. What did he bring to the record during the production process? How is his presence apparent on the finished album?
RB: Steve was great to work with. He made his ideas known without pressuring us into anything. His presence is I think most apparent on the baritone and slide guitar work.
VW: Your last album had you working with Ross Nykiforuk on keys, whereas on Winter Hours you're joined by Chris Gestrin. Do the different players bring different approaches to the songs?
RB: Yes. They're both real pros. We now have a full-time keys player in the band who will be arranging parts to the new songs and playing on the next record.
VW: Winter Hours opens up with "Farewell," which might be described as a song that burns slowly, building in layers and weight as it goes. How much consideration went into the arrangement of the album, and the choice to open it with that particular song versus something like the following track, "Nancy," which kicks right in immediately?
RB: We've always picked out track lists by trial and error and its usually been on a tight schedule. We'll just come up with an order and listen to it and then if it doesnt work we'll do up a new track list.
VW: "Now Can I Try" illustrates a tendency to layer instruments, with a pedal steel and call-and-response vocals finding homes alongside the guitar, bass and drums. Was it difficult to find the balance where everything could co-exist without instruments stepping on each other?
RB: We basically just listened through it and threw ideas out there about what instruments we should take out in certain parts and which melodies we wanted to stick out. Again just trial and error.
VW: There are a variety of sounds on Winter Hours, from that initial, rolling storm of "Farewell" to the gentle harmonies of "The Birds on the Bridge" to the electric roll of "Two Time Loser." If you were to trace the musical map that led the band to Winter Hours, what would it look like?
RB: Like the Yellowhead. Winnipeg to Edmonton in February.
VW: The album's cover is a painting that is very evocative and well-suited to the title, but which is also an abstract image. What was behind the decision to use that particular image? Were you thinking of the relationship between the sounds and the visuals as you were making the album?
RB: We had our cover artist listen to the rough mixes and shoot a few different things our way. That particular image was the one that fit the most with the mood and title of the record.
VW: Is there anything else you'd like to say about the album?
RB: We are very fond of it, but we feel we are constantly improving so our next one will be a million times better. Rock the world. V
Wed, Aug 12 (7:30 pm)
The Deep Dark Woods
With Sally's Krackers
Festival Place, $8