The two-man band isn’t all too common in the world of hard, dirty tubthumping beats. But it has proven to be effective if done right. The White Stripes, Death From Above 1979, er – The Carpenters?
Stretching the uncommon for Toronto’s Woodhands is that one guitar isn’t part of the show. Instead, Dan Warb uses synthesizers to create explosions of imagination. Because the synth is profoundly digitally manipulated, it can easily be presumed to be the product of beat-looping software.
“We don’t start with a computer,” Warb said. “We just use what’s at our disposal. We don’t come out of production. I’m a piano player and Paul [Banwatt]‘s a drummer.”
Although the stage at Woodhands shows is littered with distortion peddles and technology fit for a Hollywood soundstage, Warb refers to all that as the icing.
“Even if everything breaks, we can still do a show. Even if it’s just me screaming and Paul banging on whatever’s around.”
Banwatt is also the drummer for The Rural Alberta Advantage and plays the drums like Animal from the Muppets – even on the slow songs.
With Woodhands, the term “slow songs” must be taken with a grain of salt since even the slow ones include a cornucopia of hard, dirty synth beats, making down-tempo danceable. The danceability factor is ensured by Warb.
“We don’t fuck around. We’re interested in connecting with our audience,” Warb said.
Woodhands’ latest album, Remorsecapade, is overpoweringly electronic and incredibly danceable, with more hits than misses.
“We really wanted to stretch out emotional range and be quite evocative with it,” said Warb, who admitted he was wary about releasing the album, their sophomore release. “We think it’s an evolution. It felt a lot more fresh and different. Any time you do more, not everyone comes with you.”
The duo initially built a fan base with the success of the songs Dancer and I Wasn’t Made For Fighting from their debut album Heart Attack.
In addition to two original albums, Woodhands has also built a strong reputation in covers and remixes, most notably, their refreshing, not-safe-for-mainstream-clubs take on Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl.
“We’re all the sums of our influences,” Warb said. “If you really own a cover or a remix, all of your other songs will sound like your influences.”
Although their MySpace page places them in Toronto, Warb is from Vancouver and lived in Montreal for several years, so Woodhands is really a national effort.
The duo will be spanning the country on their Canadian tour and will be stopping in Winnipeg on Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Lo Pub.
Dan will yell, Paul will bang on things and hopefully all the equipment will remain in tact.
Published in Volume 64, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 25, 2010)