It’s hard to remember that February even happened, and why would you want to now that spring is well underway? Here at Ca Va Cool we have a pretty good memory, at least where music is concerned, and we think back to those chilly February days and remember that Woodhands had a new album less than a month old and were playing a show in Vancouver that would put some serious heat into our bones.

I had a chance to sit down with Paul Banwatt of Woodhands and The Rural Alberta Advantage a day before the show at my favourite coffee shop in Kitsilano. Having just reviewed the recently released Remorsecapade, we thought we should sit on the interview for a while. Now, a few months later Woodhands has released a remix album, obviously titled Remixcapade, featuring some substantially dialed-down remixes by touring-mate Diamond Rings and others. It’s available for free download from Paper Bag Records.

Woodhands – Pockets (Diamond Rings Mix)
Woodhands – Dissembler (French Husband Mix)

Justin: The new album just came out, are you happy with the result?

Paul Banwatt: Yeah. It’s a weird thing, we were super excited about it but also kind of scared. It’s really different for us then Heart Attack was. We felt like it was a little bit deeper and darker and maybe a little less instantly appealing. It might be a couple of listens before you start to feel some of the songs on there. The response from critics so far has been so overwhelmingly positive that we’re like “People are getting this, this is awesome.” It makes us really confident going forward to keep pushing ourselves that way. It’s like, if this is still cool, then watch out.

Justin: Is there even crazier stuff in store? Is there new stuff that isn’t on the album?

Paul: Well we always do, because our songs tend to come from a lot of different places. A lot of them come from jams we just come up with while we’re in the middle of a show. We use to do a lot more just straight improvisation than we do now, but we still do a lot. There was a time when we use to have a residency in Toronto every month and we would just play hour long shows of just pure improvisation. Those kinds of things are where a lot of the songs come from and they can get really crazy. Just weird electro-freakouts that we realize sound kind of cool and try to turn into a song later.

Continue Reading ‘Woodhands’ Feature Interview »

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— , May 28, 2010    Comments Off on Woodhands
WoodhandsCVC

Photograph by Chris Frampton

To reiterate a common cliché; the fear with a sophomore release is always the expectations listeners have built-up from the first album. This is especially problematic for the instantly-adored indie sensations, the Bloc Partys and the MSTRKRFTs of the world. For these bands future releases often fall flat just by virtue of the success of the debut. This however is not the case with the second full-length from Toronto-based, dance-rockers Woodhands.

The duo’s debut Heart Attack was not an album that garnered much immediate attention from myself or that internet echo-chamber of the blogosphere. It was an under the radar release, mostly known by CBC3 devotees and other passionate followers of Canadian indie. However, as understated as the band’s publicity may have been, their music and their live act was anything but.

The pair, comprising of synth and keytarist Dan Werb (a west-coaster and originally the band’s only member) and drummer Paul Banwatt of the Rural Alberta Advantage, began packing small venues in university towns across the country in 2008. The shows were an over the top performance of electro-pop energy. It was as though they knew they had to work twice as hard to relay the same kind of energy as your average four person act. This tactic seemed to pay real dividends however, with the act’s stage presence being accurately described as “super-human.”

Super-human strength worked well to deliver Heart Attack’s material to live audiences. The music was emotionally charged, but the object was to sweat out those emotions in a mass of bodies gyrating to the infectious electro offerings. Remorsecapade has not lost any of that raw energy or emotionality, but it fails to capture and record that energy for the at-home listener. The album comes on too strong and a little too unpolished for a recorded effort.

Woodhands – Dissembler
Woodhands – Coolchazine
Woodhands – I Should Have Gone With My Friends

Continue Reading ‘Remorsecapade’ Album Review »

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— , February 2, 2010    2 Comments

The tenth annual Wolfe Island Music Festival is happening in Kingston, Ontario this weekend. Interestingly enough, it will take place on Wolfe Island, one of Kingston’s most beautiful places and probably the world’s most perfect spot for a small indie music festival. I’m obviously biased, but if you’ve ever had the chance to catch the free ferry that goes from downtown Kingston right through to where the Cataraquai River empties into Lake Ontario, across to where the ferry docks right on the island’s main street, well, you’ll know what I mean. Add some excellent music to the mix, some drinks, some camping and some good friends and there’s actually nothing better you could ask for. Actually.

I’ve only made it to the festival once before, but I am still forever talking about the experience. It usually runs for two days – the Friday and Saturday of the second weekend in August – and features awesome Canadian indie bands. Last year I had the privilege of catching Handsome Furs, the Abrams brothers, Land of Talk, the Acorn, and Plants and Animals among many others.

If you don’t have plans to come pitch a tent over here for the weekend and kick back with a cold one, bring your laptop outside (if it’s not raining) and chill out with my Wolfe Island Musicfest ’09 playlist.

Sarah Harmer

Sarah Harmer

To start is Sarah Harmer. A Kingston local, she’s always sure to turn up at a rocking indie show as a guest drummer or vocalist. This weekend she’s got her own gig at the General Wolfe Hotel and it’s sure to be breathtaking. This is the first Sarah Harmer song I ever heard, and once I heard it I was hooked for life.

Sarah Harmer – I Am Aglow

Ohbijou

Ohbijou

Next is Ohbijou, who will be playing on Saturday, set up in the island’s baseball diamond while we lucky listeners will either be getting baked in the sun or drenched in the rain. The forecast doesn’t look too good, but nothing will keep me from catching these phenomenal Toronto-based musicians; especially not from their soulful layers or Casey Mecija’s unique vocals. This track is from their latest release, Beacons.

Ohbijou – Wildfires

Continue Reading ‘Wolfe Island Musicfest’ Mixtape »

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— , August 7, 2009    4 Comments

Born Ruffians

The year’s not over yet, but now is as good a time as any to look back on the past 12 11 months of music and highlight the stuff that shone the brightest for me this year. After a huge star-power filled 2007 that brought out releases from some of my favourite bands like Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Spoon, and Interpol, 2008 was largely a blank slate for me. Outside of the new Death Cab for Cutie album, I wasn’t particularly anticipating anything, so the void was filled with a variety of releases from bands both new and old I discovered throughout the year. Mind you, I’ve likely missed out on a lot so far, so consider this list fairly fluid. Without further ado, the best of what I’ve heard in ’08.

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— , December 2, 2008    4 Comments

Plants & Animals

The London Ontario Live Arts Festival has come and gone for another year, and again I was there. I previously expressed my concerns over the line-up, and while it didn’t live up to last year’s event, there were still some gems to be found. I didn’t bring my camera, so you’ll have to do without my shoddy amateur photograpy.

I was torn on Friday, as I would’ve liked to see Bocce since I’ve heard their show is much improved. I previously saw them a few years ago after they opened for Shout Out Out Out Out instead of Crystal Castles, who were no-shows. Sadly, even promises of songs about bears couldn’t force me to go clear across the city to see them that early. The free shows appearing at Victoria Park that day weren’t that appealing to me, so I only caught a bit of Do Make Say Think before travelling to Call the Office where the real night would begin. While I wasn’t flat out bored by DMSY this time around, I still have issues with post-rock in the live setting. For me, it works well as background music but when it’s forced to take centre stage, I’m not really sure what to think. I mean, I can’t dance to it, it’s too disjointed. I can’t just sit there, it’s too hypnotic. Anyway, enough babbling, suffice it to say, I was ready for a chance of pace.

I left the park early to beat the rush heading to the bar for the after-party, thus the room was still rather quiet. Sure enough, the masses began to pile in as Woodhands began their set. I was only passingly familiar with the duo, having stumbled upon a few songs in the blogosphere and figuring it was worth the gamble to see them. Indeed it was. A keytar was an integral part of their act, how can you not love keytars? After acknowledging the city, noting that they usually play the Alex P. Keaton (a place I oddly have yet to visit), the pair burst into an electro-dance party that got the people moving. Highlights include a rap session resulting in the drummer jumping into the crowd, hilariously performing a Jay-Z song he didn’t really know, before stopping and moving onto a cover he actually knew. The band closed with Dancer, the first track from their album Heart Attack. In lieu of the woman singing on the album, the drummer took lead vocals on the verses, sheepishly saying it was because he sounded like a girl. All in all, they were good fun.

Woodhands – Dancer

After a brief interlude and rush to the bar, We Are Wolves took centre stage and owned it for the rest of the night. The Frenchmen commanded your attention while ordering you to dance, and dance you did. I was also relatively unprepared for what the three-piece brought to the table, having only heard the single Fight and Kiss before the show, but the frantic rock and roll was crowd pleasing and a fitting end to the night.

We Are Wolves – Fight and Kiss

Day two had two acts playing the Victoria Park bandshell I was interested in; the first was Plants and Animals. The band drew quite a large crowd even before they burst into the opening chords of Good Friend. What followed was a pretty excellent set of folk-tinged rock and roll, marked by guitarist/vocalist Warren Spicer existentially musing on life while tuning his guitar, as well as an excellent whistle opening to Feedback in the Field by drummer Matthew Woodley. After ending the show on a high note with Bye, Bye, Bye, the band was brought back for an extremely forced encore after the rather obnoxious MC got the crowd to chant “PLANTS AND ANIMALS.” This isn’t knocking the band, but really the MC, whose schtick got a little unbearable after awhile. Even moreso when he pulled out the classic, “When I say holy, you say: FUCK!”

Plants and Animals – Good Friend

After the childish chanting of their name (seriously, aren’t we over that yet?) Holy Fuck hit the stage and started performing their phat beats with their fantastic machines. Truth be told, my experiences seeing Holy Fuck have been mixed at best, it’s highly dependent on my mood (or relative degree of sobriety). This time around, I couldn’t help feeling something was off in the sound department. Perhaps it was just the open stage in comparison to the usual seedy clubs I frequent, but that atmosphere can’t be undervalued. It certainly would’ve gotten more people moving, in any case. Anyway, I really only go so I can hear them play Lovely Allen, then I can leave happily.

Holy Fuck – Lovely Allen

Line-up concerns aside, LOLAfest is a hugely important event to London, and I have to give full credit to the people that make it happen year after year. I don’t know where I’ll be this time next year, but hopefully LOLAfest is back and stronger than ever.

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— , September 21, 2008    2 Comments