Published on May 29th, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant0
Local Music Feedback – Wolf Willow
In this week’s Local Music Feedback, we chat with Moose from Wolf Willow. Check out their new album Darston Waltz, an old tyme country throwback.
Some of the amazing sounds of old tyme country are being subverted by the current glut of Johnny-come-lately Mumford and Sons disciples, ruining the poor, poor banjo with so much “bowtie clatter” (a term that I’m stealing from Janice from Waitress, who I think borrowed it from Laramee from Shooting Guns). But there are a few groups in Saskatchewan that don’t bother with all that trendy shit, acts like Clayton and Kacy, Rosie and The Riveters, and our focus today, Regina’s Wolf Willow.
Wolf Willow aims to recapture the old tyme country of the past. Their new record, Darston Waltz, manages to sound sort of modern in places, but like it has one foot in squarely in HG Wells’ time machine, especially in the instrumentals. Whether swaying ballad or swinging dance hall rocker, Darston Waltz is a classic combination of harmonies, shuffling drum and bass work, cryin’ pedal steel, and blazing horns. During the recording, they aimed to emulate early Roy Orbison and Patsy Cline sessions, recording in a big room with a lot of bleed, moving things and people around in the room until everything sounded great.
I sat down with Moose, Wolf Willow’s pedal steel player and we talked about the band as well as some of the music influences that you may hear on the album. (Note: some Wolf Willow photographs may feature former members of the band).
THE FEEDBACK SOCIETY: I know you guys have a little bit of a mythology surrounding the band. Who is in the band and what instruments does each person play?
MOOSE: Everyone in the band has an alternate identity from the fictional town of Darston in the RM of Slippery Butte. Mitsy Muller is the lead singer. Stoneface Stanley plays Spanish guitar. Marv Ptlosky and Sleek Steve play Fender bass and drums respectively. Moose plays pedal steel. The horn section consists of Ms. Delilah and Herb L’flic.
TFS: Ha! Love it. How did you get together?
MOOSE: The band was originally put together by Dingy Collete, however after the band put out it’s first EP, Dingy moved to Timmins, Ontario. She’s trying to re-open the Shania Twain Museum.
TFS: Without forcing you into a genre, how would you describe your sound? What were you wanting to achieve sonically with these songs?
MOOSE: We call what we do alt-western swing. It’s really a mix of western swing and honky tonk. The roots scene is full of great song songs and sounds, but there is a part of this music that many people haven’t heard. We wanted to introduce people to that magic that happens when a twang band tries to play jazz.
Sonically, our new record, ‘Darston Waltz’ emulates the sounds of the early records Owen Bradley made at the Quonset Hut in Nashville. This is where the early Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison records were made. We recorded everything live off the floor all in one room.
TFS: Are there lyrical themes or ideas that run through the album?
MOOSE: Country music is about making you feel something. Most the songs come from a place that deep hurt or intense feeling. A friend dying, a friendship is over, an old man selling all his cows…
TFS: What is your process for writing?
MOOSE: [I write] story songs. Stoneface writes the hits. The whole band works out the arrangements.
TFS: What’s the best live show you’ve seen lately?
MOOSE: This isn’t real recent, but I saw KD Lang at the Regina Folk Festival at couple of years ago. It was magic. I had her first cassette when I was a kid. She was just like me. An odd duck from small town Alberta.
TFS: Who would be a bucket list show for you to see?
MOOSE: This is outside the country/roots theme of this interview, but I would love to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-in a barn – when Jade was still in the band
TFS: What is the album you can’t stop listening to right now?
MOOSE: Three of us in Wolf Willow play steel, so here’s a steel guitar geek answer — Merle Haggard’s ‘I’m a Lonesome Fugitive.’ Ralph Mooney plays steel. He does all these licks that no one had every done before. I can listen to it over and over, trying to figure out what he’s doing.
TFS: What is a song or band you can’t stand hearing.
MOOSE: I’ll give you another Wolf Willow appropriate answer to this question….Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen playing ‘Diggy Diggy Lo.’
We love us some Commander Cody — for those that don’t know, he’s one of the great western swing revivalists form the 70s — but something about him playing the Cajun classic tune just lacks any groove or passion. I can’t stand to listen to it.
TFS: What is your favourite Saturday night record?
MOOSE: After the kids have gone to bed and it’s too dark to work outside nothing beats putting on Sammi Smith’s ‘Help Me Make It through The Night.’ It’s the perfect album for romance or drinking alone, depending on how things are going for you.
TFS: Your favourite Sunday morning record?
MOOSE: We’ll stray out of the country and western territory for a moment again. Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ is perfect for Sunday morning. Uplifting, happy music for dancing with your children.
TFS: Who is your favourite local act?
MOOSE: I hate to be obvious, but everyone knows that Megan Nash is on fire. Whatever it is that she’s got, it just keeps getting better and better. She played an opening set at our album launch this spring and she quieted down the whole rowdy bar. Everyone just had to listen.
TFS: What are you promoting right now? Upcoming shows? New stuff on the horizon? Anything I’ve missed you wanna mention?
TFS: We just released out new album, Darston Waltz, this March. It’s charting right now across Canada and on the national Earshot roots charts. It’s available for free download at wolfwillow.bandcamp.com. We’ve got a show June 2nd at O’Hanlon’s in Regina and are booking some more shows around the province for summer and fall.