Tenderly caressing your inner ear

By Emily Ask

It’s not often you see the words electro-dance and emotional intensity beside each other, but that’s exactly what Woodhands wants fans to take away from their music. Dan Werb and Paul Banwatt are the duo behind this Toronto-based dance party and they’ll be in Calgary Feb. 25 at Broken City promoting their second album Remorsecapade, released last month.

Werb explains that the band’s emotional appeal stems from a desire to explore life’s frustrations in a medium other than slow, depressing music.

“It’s much easier for me to be active,” he says. “I want to deal with things actively. The point is dance music is active music.”

“We all have our stresses and we all feel things and we’re not all great at reacting to those things,” Werb admits. “I made solo piano music and it’s lovely because you can revel in all your shit — and that’s a lot of fun — but dance music is a way to get over things.”

Werb had played keyboard in several smaller bands like the Bicycles before branching out on his own.

“I said to myself, ‘Okay, I want to make pop music on my own. I can’t play guitar, I never ever considered myself to be a singer . . . and I thought to myself, ‘What do people do if they can’t play guitar and they can’t really sing and they want to make music on their own? I guess they make electronic music!’ “

Werb then promptly bought the entire KRFTWRK discography and immersed himself in electronic music for the next few months. At first Werb’s solo sound was, as he describes it, “intellectual ambient music,” but that changed after he moved to Toronto and met Paul Banwatt. It was there Woodhands was born.

“When I met Paul I had moved to Toronto and I saw all these super high energy indie rock bands — and performance is such a key element of what they were doing,” he says. “I was in a bunch of bands so I would just watch these bands, watch my friends and how they perform . . . and I would say, ‘I want to do that, I want to be sweaty, I want to be a front man.’ “

Their debut album Heart Attack, released in 2008, was extremely successful, resulting in the opportunity to tour North America, Europe, China and Japan. Werb spoke about the immense effect touring had on the second album.

“On first albums you have the luxury of working on them forever, but then you have constant touring and constant audience interaction,” he says. “New songs [are often] the result of experiments . . . We’re lucky that with our stage set up that it’s really conducive to trying new things.”

Since live performances play such an important role for the band, Werb says that in order for a song or idea to be included in the album, it has to work with the audience in mind. Woodhands isn’t afraid to improvise.

“I think it’s just a lack of restraint,” he says. “We like to connect with our audience, that’s what motivates us. If it works for our audiences then we like it — we like to be close to people.”

“We also wrote songs that didn’t fit into the flow of the album,” he admitted. “But then you have great B-sides . . . It’s never going to be perfect.”

Werb approaches Woodhands’ five-year-plan the s ame way he a proaches their past — with a tongue in-cheek sense of humour.

“We’re both stuffed by taxidermists in some natural history museum in some small country somewhere,” he answered.

It’s safe to say that Woodhands wants to keep you on your toes. With improvisation and creativity at the heart of each performance, Werb and Banwatt’s energy will carry them forward as they promote their new album and discover new sounds and ideas.

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