Brooklyn’s Woods make music that’s at once pastoral and schizophrenic, akin to the notion of a band called “Woods” hailing from New York. Songs move from acoustic folk to epic guitar jams with little notice or trouble, from bedroom pop to moody psychedelia without blinking. Of late, critics and fans alike have anointed the band the ringleader of Brooklyn’s emerging “lo-fi scene.” But what is this fabled scene? Does it even exist? And is “lo-fi” really the best way to describe Woods’ recent, unpredictable Songs Of Shame? Before the beloved Brooklyn band headed out of town on tour—including a stop this week at the big Party In The Pines festival at Big Sur, Calif., with Gang Gang Dance, Ariel Pink, and more—The A.V. Club spoke to Woods about noise for the sake of noise, tape labels, and living in a DIY performance space.
The A.V. Club: Much ink has been written about the “lo-fi” scene, with bands like Woods and Vivian Girls cited as leaders. Are you consciously hewing to that aesthetic?
Jeremy Earl [vocalist]: There’s no conspiracy. Some bands might add some fuzz, but none of the bands we play with are doing that. It’s not like we’re recording the song first and then saying, “That sounds way too hi-fi. Let’s run that through a garbage disposal.”
G. Lucas Crane [tape effects]: I think the problem with “lo-fi” is that people take it as a genre term, or to come up with a name for a “scene.” It’s not so much a “scene” as it is a lot of people making music near one another. Some people move to New York and want to pay $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and work a job 40 hours a week. Some people come to New York to play music full time. And the time-versus-money equation works so you can do that—you can work three days a week and also play music. It’s more a mindset.
AVC: Songs Of Shame features a full band, while previous records were more solo projects from Jeremy. How was the transition?
Jarvis Taveniere [drums]: Probably pretty rocky at first.
JE: It took a while, but there was always a vibe. Even if it wasn’t up to our standards, there was always a feeling that we tried to take from the home recordings.
JT: Our real goal is to document music quickly. Most of our songs are recorded right after they’re written. Recording and writing songs are both fun, and I don’t take recording for granted. But it’s usually spontaneous, and it’s usually in the living room.
AVC: Lucas, you’re currently living in the Silent Barn, a converted Brooklyn loft that’s also a heavily trafficked DIY concert venue. How’s that?
GLC: If you get a good bunch of roommates—a good team—it’s not as crazy as you think it is. We’ve been doing shows almost every day, and we have all these psychological strategies so our house doesn’t get fucked up. For example, some parts look fucked up, and some parts look nice. People don’t want to fuck up the nice parts, because they’re thinking, “This is someone’s house.” But the already fucked-up parts, you can’t fuck those up any more, because they’re already completely fucked up. So everything balances out. But it sucks when they break the toilet, or rip my sink out of the wall.
JE: I started to put out friends’ bands, or bands I thought were cool. I started really small, with editions of 100 cassettes, and eventually I started doing editions of 500 LPs, and now I’m doing everything from LPs to CDs to digital. It’s all still friends' bands. There’s always a connection—a band that Woods played with, or a New York band we’ve become friends with.
AVC: It seems idiosyncratic—a tape label in the age of MP3s.
GLC: People expect this technological trajectory into the future: vinyl, then CDs, and now these weird hats we put on our heads that carries the music right into our brains. But in the 21st century, people can have whatever they want. You can put vinyl out, and people who like vinyl will come to you. It’s their personal aesthetic.
JT: It’s not about what products will sell. It’s more like, these are the products we wanted to make anyway, and we’re glad some people want them. Why are teenagers who grew up with iPods and cell phones interested in tape labels? There’s obviously something there that’s outside that trajectory.