When The Wood Brothers dropped their 14-track live album in September, taken from a two-night run at The Fillmore in San Francisco, upright bassist Chris Wood said it reflects the fact “the longer [they] play together, the more [they] can read each other’s thoughts and anticipate each other’s musical choices.” For his brother, Oliver (guitar, vocals), the sets’ songs “Chocolate on My Tongue” and “Big Road Blues” best embody Chris’s sentiment.
“I remember feeling loose enough to expand on the form and stretch the solo much farther than normal,” he reflects. “I didn’t mean to, but it just happened. And Chris and Jano [Rix] were right there with me and turned my potential train wreck into a fun musical journey.”
“I think it was on ‘Atlas’ [for me],” drummer Jano Rix adds, “where we listened back and heard ourselves change the arrangement, go to another section together spontaneously, in a way we had never done before or since. We all thought, How did we do that? ”
The Wood Brothers have been together since 2004 and “Live at the Fillmore” is the latest in an ongoing series of concert recordings. It also follows their 2018 studio album “One Drop Of Truth” and precedes their next LP coming out January 2020.
All three members of The Wood Brothers offered encore their perspectives on live shows and new music to come. They’ll return to Wilmington Friday night at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. Folks can expect a new song or two but mostly a blend of their whole catalog.
encore (e): Tell our readers about the two nights at The Fillmore. I imagine y’all went in knowing this was all for a live record…
Oliver Wood (OW): We actually recorded a couple months worth of shows, and had no idea we were going to use The Fillmore as the album. By that time we probably forgot every night was being recorded and that’s the best-case scenario—not thinking and playing loosely, having fun always makes the best music. Also, the Fillmore is such a special venue with so much history and vibe. It’s special to be there; I think the audience feels the same way. You end up with extra magic and connection with the audience. Hard not to have great shows there!
Jano Rix (JR): [Not knowing] the record would only be drawn from those two shows [was] kind of nice, because what will take you out of a moment on stage is thinking about the recording, and how good or bad you think the moment is.
I do remember how different the two nights were—not just because we played two different sets. Night to night, the energy of the audience and our energy was completely different but intense. Night one was rowdy; they were there to party from beat one.
Night two was intensely focused, you could hear a pin drop, but the audience was with us every moment, singing and dancing by the end. Both had intense energy, and we thought we’d release that, rather than more “perfect” performances, culled from the whole tour.
Chris Wood (CW): By the time we played the Fillmore, we were appropriately broken and tired, which made for some uncareful, unselfconscious, and downright sloppy moments that had a certain charm. That’s why the album ended up being entirely from the Fillmore.
e: Speaking of your tenure together, what’s been the most significant point of growth for you as musicians and as a band?
OW: I think we recently realized the strength of our combined creativity and uniqueness. We just finished recording our next studio album and made sure to capture as much of that spontaneous chemistry as possible. A lot of the songs are simply improvisations we recorded and wrote lyrics for. We know each others’ strengths and weaknesses so well, and we have come to a place where we can take musical chances as a team.
To do that we have to be very comfortable with each other and ourselves. I have confidence now that what I play is just me (for better or worse), and it’s unique and validated all the time by these two other guys.
CW: I’ve had to grow a great deal as a singer. As a band, the writing and arranging of the songs has come a long way. We’ve learned to incorporate all things each of us do individually into what we do together.
e: Tell us about the studio album coming in January. Is there a song you could tell us more about?
OW: Like I said above, we recorded this new studio album with a lot of group improvisation. We are working in our own studio now so that means we’re not watching the clock or worrying about the budget. It’s a luxury to experiment and try anything we want. I’m especially fond of the song “Little Bit Sweet” because it came from our very first jam session in the new studio—the music started so quietly and effortlessly—it was very meditative.
JR: If I remember correctly, for “Little Bit Sweet” we took an improvised jam we did in the studio on the first day we got together at the studio. After the song came into focus, we tried re-cutting it, but we couldn’t get the same magic as the first day, so we went back to the original recording and built it from there.
CW: “Jitterbug Love” is a song inspired by the Tom Robbins novel “Jitterbug Perfume.’” The music came from the source material we created by recording improvisations in our studio.