Juno-nominated, Canadian folk rockers Deep Dark Woods are currently in the UK as part of their first European tour, with two London dates which we would reoommend you to attend, one tonight 21st February at the Lexington, Islington and another tomorrow, south of the river at the Windmill, Brixton with good friends and fans of theirs, The Arlenes in support.
We caught up with them last October in Nashville at the Americana Music Conference and Festival on the night of their album worldwide release date at 3rd & Lindsley and briefly interviewed lead singer Ryan Boldt, drummer Lucas Goetz and organist Geoff Hilhorst backstage before the show. As with New Country Rehab we had seen them play to a packed crowd at the Basement and been in their thrall along with the rest of the crowd. Since we last saw them they have continued to gain more accolades, having been nominated for a Juno for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year 2012.
NfMP: How has your experience in Nashville been, have you enjoyed it? Is it your first time at the conference?
Ryan Boldt: Yes, it’s always great, from the BBQs to the live music. We’ve been here about, say twice before? Something like that. We’ve always had fun, but this is the funnest of all the times, like right now. We’re having a blast.
You’re here promoting your new album?
Ryan Boldt: Yes, it’s called ‘The Place I Left Behind’, it’s out on the Sugar Hill label, comes out tomorrow 18th October (2011) on worldwide release, it released in Canada about a month and a half ago.
What can you tell us about the album?
Lucas Goetz: It’s our fourth album, we recorded it in Halifax Nova Scotia on the East coast of Canada. The album was self-produced and was the first time we’ve worked with Geoffrey here, who plays keyboards; the organ and the piano and Mellotron, electric pianos…
Geoff Hilhorst: And grand piano, on that record. It was such a great experience to produce it ourselves. Yeah, we had a lot of fun.
Ryan Boldt: It was the start of the hockey season
Geoff Hillhorst: The Leafs were doing good.
Ryan Boldt: And the Oilers won their first game. It was really great! They lost pretty much every one after that though.
Geoff Hillhorst: So did the Leafs. It was great, our teams were winning when we were recording the record which plays a role in the fantastic memories we have of that time.
Ryan Boldt: We stayed in a bed & breakfast, the people in the B&B were really nice to us, if a little crazy.
Geoff Hillhorst: In a fun way, not like ‘oh my god I’m afraid to go to sleep’
Lucas Goetz: We were there for about 2 weeks, and recorded the album, and that was that, we all flew back home.
So you self-produced your album?
Geoff Hillhorst: Yeah all five of us. We had a great recording engineer Darren Van Niekerk, the studio was called The Sonic Temple. We happened upon the studio cause we were on the road and we had to record this song for the CBC Song Quest, and had to record it while we were on the road, so our bass player Chris Mason found this studio so we went in, it was such a fantastic room and Darren was just an awesome engineer, willing to go the extra mile in just about every aspect of the process. So we went back there to record the full length record there because of that. He gave us some great input.
Lucas Goetz: He’s also good at interpreting our ways of describing our ideas, cause we don’t really know how to speak the engineers’ speak.
Geoff Hillhorst: Yeah, we’d just make motions and sounds, like: Woooongh wooongh, you know? Woooongh (laughs) and Darren would say ‘yeah I TOTALLY know what you mean, we’ll do that’. And then he does it.
Ryan Boldt: It’s kind of like James Brown in the studio, he would do all sorts of things.
Geoff Hillhorst: Hand signals? Yeah, or like Bob Dylan. He’d rehearse his band super hard and then the band’s all ready to go and then Bob Dylan will throw out a song they never ever played before. It keeps them on their toes. I don’t know where I’m going with that…
So who’s the primary song writer?
Lucas Goetz points to Ryan: This guy (Ryan shrugs), and Chris Mason writes some songs too, and our road manager and friend Evan Dunlop wrote a song as well that’s on the album.
How long had you been playing the songs live before you recorded them?
Ryan Boldt: We’d been playing three of them for about 2 years, then learnt three of them just before we went in, maybe played them once or twice on the road.
Geoff Hillhorst: I’m surprised we didn’t do more. I like it that way though, it’s nice to learn them and then record them. It’s neat how certain songs will change and develop over time as well. You learn a song in the rehearsal room and you record it and you think it’s good, we recorded a coupla the rehearsals when the songs were brand new from this record and the difference between them then and now is from playing live, rather than going over and over them in a rehearsal situation. They kind of happen live and it’s pretty cool that way for sure…and then they change up even more in the studio.
Ryan Boldt: And now they’re changing even more on the road. You always want to kinda change them a little, otherwise it gets too boring.
Your performances are particularly engaging, do you think that crosses over into your recordings?
Ryan Boldt: Recording and playing live, yeah, they’re completely different. I love recording, cause sometimes, at certain live shows, you can’t sing with emotion cause there’s one person in the audience that just doesn’t care or something, whereas in the studio you can really, you know, sing it really hard if you get the mood right in the room. It just depends on the live show, when there’s loads of people it’s wicked, awesome. Like at the Basement the other night!
Geoff Hillhorst: When you have everyone’s attention in the room, when something like that happens, from the musical and the lyrical perspective, the lyrics that Ryan writes you really need to pay attention to the whole dynamic, and if we know that people are doing that and listening to what Ryan is singing about that becomes just as powerful for us as it would for anyone in the audience as well.
Check out our website to find out more about us. There’s a free single on there from our record, it’s called West Side Street and we’ll be over in the UK in the Spring of 2012, so come see us.
Don’t miss Deep Dark Woods: there are two London dates to choose from so there should be no excuse.
After the 3rd & Lindsley show Ryan came outside, across the street and performed a solo version of Virgina for us from the album.
You can also watch this beautifully filmed version of Two Time Loser, recorded by The Neighbor’s Dog, a channel that lovingly records house gigs in Canada with beautiful production values. Well worth checking out their channel.
Stay tuned as we’ve also got The Deep Dark Woods in for a special recorded studio session in Reservoir Studios which we’ll be putting up soon.