Those who saw the Wooden Birds the last time they played Great Scott in August were treated to a sneak peak of many of the songs that would become the band’s second album, Two Matchsticks.
MP3 // The Wooden Birds // “Two Matchsticks” (via Barsuk)
With that completed album in tow, Andrew Kenny and company return to the Allston club on Tuesday, July 12. Matchsticks is a breezy collection of understated pop songs that feels tailor-made for summer. It’s a more compelling, well-rounded effort than the band’s debut, which Kenny finished writing after his lengthy run with the American Analog Set wound down – before re-relocating to Austin and before the Wooden Birds even existed as a band.
FiTi recently caught up with Kenny for some insight on his new band’s live approach and what could develop into a brief reunion with the Analog Set.
You covered Kenny Rogers and Hall & Oates on the free EP that preceded the release of Two Matchsticks. Were there any other fabulously unlikely contenders to receive the cover treatment?
We also tried “Always A Relief” by Radio Dept. and Metallica’s “Orion.” We never got a good feel for the Radio Dept. song. That is to say we could make it sound like a Radio Dept. song but not a Wooden Birds song. It’s a great number though and I haven’t given up on it yet. “Orion” is a great song, too, but we couldn’t pull it off because we never tried it – and I also just made that one up.
The Wooden Birds live experience has always been a slightly different animal from your records, and now you have an extra guitar player on the road with you this summer. What inspired you to expand the live ensemble?
When the live band was put together, it was never intended to be an exact presentation of the album. When you make an album, I think you’ve got to take advantage of the recording process and arrange the songs accordingly. Playing live, you’ve got drums and a PA and electrified instruments to work with and we’d be fools not to take advantage of them. They’re made to present something dynamic and expressive and, at times, unpredictable. That’s what we do on stage. On this tour, we wanted Leslie to sing more and to add some depth with guitar and percussion so Chris Hansen stepped up to take lead duties for a while. Great guy. And stepping up is something he’s got a lot of experience with.
Boston was pretty supportive of the Analog Set, especially in its later days. Do you have any favorite memories from your many visits to the city over the years?
I think I’m in the 12-timer’s club at TT’s now (if you include Ola Podrida and the Broken Social Scene), and I’ve made a lot of great memories in Boston. New York was always such an endurance test that Boston became the city I would find myself looking forward to in the east. Our SF on the Atlantic Coast. As long as you don’t have to find a place to park a van. Then you’re on your own, friendo.
We’re hoping that the Wooden Birds are here to stay, but there would seem to be some built-in downtime when people like Matt and Leslie are playing an increasingly important part in the band. Do you find yourself spending more time with the guys from AmAnSet now that you’re back in Austin, or have you pretty much closed the books on any further “official” activity?
I get to see the guys a lot more now because we share an area code, but everyone is pretty busy these days. Jobs. Parenting. Graduate school. All the awesome life stuff that I kept them from for so many years. We’ve talked about doing a show later this year for the 10th anniversary of Know By Heart, but no definite plans yet. It’s hard to call a band “broken up,” because that’s what you do when you don’t like each other anymore, or you’re out of songs to write. That was never the case with us. We need a different word. I wish there was a book with words and meanings that I could look in to find a better one. What?
Prior to the release of Magnolia, you indicated that you didn’t necessarily see yourself making music for public consumption 10 years down the road. A couple years later, do you feel the same way about the future, or has your perspective changed at all?
It’s a quarter after nine in the morning. I’m in the middle of a tour and right now I don’t see myself making music past 10 a.m.! But something tells me I’ll make it. A little coffee. A nice text message from my wife. A good show tonight and, yeah, I’ll make music for another hundred years – give or take.
The Wooden Birds play Great Scott on Tuesday, July 12 with The Okay Win and Eldridge Rodriguez. Tickets for the 9 p.m. show are $9 – get yours here.
Photo by Alicia Vega