Summer Stars: Woods
“The people who made those records, their vision was to destroy in their own weird way,” Woods multi- instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere says with a slight chuckle while describing his band’s early, DIY noise recordings. “It was before we settled into Brooklyn and into a community of like-minded musicians. We felt part of this gnarly music rat-race—we didn’t care about the places we played and all of that. So back then, the people who were making those Woods records were really just saying, ‘Fuck everything. We don’t care about it.’”
Taveniere has good reason to be a bit reflective as Woods eases into their 10th anniversary. Since growing out of their harder-edged indie group Meneguar, Taveniere and chief songwriter/frontman Jeremy Earl, Woods’ core recording duo, have gracefully shifted their group from a fuzzy home-recording project to a sprawling, psychedelic folk- rock band with a punk-rock bite—one capable of zoning in on both the rustic twang of peak-era The Band and the experimental heights of the late-‘60s Grateful Dead.
The band has also gone through numerous changes since recording their post-jam epic Bend Beyond in 2012: Touring bassist Kevin Morby split to focus on his solo career and blog darlings The Babies, tape-effects mystic G. Lucas Crane stepped away to work on a number of projects including the Brooklyn art space Silent Barn and the band let go of their longtime Bushwick lair Rear House. Though Earl and Taveniere remain Woods’ creative center in the studio, Taveniere has shifted his onstage role from drummer to guitarist/live-band leader, and the ensemble has added drummer Aaron Neveu (MMOSS), keyboardist John Andrews (Quilt) and bassist Chuck Van Dyke to the mix.
Not only that, but for the first time, they recorded most of their new album With Light and With Love in a proper studio, and the group set out to capture their increasingly loose and jam-heavy live show. (Taveniere, who has become a noted area producer, worked on Quilt’s latest album in the same Brooklyn space.) As a testament to their place in the current indie-jam landscape, White Fence’s Tim Presley and Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado helped bring the album to life.
“For a while, we would go out on tour and have trouble figuring out how to play the songs live,” Taveniere says, while also admitting that drums was never his natural instrument. “Especially with this new band, we got really good on tour. We wanted to make sure we captured the live energy without one of us having to worry about the recording process.”
With Light and With Love also reflects Earl’s new songwriting outlook. As the album’s title suggests, Earl wrote a collection of tunes that explore the yin-and-yang concepts of light and love. “After I wrote some of these songs, I left them open to go in the studio and see where it goes from there, as opposed to my early process, which would be [to] write something and pretty much immediately record it at home,” says Earl, who has recorded most of the band’s recent albums at his Warwick, N.Y. house. “But the songs still have that rustic vibe—it is so em- bedded in us that it is hard to take it out of our music.”
Before entering the studio, the band worked out Earl’s material as a group. With Taveniere on bass, Neveu on drums and Earl on guitar, they massaged the grooves and whipped their demos into shape. One song emerged out of a jam they had developed on the road. Taveniere says the sessions captured the “group-think” mentality so key to their live show.
“I’ve always played bass on our records,” Taveniere says. “Our process this time excited Jeremy to finish the songs we had written. Even though that is how most bands make albums, for us, it was different.”
Despite the personnel changes, Earl still describes Woods as a loose, collective-like family. He makes it a point to note that they found their new bassist through Morby and that he hopes to work with Crane again in the near future. His partnership with Taveniere remains as strong as ever.
“Jarvis and I have been playing music together since college in the early 2000s,” Earl says with a bit of nostalgic pride. “We have this magic connection from just figuring out how to play live together and growing as songwriters together. We’ve swapped out some members, but the basic core and vibe of the band has stayed the same. It is this deeper relationship that has evolved over time and gets better with age.”