INTERVIEW: Woodes

Woodes has been enchanting Australian audiences for the past two years with her magical and moody indie-pop. The Melbourne singer-songwriter released her debut self titled EP in 2016 and followed it up earlier this year with the cinematic ‘Golden Hour’. Taking it on the road she kicked off this project with a string of headline shows before joining BORNS, City Calm Down and Asgeir for their individual Australian tours. In between the nonstop touring she has found time to work on new material and released the vibey ‘Change My Mind’ that hears her stepping towards a euphoric and festival ready sound. The track explores how she’s always caught up in her own world and doesn’t easily let her guard down but she begins flirting with the idea of letting someone be apart of her world. It’s very innocent, genuine and honest. The production is in the realm of airy alternative-pop as it samples the sound of the beach as well as live drums and a harp. She premiered this song at her coveted Splendour In The Grass set and is hitting the road again this September to officially celebrate its release with some headline shows. 

I recently chatted to Woodes about the creative process behind ‘Change My Mind’, costume malfunctions and her debut Splendour In The Grass performance. Check it out;

 

TB: Your new single ‘Change My Mind’ hears you heading towards a dreamier pop sound. What was musically inspiring you during the creative process?

W: ‘Change My Mind’ was interesting because it was only a 8 week turn around between writing and releasing it. That’s crazy for me! Normally I sit on things and keep tweaking them but with ‘Change My Mind’ I loved the song and everyone I showed it to smiled and loved it too. So we decided to put it out.

When I wrote ‘Change My Mind’ I was in New Zealand and it was the first day in the studio at APRA SongHubs. For my previous EP I had set myself these kind of concept-based guidelines for myself. So the EP was generally more goal oriented and positivity driven rather than honing in on my personal life. I wrote and produced a lot of it in 2017. A year where I really questioned why I was making art in a landscape where it felt like a lot of things were falling apart. It made me really question what the purpose of live music was and what my place was within it. The Woodes community is so important to me and writing with them and the live show in mind really helped me through that. After the shows I always make time to meet my fans. I feel connected and part of something bigger than just me. Running a small business is a lot of work. Believing the planet can be better than it is is a lot of work. I wanted to see if I could write songs that were led by goals or community rather than personal relationships. This is the first one in a long time where I just let my life tumble out entirely because that vulnerability is really important too.

I went in to the studio with Alexander Wildwood and was like “So I am really skeptical about this, but I need to get this off my chest”. I was a little bit protective of the verses and remember when I sang “pitter pat, pitter pat” that everyone was like “YES!”. I actually wanted to call the song pitter pat but then once the chorus was done it was pretty evident what the song should be named.

I think part of the dreamier pop/band sound was from how much we have been playing as a band this year. When we supported BØRNS his band would soundcheck first, running through everything and then Garrett would come out at the end and check his levels. It’s so cool to hear each part of the production exposed like that when it was just the band playing. Each night my band and I would watch their tight soundcheck and hearing the way the live instruments interlocked was really inspiring to my songwriting and production. So because of that ‘Change My Mind’ is definitely a lot more band driven than some of my other songs.

I finished ‘Change My Mind’ with my band. My drummer Tim Cox is playing alongside the original loop in the beat. My other bandmate Hayden Jeffery is a great producer and engineer so we did all the backing vocals together in his studio. We also added in the prophet bass line in together and he engineered the drums. It’s really special that we were able to do that together in-between a pretty busy touring schedule with the City Calm Down support tour. I think as a producer and writer I’m always going to be trying new things and new styles so this was just what unravelled at a certain point, with a lot of variables at work. I love the dreamy quality to it. And playing it live makes me really happy.

TB: The track explores the idea of being always caught up in your own world and not letting your guard down often but flirting with the idea of opening up to someone. So is this something you’re working on in your personal life? Because I feel like sometimes it is so easy to open up to a lot of people artistically but to open up to one person intimately is actually terrifying. 

W: Yeah for sure! Love is pretty terrifying. Some of the first songs I ever wrote in high school were about me falling headfirst into that for the first time. There’s something so nice about how pure, explosive and whole-hearted those songs are. I feel like after a bit it is more rare to fall quite as hard but it’s really nice to meet someone by accident and find yourself swept up in those kinda feelings again. It caught me by surprise.

TB: The best way I would describe your sound would be DIY or experimental-pop because you really do immerse yourself into the world of the sound. So when you’re writing a song where do you usually start? Do you begin with the lyrics or do you begin with the production structure? 

W: DIY is funny isn’t it. To me I feel like bedroom or DIY isn’t me because it pockets you into an fluke realm. And I feel like I’ve grown out of that now. In uni and high school I felt very DIY because I was recording things through crappy mics and my soundproofing was spare mattresses wedged around my piano. My engineering style was a lot of “well.. that works” rather than being pedantic with setup or gear. A lot of my production does stem from being experimental. I get really into one thing for a while and then rig everything into it, then come back 6 months later into the session and I’m like “why the heck would you do it that way”. That’s definitely part of it. Experimentation.

I ultimately want my music to feel cinematic and visceral for the listener. Often I write with the film in my head of where it all takes place. I came into production as a composer and a lot of my songs start with atmospheres. For example, for ‘Change My Mind’ the opening sample with the birds and the beach was how this song began. Having an atmosphere or sample with some warmth usually helps my mind go into the place of the song. I do that in ‘Hunger’, ‘Dots’ and ‘Still So Young’. Little samples from lighthouses or reversed pianos or crackly things. 

I’ve been writing a lot this past couple of years so I feel like I can write from a whole bunch of “starting” points. It’s not a set process. I don’t want to keep writing the same song! Sometimes I start with the chorus or pre-chorus because verses are easier to build after you’ve gotten to the “point” you’re trying to reach. Choruses can be so simple. Sometimes I write with just a beat, completely exposed. Then the song has a pulse and a sense of pace. A lot of singles of mine are written if I just do beat and bass. I write at the piano sometimes, or around a guitar. Sometimes it’s good to just go outside. There’s no point getting frustrated at tools or technology. Go outside and fill the silence with your ideas. I have A LOT of voice memos.

TB: You’re hitting the road again this September to celebrate the release of ‘Change Your Mind’. So what can people expect from this new live show?

W: Oh man, I can’t for these shows! We have done quite a few supports this year and ticked a bunch of things off of the bucket list. It’s been a dream to be able to do this as a band. We’re winding it up with our Australia tour before I take some time to work on the new chapter of music.

This tour allows us to turn the venues into the world of Woodes for the night. I’m slowing some tracks down and adding a lot of new elements to others. Some special giant arrangements for sure. I also will be premiering some new things on the road.

TB: Oooh, so you are going to be playing some new material on this tour?

W: I have a couple up my sleeve! It’s always fun to preview new things live. I sit in my studio with them on loop imagining playing them and then all of a sudden you’re in that space you had in your head. I like the nerves before playing something live for the first time. There’s something really special about it.

TB: You recently just performed at Splendour In The Grass which must have been an absolute dream come true. So how was that experience? 

W: It definitely was! I remember vividly the morning my manager told me about it. He sent it through in capitals. I called each of my bandmates and my parents and we all freaked out. It still doesn’t feel real. 

It’s funny too because I prepared for so long and then the set is 50 minutes and then you’re there like “oh, It’s done!”. I had all of these happy and exhausted emotions. That night I watched Lorde with my bandmates and team and felt very proud. It was a very shared experience. The world of Woodes is my project but I share those moments with my bandmates and management. The whole team was there and it felt monumental to be there independently with music I had created with collaborators and friends. It truly takes a village.

TB: What was one of your favourite moments from the festival? And Who was your favourite set to watch?

W: I loved seeing my friends perform, especially Alex Lahey and Alice Ivy. You grow up in Australian music as a community and those two inspire me greatly. Seeing everyone yell every hook at Alex’s set made me really, really happy. I kept just looking around in wonder. Most of the videos I took on my phone were from that set, just filming the crowd losing it. So cool! I also loved seeing The Wombats, Lorde and Khalid.

TB: You’ve always been a performer who impresses with their tour and show outfits. So what is inspiring your look and vibe for this upcoming tour? Do you know exactly what you’re going to wear yet?

W: Thank you! I do love doing my own styling and putting the stage outfits together. I have a couple draft outfits I’ve been workshopping with my friend at the moment. They keep getting bigger and brighter! I started this project wearing a lot of blacks and big coats. I celebrated the ‘Golden Hour’ EP with a lot of gold and white. I’ve been thinking about red for a while but it’s hard to find the right shade. It is also important for me to be able to move around in it. On my last tour I had a funny moment with pom poms and my in-ears cable getting tangled up. I had a pom pom tail for a little bit *laughs*.

TB: You had an incident at your last Brisbane show where you left half of your outfit at the dry-cleaners that day and ended up swapping outfits with one of your friends who was in the crowd. Was this the worst outfit issue or malfunction you’ve had or has there been a worse one?

W: OMG! That experience! So I got the outfit dry cleaned and left the slip in another bag in Melbourne. If you don’t wear the slip with that dress it’s a see-through piece of lace. I was going to try and not talk about it on stage but I just felt like I needed a big disclaimer because it was so funny to me that it somehow worked out. I usually check everything before I leave the hotel but because it was straight from the drycleaner I figured there was no way it wouldn’t all be in one piece. I realised about 10 mins before I went on stage when I went to get changed. Luckily one of my high school best friends who was at the show happened to be wearing a white body suit. She took my black t-shirt and I took her body suit and at the end of the show we swapped back. Last time I was in Brisbane she bought me stockings too. She’s a life saver!

I’d say that was the worst one because the only other outfit I had that close to our set was the clothes I was wearing at soundcheck which were denim short-shorts and a stripy single. Could have been street-wear Woodes *laughs*. I think usually the first show in a new outfit I work out all the ways it doesn’t work. Then as the tour progresses I change it up. I do dress rehearsals pre-tour but on stage I tend to move a whole lot more.

TB: When you’re thrown an unexpected situation like that how do you personally try to keep yourself calm? 

W: I like finding solutions. When I was growing up and I’d present my mum a problem she’d get me to brainstorm solutions. Getting flustered or angry with yourself or a situation won’t solve it. I think it’s also being able to call upon team members to group-think. I really enjoy touring with my two bandmates. We have had gear break just before going on stage and have had to completely re-rig things or call favours really quick. There’s a lot of trouble-shooting when you’re touring and travelling. My bandmates are really level-headed and professional which is great.

I think with staying calm, it’s all about practice. I personally like rehearsing a lot before a tour to make sure the music is all under control so that part is done. It will organically unravel into however it does that particular night but by the time we are on tour we are so familiar with the material so we can have fun with it. From the start I’ve been my own music director and put together our live show. I think part of my calm before the stage is about sharing those responsibilities now. My guitarist and I have contingency plans and he’s across the whole live set. My drummer operates the live set on stage and then my job before we go on is just vocal warm ups, braiding, hydration, eating, being calm. I like pre-production so that on the night we just do our thing and enjoy it.

TB: Let’s play a little game when you answer these questions with the first thing that comes to mind.  

W: Okay!

TB: Most mornings I… 

W: Snooze my alarm before admitting defeat. Also at some point I need a coffee.

TB: If I could form a supergroup with any other band or artist it would be…

W: Down to earth people that want to make something unique and have fun in the process. Maggie Rogers would be one! I met her at Splendour last year and she’s so so nice. It would be cool to learn her dance moves. I feel like being in a super group together would be like a summer camp. I love that she’s bringing Mallrat over to the USA for her tour too. 

So yeah, it would be so cool to do something with Mumford & Songs, Maggie, Florence, Jonsi and Imogen Heap. 

TB: The emoji the best describes me is… 

W:There’s this elf one on the new update and I get sent it often with people saying ‘IT’S YOU’ and I am very flattered because that emoji is so very symmetrical.

TB: Most people think I…. 

W: Smile a lot!

TB: If I could have any superpower it would be… 

W: Flight or time travel. I dream I’m flying often. I’d like to be able to skip forward and backwards through history. Mainly to observe. As long as there were no repercussions for me being there. Like me knocking over a vase of water onto something important and then life as we know it changes etc! Dangit!

 

‘CHANGE MY MIND’ AUSTRALIAN TOUR

Fri 7 Sep – Leadbelly, Sydney

Sat 8 Sep – Milk Factory, Brisbane

Fri 14 Sep – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne

Sat 15 Sep – Amplifier, Perth

Fri 21 Sep – Cats @ Rocket Bar, Adelaide 

 

 

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