Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the expression “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” But that idiom certainly applies to the crowded landscape of the Canadian roots-rock scene, where it can be hard for artists to distinguish themselves from their woodsy brethren. Fortunately, Toronto’s The Wooden Sky has carved its niche not from following time-tested formulas, but through a well-orchestrated plan, implemented through tons of hard, honest work. And that shows in its relentless tour schedule, which lands at plenty of off-the-beaten-path pitstops, including Mission B.C., Bruno, Sask. and Morden, Man.
But the band’s rural-trotting has landed it plenty of connections: Its Myspace page boasts nearly 10,000 friends and a national network is held together via Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. That, and a “really good (cell phone) long distance plan” never hurts, explains the band’s songwriter-frontman Gavin Gardiner, calling today from Victoria, B.C.
Joining the band for its Canadian leg of its tour are pals Yukon Blonde and classically trained violinist Edwin Huizinga, whose regular gig is with a baroque ensemble. And, as it turns out, its relationship with the violinist stems from Alberta.
“We met him in Banff. He’s an amazing player and personality, just so enthusiastic about music,” says Gardiner. “He’s coming to join us and ride around the country in a van. He just finished touring Europe in a bus, where they stayed in four-star hotels and never travelled on the same day they played. We go eight hours driving and partying, then go do it again.”
That’s nothing new for The Wooden Sky. Gardiner and his crew have been touring practically non-stop since the group’s inception, which began as a humble demo-recording project when Gardiner was going to Ryerson University. After releasing an EP and 2007’s Lost At Sea under the name Friday Morning’s Regret, Gardiner decided that it was time for the band to change its name.
“It wasn’t really the same band,” he explains. “It all happened pretty organically. Our old drummer left and the two new members came in — who are still in the band — and it just became The Wooden Sky. Even talking about the fact that there was another name for the band, just feels kind of strange. Names for bands are stupid, but they are a necessary evil. I just wanted it to be an empty vessel.”
That empty vessel quickly filled up, and set a new course by sailing on to bigger and brighter horizons. When Lost at Sea was re-released under The Wooden Sky moniker, the band hit the road hard, touring with high-profile acts like Mother Mother and Elliot Brood, cultivating an ever-growing fan base.
The Wooden Sky’s sophomore effort, If I Don’t come Home, You’ll know I’m Gone, was recorded in two weeks at Montreal producer Howard Bilerman’s Hotel2Tango studio. Bilerman’s impressive resume — he produced Arcade Fire’s Funeral and Woodpigeon’s Balladeer, amongst others — wasn’t lost on Gardiner.
“It seemed like a really natural fit — he’s a really talented guy and really laid back,” he says. “When things were going great he hardly said a word; he just sat behind the glass and listened and did his job. But when he saw that we were kind of struggling he’d come in and we would talk things through.”
That album, then, began a new round of steady touring. This time around, The Wooden Sky is headlining medium-sized Canadian clubs, an experience Gardiner clearly appreciates.
“It was really nice to get back to Canada,” he says. “We’ve sort of toured here enough that people know our songs and come to our shows. It’s exciting to see familiar faces and friends that I’ve made along the way.”
Despite his hectic schedule — the band swings across Canada and the U.S., then hits the East Coast before returning home in November — Gardiner says he still finds plenty of time to work on new material.
“When a song hits I just make sure that I’m ready to go with it,” Gardiner says, paraphrasing Neil Young.
“We’re working on it already. We probably have five or six songs ready to go. I can’t wait to get back into the studio. That’s my favorite part. I love it.”