The Wood Brothers at the BAC has been CANCELED due to the National Weather Service advisory. Ticket refunds are available at point of purchase. If purchased online, no further action is necessary, an automatic refund will be initiated.
It’s been a year since Americana folk band The Wood Brothers released “Paradise,” an exploration of desire, want and search for greener pastures. Chris Wood (bass, vocals and harmonica) told encore before their show at the Brooklyn Arts Center last November that he thought desire gets a “bad rap.”
“I think a lot of people go on spiritual quests to get rid of desire,” he said, “but I expect you can’t. So maybe you have to accept it instead of trying to get rid of it.”
As they prepare to return to the BAC almost a year later, his brother Oliver (guitar and vocals) agrees those themes in “Paradise” are still relevant to their current outlook.
“Things do change as we relate to songs over years,” Wood says over the phone. “I think of songs from our first record when we do them now, I think about (some of them) a lot differently. . . . Now we’re working on a new record and I see some of those [‘Paradise’] themes overlapping.”
As we continued to chat, I was starting to feel a little like the donkey on the “Paradise” cover art … with Wood dangling a carrot full of hints to all that’s to come as we approach the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017. While Oliver, Chris and Jano Rix (drums, vocals, keyboard, shuitar) are now in the process of writing songs for a new record, they’re also finishing up a live album to be released before the new year.
In addition to “Paradise” tracks, they’ve been playing a lot of music from their more than 10-year catalog on tour. Their live album will feature a healthy mix of old and new songs, as well as covers.
“We recorded in a place that was really special to us,” Wood hints. “There will be more details soon, we’re actually just finishing mixing it today.”
Wood says finalizing a live album is easier in the sense that what they’ve recorded is what they have. Rather than having multiple takes of each track and more scrutiny over details, there’s more tolerance for things being imperfect at a live show because it’s a different experience.
“You’re capturing a different kind of energy,” he explains. “One thing that we’ve really noticed and thought about lately is that when you’re at a live show as a listener it’s not just your ears, it’s every sense that you have—visual, the smell, the people around you—everything you experience contributes to what you’re hearing.”
The challenge in finishing a live album comes with taking this three-dimensional experience for both the audience and band, and make the audio stand alone. “It’s interesting because some of the songs were a little long, so we cut them down a little bit,” Wood details, “or we did a lot talking before one of the songs, things that wouldn’t translate.”
Without giving away too much about new songs before heading into the recording studio in January, Wood says they’re interested in them being a little more abstract than previous work. He’s often drawn to work that is lyrically and musically more ambiguous but still carries strong emotion. He points to songwriters Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell for imagery penned in their songs. While some of them may be “really weird,” Wood says they’re what makes them memorable and open to interpretation.
“I like the idea that whoever’s listening to a song can interpret it how they want,” he continues. “They can come to their own conclusions about it, and sometimes that’s my goal when writing a song. Leave it ambiguous enough that people can create their own meaning of it.”
The Wood Brothers have a solid grasp on creating imagery in songs, such as “Chocolate on my Tongue” (“Ways Not To Lose,” 2006): “Close sittin’ on the front porch, ice cream in my hand, meltin’’ in the sun, all that chocolate on my tongue, and that’s good enough reason to live . . .”
But even with clear images, Wood says they can still be done in such a way that leaves them open to interpretation.
“I think I started to figure out in later songs that images don’t have to all fit together,” he explains. “You can paint your images, but they can random or weird little details … like when i read a really good book, I’m always impressed when people can give you all these images. They sometimes hook us on these things that don’t seem that important or would even be mundane. Or a standup comedian, how they often point out these quarks that we all do and can relate to.”
Though they’re exploring new creative themes while writing now, Wood says those from “Paradise” are very much still a part of their minds— “it may just be that we look at them slightly differently.”
“The way we feel about those songs are probably gradually changing, and I base that on some of the new songs that we’re writing,” he tells. “I think that Chris and I seem to be real interested in coming to grips that we are not in control; that we as humans are not really in control of everything. And it’s interesting how much faith we have in things and how much we sort of trust the universe.”
Wood says it’s a challenge to take a lot of big “meaning of life” questions and try to articulate what they feel like. Nevertheless they’re trying to pursue different angles on why we’re all here and how to be connected to one another. “That seems to be what we all want,” he adds, “to have some kind of connection to something spiritual but mostly just connection to ourselves.”
“Paradise” was one of the first the band produced entirely themselves. It also debuted Chris on electric bass, which he’ll continue playing to add sonic differences to these new songs. While Rix continues to play mostly drums, Wood says he’ll be experimenting more on keyboard for this forthcoming project as well. They’re also making a conscious effort to not do what they’ve already done.
“I think we’re just as much inspired with what not to do as we are with inspired by new ideas of what to do,” Wood explains. “In other words, you find new things by avoiding old things. . . . I really think that for the most part our inspiration is what’s going on currently in our lives and in our heads and in our hearts.”
While some songs feel finished, Wood says others are still wide open in terms of how they could creatively go. They’re still in the stage where they’re finding sparks of inspiration, chorus lines and images while playing around in rehearsal.
“In some ways it’s the most exciting time,” he says. “You don’t feel like you need to commit to anything, and anything goes and anything could happen. . . . The best stuff is stumbled upon, it’s not stuff you really think about. Later on it’s less about inspiration and more about craft.”
They decided against road testing songs before releasing “Paradise,” so it’s not clear if Wilmington’s audience will get a taste this weekend. Wood says it’s not entirely out of the question at some point on tour, but they’re having a lot of fun reworking and reimagining old music right now.
“That’s what keeps it fresh for us and the fans,” he adds. “But, I bet you we’ll experiment with a song or two on this tour.”
Folks can follow the carrot to the Brooklyn Arts Center this Sunday to see The Wood Brothers.
The Wood Brothers
Sunday, October 9
Doors: 6 p.m.; Show: 6:30 p.m.
Brooklyn Arts Center
516 N. 4th St.