Born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, the Michael Wood Band is a west coast indie rock band with a talent for bombast beyond their young years. The four-man outfit, with over 130 shows under their belts in the last year, is starting to seriously look at taking their talents overseas, just as they finish mastering their second studio album. We rendezvoused with the band’s namesake and lead singer in a quiet cafe to talk about their latest shows, Nepalese women’s shelters, and why you should never leave your guitar player unsupervised.
So what’s happening with the Michael Woods Band right now?
MW: Right now we’re in the process of recording our second record. We’ve been doing the odd gig here and there, but not nearly as much as last year when we tried to gig as much as we could and would up with about 130 gigs or so! Just working on getting that new record in now.
You guys are just in town to do final tracking, so what’s the record looking like?
MW: It’s looking…like a Michael Wood Band record! Definitely westcoast, but I’m very influenced by people like Kings of Leon and definitely some older blues guys too. I’m a big fan of Hard Times, that Muddy Waters record. A little bit of everything.
Sounds like a merger between glam rock and really subdued acoustic work.
Exactly. There are moments that sound a little Kings of Leon-y or moments that might sound a little bit Dave Matthews-y, but also very west coast indie rock.
Your last record, Occupy This, came out around the time of the Occupy protests. Can you talk about the name of that record and how it related to the protests?
It wasn’t so much in a pro or con kind of way, regarding the Occupy Movement. It more about acknowledging what was going on and bringing it to light. And also about occupying your life, be aware of what’s going on and live your life to the fullest- oh yeah, and occupy this record.
You do have some themes of anti-commercialism in your music, for example on “The End of the World”. Can you talk about that?
I don’t think commercialism is the most evil thing in the world ever, or anything like that. You see so many great things come out of advertising revenue, for example. Someone pushes a product and that is what it is, you know? Coca-Cola is a company, and that’s just what they do. But at the same time, they’re e able to fund art or save the polar bears and donate all that money. The thing to do is just be aware of it, and make sure you don’t get obsessed with buying the latest iPhone, for example, and spending your life like that.
On the subject of charity efforts, one of YOUR first gigs was in support of the Red Cross, right?
Oh, probably. [laughter]
Does the band do some charity work of their own?
We’ve done quite a few charity gigs, and before we started with this project that was basically all I did. When I was a little bit younger and a little less set on burning the midnight oil studying music, I actually went to Nepal to build a women’s shelter in 2012 or so with a great program called Global Perspectives. We flew into India, from there to Nepal, saw Kathmandu for a day or two and then went out into the country– which took about 3 hours or so– it was very very cool.
That’s kinda insane.
It was amazing. And it’s one of the bigger issues. Not that women all over the world aren’t faced with adversity, but in Nepal especially there is a huge culture of anti-widow. It’s seen as the widow’s fault in the husband dies so they are kinda pirrahis in the community. So we built a shelter for them where they could farm and take their kids and be self-sufficient, rather than be stuck in the back of their families home in shame. It lets them get back on their feet.
I can’t get over how cool that is.
It was a great experience. People say “I did it for them, but it was really for me” and it’s so true. You get so much more than you can ever give from experiences like that.
Word, man. You just played the Cultch IGNITE! Festival. How was that?
I love the Cultch! The building itself is pretty darn cool, and I just love the attitude of everyone involved. You do a lot of shows where the bartender is doing sound or the sound guy does sound every night and they’re just really dreary, whereas at the Cultch everyone has a job that they actually want to be doing. You’ve got a program manager who, even though she’s super busy, will take time to answer your small question about this little gear thing, everything like that. Everyone just likes to be there.
How did you like the crowd energy?
I loved it. I could gig for years, breaking even or even losing money if I could do it, if there was a crowd like that every year. Years and years.
Shoutout to the Cultch. You said you played around 130 shows last year-
Whoa, I just bought this Dan Mangan record that’s playing the background yesterday. Sorry. Had to bring that up.
Sometimes people I’ve interviewed come on and I feel very hip. Anyways. Touring?
We’ve not played out of the country yet, but we’ve played everywhere from Tofino, our backyard, all the way to Halifax. Except for Manitoba. Never been there.
Ouch. Shoutout to Winnipeg.
We always miss it for one reason or another.
What’s your craziest show story?
Our guitar player Josh got abducted one time.
Yeah, by like a drug guy. He had a recorder just like yours, and he would always place it in areas during shows and play it back to himself. He’s one of those tortured artists who will litsten to his own stuff listening for tiny mistakes that no one else is ever gonna hear. So he goes out as he’s playing this thing and says “Hey, do you mind if I put this recorder here?” and this guy here’s him and gets all like “You can’t record me!” and takes him into the alley during the show and smashes his mic. It was lucky that he got away and was even able to finish the show.
So do you guys have like a hit on you now?
I hope not! And if anything ever weird happens it never happens to other band members! Another show, around 9 months later, we were all taking a day off and doing our own thing, so Josh was out for a walk. And this guy just starts chasing him! He starts yelling “COME HERE!” at Josh and then this foot race just starts in downtown Calgary! He’s a really fit guy, Josh, and we’ve always thought that maybe it’s just because this stuff happens to him and he needs to be in good shape to escape [laughter].
If you were to play overseas, what would be your first place?
I would love to go everywhere, really. If budget was not a thing, I would love to go to England. You see so many BC bands go over the England and just have a great experience, and not nessesarily monetarily– no one makes any money in the music industry– but there’s just a great music scene. I saw Said the Whale over there when they were doing thier Islands Dissappear tour. They just have so many great venues and crowds and so much great history in England. Even Seattle would be very cool, maybe on the way to California.
A lot of performers go through a load of bad names before they find a keeper. Worst name you’ve ever performed under?
I’ve never really performed under a whole lot of bad names, but the goofiest was probably Danger Robertson and the Calgary Lions. I was in it with some buddies of mine from highschool and it was actually a really good time. We were basically playing pre-Michael Wood Band songs at charity gigs. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad name, just kinda funny.
I’ve definitely heard worse. So, what’s next?
Well, I’d like to finish this record. Not sure when I’m going to release it- probably in the next year, actually, after putting out a few singles and getting some stuff on the air. We’re gonna be cutting back on touring a little bit so that we can pay a little rent, and then tour for basically six months straight come February. Maybe take a run at the Peak Performance Project, and really give her a go!
The Michael Wood Band will be playing two shows in Calgary on July 4th and 7th and will return to Beautiful British Columbia at the Revelstoke Party in the Park on July 11th.