WoodsIt starts as any w record usually does. A gently strummed guitar cuddles up to an airy, subtle piano melody, and Jeremy Earl’s lackadaisical croon softly emerges like sunshine behind clouds. Things are noticeably different though - there’s no fuzz or tape deck hiss to be heard here. ‘With Light and With Love’, Woods’ seventh LP in almost as many years, finds the band ditching their signature lo-fi aesthetic for a more widescreen, glossy approach, and they’re all the better for it.
Confidently striding out of their home studio Rear House, Woods headed to Gary’s Electric in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighbourhood, marking the first time in the band’s career that they embarked on the “full studio experience”, as multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere calls it. The end result finds the now-expanded band - who were once just a duo consisting of Earl and Taveniere - creating their biggest and boldest record to date.
“It kind of gets to be a drag when I’m the engineer AND the musician,” Taveniere says from his home in Brooklyn, as he reflects on the last couple of Woods records. He’s busy with preparations for Woods’ upcoming tour, which sees the band travelling across the US and Europe. When Woods was just him and Earl, the guys did all the recording and producing by themselves, and it’s clear that this ultimately proved to be a strain on Taveniere - especially as they’re now seven records in. “It was fun to have someone else who could just handle that aspect,” he says on stepping away from his production role on this album. “It allowed us to run around and get on with all our crazy ideas.”
Considering Woods’ insane proficiency these past few years, it’s hard to believe Taveniere still found time to produce records on the side. Working on the latest releases from Axxa/Abraxass and Quilt in Gary’s Electric itself, Taveniere believes these experiences have helped him become a better member of Woods in the long run. “After producing the first Widowspeak record, I went back to Woods in a different way,” he explains contemplatively. “I wanted to step back as a creative person, writing wise. I went into a headspace where I was just going to let Jeremy write most of the songs, and if he wanted to play most of the instruments, then that was cool too. On [‘With Light and With Love’] though, I wanted to get back out there!”
"It allowed us to run around and get on with all our crazy ideas."
— Jarvis Taveniere
However, the decision to head into a “proper” studio wasn’t just down to Taveniere’s creative impulses - it was out of a desire to push their sound even further. “I did want the poppier songs to sound poppier, but I also wanted the weird stuff to go deeper,” Taveniere says reflectively on the band’s last effort, 2012’s ‘Bend Beyond’. While these poppier elements remain, the title track of this new album revisits Woods’ jam habits and psychedelic eccentricities, something Taveniere was keen to work on in a professional environment. “With that song, I knew that if me and Jeremy just did it between the two of us in his house as we normally would, it would just sound slapped together,” he admits. “My main goal for the studio was just to get the band tight so that we could go somewhere and just document the band playing.”
The change of scenery was healthy for the rest of the band, too, and Taveniere recognises that the telepathic tendencies they display in their mesmerising live shows is finally starting to seep through in their recordings. “That was the big motivation for the record,” he explains. “I know it's not like a totally unusual thing to record live, but we're a band that started out as a recording project, so... to us, it was just totally new. A lot of the songs that we've been playing from the last record, they just turn into something totally different [live], and when you’re in a room playing together, the groove changes - the songs just swing different or something. At the start of this recording process, we’d never had that experience before.”
The more he reveals about making this record, the more it sounds like one hell of a party. Members of White Fence, Quilt and Foxygen all contributed to the record on things as simple as an organ to as obscure as a saloon piano, but Taveniere just laughs and remains convinced it wasn’t quite as high octane as he’s making it out to be. “That's just the sort of thing that works in the studio - seeing what's lying around and going with it. Like oh, there's this piano thing over there - let's use that. There's an organ, let's give that a shot. In our own studio we've gone through all our bag of tricks,” he admits. “I wanted to invite some friends along, and we did. We didn’t really have a party though - it was more like a really fun brunch.”
Woods' new album 'With Light and With Love' is out now on Woodsist.