Woods and Real Estate : A Scene of Their Own
Purchase College is located 33 miles north of Brooklyn, N.Y.’s D.I.Y. capital, the Bushwick neighborhood, across the road from PepsiCo’s corporate headquarters in affluent Westchester County. Part of New York’s state university system—and known for its art department and purple-haired students—it’s an oasis nestled among the cookie-cutter suburbs—secluded enough to spur creative thought but close enough to New York City for students to be able to try those thoughts out on a live audience.
For many years, actors, dancers and brainy types topped the college’s notable alumni list, but during the past decade or so, Purchase has nurtured the musically inclined ranging from songstress Regina Spektor to electronica-freak Dan Deacon to alt-country troubadour Langhorne Slim.
It’s also the place where Woods singer/guitarist/visionary Jeremy Earl first met tape-effects technician G. Lucas Crane, guitarist Christian DeRoeck and multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere around the turn of the millennium.
“These art schools are springboards for people who didn’t grow up in a city and don’t have access to that world right off the bat,” shrugs Taveniere, a surprisingly clean-cut 33 year old who grew up a few towns away from Purchase. “I’d never have thought to move to Manhattan from my little town.”
On this rainy April afternoon, the members of Woods have returned to Purchase to play Culture Shock, a weekend of underground, experimental and often psychedelic music that one of the weekend’s performers describes as the “best bill of the year” in a tweet.
The crowd is decidedly punk but the experience feels almost like an acid test designed to repossess the state-owned school property: the space is filled with angularly positioned couches, mind-warping visual art and the drone of thrashing noise jams. Taveniere’s shirt, which mashes elements of the Grateful Dead’s and the Misfits’ logos, seems to sum up the general ethos of a scene filled with musicians who cut their teeth on classic punk and golden age jambands before settling into Brooklyn’s neu-psychedelic underground.
Given Purchase’s proximity to Brooklyn, the members of Woods and fellow performers Real Estate carpooled to the show—something that they are quite used to doing after three years of joint tours, shared recording sessions and other fraternal collaborations.
The entire experience feels pretty rock and roll—except that Culture Shock can’t legally sell alcohol. But it’s not a problem for the Woods crew who lead a quick expedition to the school’s cafeteria for a few beers before show time.
“I didn’t realize how well we got along with Woods until we toured with other bands,” says Martin Courtney, Real Estate’s slim, thoughtful and slightly elusive primary songwriter. “It felt so comfortable with them—they’re just our friends, we can hang out.”
Within a few months, both Woods and Real Estate will headline New York’s Bowery Ballroom and San Francisco’s The Independent—signifying their entrance into the national mainstream indie pipeline—thanks to their new albums, Sun and Shade and Days, respectively.
In certain ways, they are studies in contrast: Sun and Shade is sonically warm and lyrically twisted; Days is melodically somber but grows fuzzier through its nostalgic tales. But they are both vanguard statements from a bourgeoning psych-pop scene that somehow connects the dots between the Grateful Dead’s Live/Dead and classic Stooges before bouncing off of Phish and Animal Collective.
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