By Vanessa Hawk
Woodsmen have a hard time agreeing on things. From their tastes in desserts to legendary creatures to musical influences and genres, the band introduces themselves online as “Round, angular, crisp, subtle, bold, juicy, understated, overbearing, and fine. And good.” Listeners and show-goers have no trouble picking up on the latter after hearing a small sampling from the six-piece band.
“I think we’ll fall into the indie rock or alternative rock spectrum. That’s just unavoidable, but it’s not a bad thing,” says vocalist Maryse Bernard.
“It’s what we’ve been writing, and it’s what we go along with,” says guitarist Jake Gambling. “We don’t set out to write catchy pop songs, but we definitely have catchy pop sensibilities that end up in there.”
The umbrella title “alternative rock” perhaps neglects Woodsmen’s soulful grit that marries Bernard’s personal lyrics to the solid foundation of rock beats supplied by the gents. Bernard’s voice powers out stories one would expect from a hardened soul: stories wrought from experience into rapt perspective, with riffs and rhythms directing dance-floor soles.
The Victoria-based band has been a long time coming. Founding members Jake Gambling and drummer Graeme McDonald started playing together in the early high school days and have since gathered Solomon Krause-Imlach on guitar, Benjamin Willems on bass, Sean Kennedy on keyboards and vocalist Maryse Bernard into Woodsmen.
Using Bandcamp, an online listening and download-by-donation platform for bands to distribute songs, Woodsmen launched three original songs on January 15, 2012. Woodsmen—decidedly plural and without “The”—have reached 3000 plays in under a month; a fact which took them by surprise when Bernard mentioned it to the group.
Though Woodsmen are pleased with the recording set up at Krause-Imlach’s apartment, their sights are set on a studio environment for future recordings.
“It doesn’t do [McDonald’s] drumming any justice,” says Kennedy, providing reason enough to catch Woodsmen live.
Hungry audience ears were further satisfied when “Do it Right (Fine, Good, OK)” was added to the Bandcamp page in the wake of announcements for two back-to-back shows in February. Woodsmen started regular practices back in September, and have recently been busy locking down their worth-proving repertoire for the February gigs and a handful of other upcoming shows.
“It definitely started with the recordings. Once we got on the internet, a lot of people started talking about our music and listening to our music and throwing opportunities and shows at us,” Kennedy says.
And throw they did. Woodsmen rattle off at least six shows over the next few months; including February 22 at Felicita’s Battle of the Bands, an opening gig for Carmanah at Upstairs on March 28, a slot in the April environmental festival in Fairfield, as well as possibilities through the UVSS, local pubs and summer music festivals. Quite a ramp-up, even from the beginning of the year, when Woodsmen just focused on recordings.
“We’re just going to keep going,” says McDonald without hesitation.
And so, on to the next: with original songs and dance-rock-ready sets, six heads nod their commitment to furthering Woodsmen’s roots as a band worth watching.
Vanessa Hawk is pursuing a degree in Political Science as well as a Minor in Professional Writing from the University of Victoria.