There is a certain controlled manic-ness to Ravenna Woods’ music that is uniquely energizing and best experienced live. It doesn’t need to be loud or distorted to be big and movement-inducing. In fact, guitarist Chris Cunningham can’t sit still – either onstage or during our interview – but manages to make this an extremely endearing quality that conveys a sense of urgency which serves the music and lyrics. I also love that everyone usually sits down on stage except drummer Matt Badger. There is something special that happens in the climaxes of a Ravenna Woods set when these traditional bounds of space and containment (i.e. lead singer stands in front, drummer sits in back, etc) bust open with Cunningham leaving his seat and Badger jumping around. A few months ago, when my soon-to-be musical partner in crime Aubrey Zoli took me to the Tractor Tavern show, I was also struck by a crowd that knew all the hooky percussion breaks and refused to settle down. That kind of excitement makes you want to buy the record and join the party.
It was an absolute pleasure to sit down with Chris, Brantley, and Matt in their ambiance-rich practice space and talk about the origins of the band, music community in Seattle, and the ups and downs of independent musicianship. Enjoy the full interview in short mp3 clips below, and definitely check out two of my favorite tracks from their album Demons and Lakes on the Mid By Northwest Pop-Up Radio Player. One of the things that struck me most during the interview was the band’s heartfelt reverence and appreciation to many specific people – bloggers, photographers, bookers – that have helped spread the word and become friends of the band. The band listed these people by name, so just in case you miss it in the audio clips below, I want to give those people shout-outs here: Kevin Sur (Artist Home Booking), James Bailey, Dylan Priest, Hayley Young, Nikki Benson (Seattle Show Gal), Abbey Simmons and Phil Bouie (Sound on the Sound), Chris Prof… I think I got them all!
“The more you can create a basic, human connection with the people that are coming to your shows, that builds the community. Instead of acting like a rock stars and portraying that ‘too cool for school’ [demeanor] . . . Honestly, we were ready for more of an uphill battle than it’s been. We were ready to put everything into it and not get anything back, as we have [in other projects] for many years.” – Chris Cunningham, Ravenna Woods
“It’s hard to break in – feeling like you’re on the outside of this giant brick wall and you can hear all kinds of cool shit and every now and then a streamer will come over [the wall] and it’s like ‘this is awesome, what’s going on in there?’ but you’re locked outside . . . while inside there’s probably 20 more streamers, probably a giraffe, and 18 record execs just throwing deals at people’s faces.” – Matt Badger, Ravenna Woods
MH: “What is the origin story of Ravenna Woods?”
MH: “In your own words, how would you characterize the Seattle music scene?”
On building community around music in Seattle:
MH: “How has your understanding of music community in Seattle changed over time?”
MH: “What have been some challenges, setbacks, or inhibitors to building a community around your music?”
MH: “What advice would you give to a new band in a big new city?”
The new EP drops in March 2011, but in the meantime you’ve got plenty of chances to see Ravenna Woods live in the next few weeks:
December 18 @ Showbox SoDo
December 31 – NYE @ Club Soto (Tacoma)
January 12 @ Nuemos (with Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground)