With bands such as Wintersleep, Constantines and Fleet Foxes getting regular radio play, it comes as no surprise that Toronto-based folk/indie-rock band The Wooden Sky has an ever-growing fan base. With an impressive band roster, whose current and former members include musicians from Ohbijou, Timber Timbre, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Forest City Lovers and The Mars Volta, we admittedly hold The Wooden Sky to a higher standard. And the recent release of their third album, Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun, is seriously satisfying.
Lead singer Gavin Gardiner delivers his hallmark lonesome and gritty vocals, balanced by orchestral explosions — the result of more experimentation on the new record. Having just returned home to Toronto from his North America tour, Gardiner talks songwriting in a cottage up north and why Toronto's local bands are one big happy family.
The Wooden Sky started out as a school project, right? How did that happen?
Yeah, it did. I've always played in bands since I was in junior high. I moved to Toronto for school when I was 18 and I had to record a bunch of songs, I got my friend to play the drums on it, we put out a little EP and had a lot of fun doing it, so we kept doing it. And that was sort of another band that transformed itself into The Wooden Sky.
There's a lot of range, from really sad, sappy songs to more upbeat folk rock. Is hard to balance your songwriting?
It's not really hard to balance the songwriting aspect of it — it allows freedom to do more than a form-specific thing. I think it would get boring. The hardest part is to decide whether a record should lean one way or the other. How consistent it should be. I mean, all of my favourite records are not consistent. That's what I want to make in terms of records, like it's all I want to listen to.
Tell us about the new album. Stylistically, it seems more diverse from your previous two.
Yeah it is, and I think a lot of that was because of circumstance. We had been pushing ourselves to try and write in different ways. The record before, we spent some time just working as a full band trying to write the songs, and we did that with this record too. We went to a cottage up north and wrote some songs. But I was also very excited to try demoing songs to see if I could work on them another way, to bring a different energy to the songs. So to answer your question there: not really [laughs]. Approach it differently? We weren't as prepared going into the studio, which meant we needed a lot more time to experiment, and the songs have changed pretty drastically since we first recorded them.
Who were you listening to when you were recording it?
I kind of got obsessed with Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers around that time. And Bill Callahan. Some people tell me it's a pretty "mellow" record, and I don't really find it that mellow, but that was kind of the goal. A lot of the times I find that I do get to listen to music during quiet times at home. I think in the world of vans, it's so hectic when you get home, you just want to go into a shell and put on your favourite record, you know? For me, that became Bill Callahan, especially Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle. I just listened to that record so much. That became the approach we took with this new album, which I think scared our record label [laughs].
With bands like Wintersleep and Fleet Foxes getting more mainstream play, is there room for your genre of music?
I don't know, it's funny you mentioned them, I'm in the kitchen and we were just having some random chat about who used to play in Wintersleep. Is the world ready for that? I'd like to think that that could happen, I'm also not super concerned about it. It seems like our fan base is growing steadily, I guess I would not shy away from that kind of exposure because of what that could bring. But yeah, hopefully!
What's it like working with members from The Rural Alberta Advantage, Forest City Lovers, Ohbijou (and I think I saw your violinist playing with Dusted the other night)?
Seems like that could be one big happy family, yeah. It's a natural thing to happen, when people are in a similar situation. I also feel lucky to have such talented friends, you know? Like, Casey [Mecija]from Ohbijou was just texting me: "I need a place to practice," and we have a garage we use. And she was so generous, she has a house in Bellwoods, and they rent it out for recording those Friends in Bellwoods albums. It's such a special place that they used to really foster that community.
What's next for you guys?
We're going back on tour in the States in August for a couple of weeks. And then we're flying to Europe.
Does folk music have a big following in Europe?
Every time we've been over there it's been really well-received. There's a different attitude for live music, both times we've been over it's been great so we're excited to go back.