Woods: Not Your Everyday Jamband
You mentioned going to college in Westchester, NY at Purchase where you guys first met. I was wondering if could give readers unfamiliar with your previous work a quick synopsis history of the band. I know you guys were in a couple of bands together before Woods as we know it came to be. When did you go to school at Purchase?
JE: I graduated in 2002, so it was kind of a while ago. I mean, Woods wasn’t even an idea yet. I had sort of fiddled around on guitar and stuff, but at that point I was mainly a drummer. So in many ways, me and Jarvis’ roles were reversed. He was the guitarist and singer, and I was the drummer. We kind of started doing more indie rock stuff and were in hardcore bands. But my main focus at Purchase was art. I went there for fine art and print making, so that’s where I was. At that point, music was kind of something for fun every once in a while. But then, when we moved to Brooklyn things changed. I started fiddling around with playing guitar, writing songs and recording them on four-track. That was basically how Woods started—just me in a bedroom learning how to write songs. About 2004 we recorded our first record, and around then we first started playing every once in a while. It didn’t really get rolling as a full-time band until 2007, 2008.
For readers who have not been there, can you describe Rear House?
JE: When we first moved from Purchase that was the first place we found and it’s basically surrounded by apartment buildings on all four sides. It’s in this little kind of quad thing, behind one apartment building that’s on the main street, Bushwick Ave. So you walk through an apartment building and it opens up to a small little backyard and this tiny house is there.
It was great because we got the whole house, two floors, five bedrooms and a kitchen. Everyone started living there and it was the band’s house, practice studio and recording studio. At this point, it’s been boiled down to pretty much practice space and recording space. It’s now evolved to Rear House Recording. He [Jarvis] works out of there. There are a couple people living upstairs. Kevin Morby lives upstairs. He’s actually the only band member that’s still living there. But we’ve got a couple of subletters that help pay the rent and all. At this point, we’ve kind of separated the home life and the practice space and the recording studio life. After living there for five years, it got to be like, “Okay, I’m living in a practice space. Let’s get out of here.”
Is that how Kevin joined the band? By moving in?
JE: Yeah, which is funny because he ended up just subletting a room in Rear House. At one point Woods had another member and he moved out. We knew Kevin he was looking for a spot—I should say we kind of knew of him. I don’t think he was even playing music at the time, or if he was, we didn’t know about it. But he moved in and I remember me and Jarvis were talking about adding a new member. At that point it was just me, Jarvis, and Lucas. That’s when we first started to really play shows in Brooklyn. We were playing all the time, almost every week. We were like, “You know, we really need a bass player. Who can we get? I think Kevin could actually play bass. Let’s see what he thinks.” He was like, “Yeah, I can play bass.” It sounded simple enough. He learned some songs and that was it. It was like, okay, you’re in the band, man. He was instantly touring all over the world after that.
In terms of Woods’ current tour, the biggest change is that you [Jarvis] have moved from playing drums to guitar. This spring you were playing both instruments on different songs and now you are on guitar fulltime. What led to this change?
JT: Well, I started playing drums in the band because [Woods] started out as a recording project of Jeremy’s. I wanted to be involved, and they needed a drummer—even though I was a guitarist—and the vibe was just right. I never really had the muscle I needed live. And you know, sometime’s it’s cool but… We’ve just tried so many live configurations for so long—when it hit it was great, and when it didn’t it felt a little weak. It just felt like it was time to have a drummer and kind of open up the possibilities of having someone new in the band. I would have tried to find another second guitarist and just stay on drums, too—it was just about the idea of having somebody else who can multitask and just do whatever was needed. And we met Aaron Nevu, who’s a really great drummer, so it kind of worked out that I get to go back to guitar.
Aaron plays in a band called Mmoss that are really good. We really like them—we did two tours with them. We’ve been teaching him songs as the tours went on, a new song or two each time. It worked out that he could come on tour and play behind us the whole time.
I saw on Twitter you’ve also done some double drummer shows recently. Is that inspired by the Grateful Dead’s ‘rhythm devils’ sound?
JT: Well, since having Aaron in the band, we’ve done a few double drummer shows just because we’d be in town and have our friends sit in. Like I said before when it was when I was on drums, we’d roll through town and have a friend that we trusted as a musician, teach him three songs on drums during sound check and I move back to guitar. So we had people scattered around that would jump up on stage with us and we would just get together on sound check and have two drums set up and try to get in some Dead territory. We are a well-oiled machine [Laughter.]
I was actually trying to get them do some of that and would be say, “it would be cool of you can complete each others fills.” But our shows are sometimes only 45 minutes so I am not sure how successful we’re going to be. When the Dead do that, it is mind-blowing. We listened to Dick’s Picks from ‘68 in the van the other day and the drumming was “Oh my God!”
I mean, the force of that band is that everybody is an equal. If you pull out anything [it changes]. It didn’t collapse—they did the single drummer thing— but listening to that Dick’s recording just got me thinking how much you noticed if the drums dropped out for a second. Maybe when we are making more money we can do the double-drummer thing more. [Laughter.]