Jarvis Taveniere Reflects on Nearly 20 Years of Woods (9/27 at KFN)

Today indie folk rock outfit Woods – comprised of a core of Jeremy Earl, Jarvis Taveniere, and John Andrews – released their latest studio album, Perennial, courtesy of their...

Today indie folk rock outfit Woods – comprised of a core of Jeremy Earl, Jarvis Taveniere, and John Andrews – released their latest studio album, Perennial, courtesy of their own Woodsist label.  And they’re celebrating the release – in addition to nearly their 20th anniversary, having formed in 2004 – with two short runs of fall dates.  The first jaunt, which covers the Northeast, kicks off September 23rd at their annual Woodsist Festival in Accord, NY and includes a Wednesday, September 27th stop at Kung Fu Necktie, with a West Coast leg taking place this November.  I recently got a chance to chat with Woods multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere about the band’s history, latest album, and musical friends.

Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city, as you’ve played here a lot over the years, between The Church, Boot & Saddle, Johnny Brenda’s…  Any favorite memories, or just thoughts on Philadelphia?

Jarvis Taveniere: Yeah, that church show, actually.  What was the name of it?

Izzy: It’s called First Unitarian Church.

Jarvis: I think we played in a side chapel.

Izzy: Yeah!  There’re actually three venues in the building.

Jarvis: Yeah, ‘cause I think I saw Tragedy there once.

Izzy: Yeah, they have shows in the basement, and then they have shows in the main hall, but then they have that side chapel for like especially intimate, acoustic things.

Jarvis: Yeah, my memory of that was an early Woods tour, playing the side chapel.  I think it only holds 100 people.

Izzy: Yeah, I don’t even know that it holds that.  I think it may be like 50 or 60.

Jarvis: Yeah.  We did an acoustic set, a stripped-down, three-piece thing.  I don’t remember any specifics, but I’ve always looked at that as being special.  I bring it up all the time.  I wanna do more like that, where there’s just two or three of us playing small churches [laughs].

Izzy: Tomorrow you’re releasing Perennial, which I think is your twelfth studio album?  What can fans expect of the album?  How do you think it compares to previous Woods releases?

Jarvis: We do have twelve albums, I think, but most of them we recorded at home.  So, for the first half of the band’s life it was all home recorded, really quick, fast, fun, chaotic.  So, it’s not the twelfth studio album.  That’s something that’s a new chapter for the band.  Process-wise, we went into this one with all of our shared experience of being this band together, and working on different projects together, to go into the studio a little looser, with a couple songs, a couple ideas, and to just give ourselves the time to just stretch out and play and write.  We wanted it to be mostly instrumental, because we always have a lot of fun putting together one or two instrumental tracks for the record, and getting into the arranging to keep an instrumental interesting.  Maybe it’s age?  We’re aging into instrumentals, I’m saying [laughs].

Izzy: You’ve actually been releasing these double singles from the album for a while now, most recently “Little Black Flowers” and “Day Moving On.”  How did these two particular tracks come about?

Jarvis: “Day Moving On” was totally just an improvised jam over a loop that Jeremy had made.  We were just kind of having fun with it.  Someone talked me into playing standup bass on it, and then, in the mixing process, we sort of carved it out and found a song structure, and Jeremy came up with some lyrics, and it just kind of evolved.  So, that one I really love, because it surprises me.  Like, I don’t know where it came from.  “Little Black Flowers” is one that Jeremy wrote and brought as a fully formed thing.  So, those two singles are cool because they’re two different sides of how we work.

Izzy: You’ve got some upcoming tour dates, with East Coast shows later this month, and then West Coast shows in November.  What can be expected of the live show this time around?

Jarvis: We have a new rhythm section.  I’m really excited playing with different people, because there are parts of the set that are improvised, and where we stretch things out or transition.  There’re so many albums to pull from, too.  So, what songs sound good with the current band…  I guess we’ll find that out at rehearsals next week!

Izzy: You’re kicking off these dates at your annual Woodsist Festival, which has an amazing lineup.  But I’m curious if there are any acts that you’re especially excited to get to see?  I know they’re all basically friends, but I didn’t know if there was anyone that you hadn’t gotten to see in a while…

Jarvis: [Laughs] MJ Lenderman I really like, Alabaster DePlume, Daniel Higgs from Lungfish, I haven’t seen him play in a really long time, Scientist…  The fest is always fun, because it is a mix of old friends, like Kevin Morby and Kurt Vile, and then people like Bombino, that we’re fans of, and it’s exciting to bring them into this sort of smaller festival friend circle.

Izzy: Yeah, someone was just talking to me about Bombino, and then I saw him on the festival list, and I didn’t know if you were friends, or that was just someone that you’d come across…

Jarvis: No, I think that’s someone that we met briefly at a festival years ago.

Izzy: You’re doing these September dates with Anna St. Louis, who I know is also on the label and who I really dig, but who I don’t know much about.  How did you all originally connect with her?  And what are your thoughts on her stuff?

Jarvis: She went to high school with Kevin Morby.  So, she’s been in the friend circle for a while, and was always just a talented musician.  And she started making this solo music like five or six years ago?  Or, that’s when I knew about it.  And Jeremy, through Woodsist, put out her first record.  And then I just produced her second album, In The Air, which came out a few months ago.

Izzy: Yeah, I dig it!  I’ve been listening to some of that recently.

Jarvis:  Oh, cool!  Thanks!

Izzy: I realize this is a super huge question but, considering that you are coming up on your 20th anniversary, what have been some of the personal highlights of the band for you?

Jarvis: One thing that I think about – and it’s a while ago now – is when we played Primavera in Spain.  Not just playing the fest, but I just had a moment onstage considering that we do everything ourselves: record our own albums, put out our own albums.  And we were just having a really good set, and the crowd was great, and the ocean behind the crowd at this outdoor festival…  It was amazing!  Doing that, and then I had this proud moment, thinking, “This is pretty wild that we’ve never been in a recording studio before (at that point), and we put out our own records, and we just kinda do everything ourselves.”  Being in a band, there’re definitely ups and downs, but taking pride in just how much work and how much care we put into everything, and how handmade so many elements are.

Izzy: On a related note, what do you think are the biggest differences between the way the band operated back in 2004 and how the band operates now, whether it be relating to writing, recording, playing live, or anything else?

Jarvis: I guess in those days, personally, it felt more reactionary, being in bands in New York, trying to “make it,” even in like an “indie” way, but still…  And then Woods, to me, always seemed like, “Fuck all this noise!  We’re just doing our own thing.  We’re making these albums whenever we want, however we want.”  And it was just this collage-y sort of music that kind of fell out of us, and we were just having fun and being creative.  And I feel like we’ve still maintained that this whole time, but it’s a little less reactionary, if that makes sense [laughs].  It’s more people in the flow of creating.

Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you?  How are you hoping and planning to spend maybe the very end of 2023, or the start of 2024?

Jarvis: With the band, just keep playing shows and keep traveling.  Because, between the pandemic and some of us having kids now, traveling’s a little harder, so just getting back into the flow of that with the album coming out and these first rounds of tours coming up.  I wanna leave the country, is what I’m saying [laughs].

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.