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Interview
Wooden Shjips

Wooden Shjips

date
Monday 9th August, 2010 2:02PM

All American Psychedelic rock ‘n rollers come to New Zealand for the first time this month and are apparently bringing volume and 30 minute solos with them.

Tell me about your home-town San Francisco . It sounds like a diverse and creative place?

Yeah, there’s a lot of great music history in this city.

I’m not going to do a very good job of talking up the city right now but it’s a good city –it’s a small city, like 700, 000 people – so you spend enough time here you get to know the different people and you know, there’s a good arts scene and a good music scene and it’s beautiful around here so there’s a lot of inspiration all around.

So starting from the beginning with the story of Wooden Shjips to date:

Initially our guitar player invited me and a couple other of his friends to start jamming and the reason he asked me and these other people is cause we weren’t musicians. He’d been playing in different bands and things for a few years and just wanted to try to start playing music with people who didn’t necessarily know their instruments well, except for maybe like a couple of riffs they liked to play or whatever. You know, find people that would be playing music more from your soul I guess.

For a year or two we had a little bit of a revolving line-up – I was playing guitar mostly – we had a couple different drummers and bass players and we worked on a few songs and things but it did get to the point where our inability to play our instruments was hurting our ability to play the songs so things kind of fell apart for a while but Ripley worked on some of the songs and recorded them and put out a 10” and you know people were into that so he was like let’s get a formal band going and he recruited Dusty to play bass and Omar on drums and asked me to play keyboards and so the four of us have been playing for the last three and a half years or so and recorded a couple of albums and a bunch of singles, so having fun, doing well…

So it’s fair to say you guys had no preconception to what you wanted to sound like? The sound that Wooden Shjips had was a fairly organic development?

Yeah the idea was definitely to have as simple song structure and not play very many notes or chords and have a simple steady rhythm, so that aspect was kind of there. One of the inspirations that we always talked about was The Velvet Underground and they would play one song for thirty or forty minutes and the song would be really dynamic even though it’s the same song for that amount of time and that was what we were trying to achieve on some level: coming up with music that is simple but very powerful on another level.

When you started originally doing recordings they were released in small quantites on vinyl. Was that purposeful or logistical?

That was pretty much what was available and the economics of putting out music at the time. Our interest isn’t to keep the music special or anything and so this spring we’re releasing our second compilation of out singles. The idea is to get our music out there eventually but sometimes it just takes a little while.

That compilation is Vol. 2, tell me a little bit about the songs that are on there:

There are recordings go from cover the last couple of years. The first two songs on there are from the single we did for Sub Pop and we recorded that pretty much after we recorded our first album in 2007 and you know the last song on there is a song we worked on when we were recording our last album in 2009 and so there’s a couple of years of time that’s within that music there but you know, there’s a couple of tour singles and another song that was just released as part of a magazine compilation, so there’s lots of songs that people haven’t heard before.

You know it’s a good representation of the songs we’ve played in concerts – we’ve been playing them live but having put them on a wide release until now, so it’s good to have everything synced up.

In terms of your popularity and notoriety, it seems a lot has happened through blog-hype etc. How does that media feel to you?

Yeah it’s weird, I mean it’s nothing we can control or even try to get involved in so you know it’s fun that people hear our music and get excited and wanna spread the word for us I mean that’s a great thing about the internet now days. Anyone in any corner of the world can hear the music they wanna hear. It works out really well for us because I don’t think our music is for everybody – either people really like it or really hate it I think, there’s not really a huge middle ground – so people who really respond to it it’s great that they can hear about it an respond to it.

You guys are coming to play songs in NZ and I can imagine that a live context is where Wooden Shjips and their sound excels?

Yeah for sure, there’s always a good volume to our shows haha, and it makes the people feel the music and it’s great when people start dancing and jumping around to a song because that’s what we wanna have happen – we wanna bring them to some place they’ve never been by listening to our music. Some towns, people don’t dance but they’ll come up to us after the show and just you know talk about how much it was making them think and that’s just as good as well. Our music is definitely something to be experienced live and the shows usually get people really excited, so that’s great!

Have you guys been to NZ before?

No, none of us have ever travelled down there, so I’m just excited to be in NZ and see the country!!

Last question – why the J in Shjips?

We put the j in there for fun, part of it was to make the name look Swedish ‘cause there’s a history of Swedish psychedelic rock that we were turned on to. But it also serves a practical purpose of making it distinct and is uniquely ours. If you’re searching online and you put a j in ships it’s probably going to only bring us up!