Wooden Shjips - Back To Land

Since their formation in 2003, Wooden Shjips (intended j) have been a staple band in the local psychedelic scene. In November 2013, the band released their fifth album, Back to Land.

Wooden Shjips headlines The Chapel tonight, with support from other local psych rockers: the dark and mysterious Carlton Melton and the heavier Golden Void. I called up organ player Nash Whalen to talk about the production of their latest album, the Wooden Shjips split between Portland and San Francisco, and their thoughts on changes in the local music scene.

Nash: We released our latest record Back to Land in November, and we had like 7 or 8 shows on the east coast, then we went over to Europe for a couple weeks.

The Bay Bridged: There was a two year gap with a lot of touring in between your last album, West, and your most recent album Back to Land. Were you working that whole time?

N: West came out in September of 2011. We did a bunch of touring then got back together in January of 2013 and started rehearsing for the new record. We recorded it in May up in Portland. We took like five or six months off then got back to work.

TBB: can you tell me about the production of Back to Land?

N: We recorded at Jackpot Studios in Portland. We were using a 24 track, 2” tape machine. This is the first time we ever used 24 tracks, so we ended up putting more overdubs on there than we were used to. It adds a certain depth to the recording. We get a little more hi-fi sounding on each release.

TBB: There are a few songs on Back to Land, “These Shadows” for one, that have a slightly different feel from your earlier work as well.

N: Well, Ripley said he got his first real acoustic guitar in the last couple years, and I think that he sort of worked out some songs on the album through that guitar. We rehearsed it for tour, but I think it’s turned into more of a rocking song when its played live, faster and with more of an edge to it.

TBB: Is there any sort of concept on this album?

N: I can’t really speak to any concepts on the album. As a band we’re not all living in the same place anymore and we’re not playing together twice a week like we used to. There’s a lot of independent exploring of music happening then, so we all bring in different elements when we come together. It makes it so it’s much more fresh when we come in with a different perspective on it all.

TBB: Where are you all living?

N: Two of us are still here in SF and two of us are up in Portland. It’s convenient because we’re only in two places. When we decided to record we went with Portland mainly because our drummer Omar has a young daughter so that made it more convenient for him to go home and do his family duties.

TBB: Does the title signify anything?

N: I think what Ripley was thinking about when he came up with the title was that he was, in moving back to Portland, kind of going back to land. He was trying to set down some roots up there.

TBB: Everyone is getting up in arms (one way or another) about the music dynamic in San Francisco, related to how the city’s local vibe is changing. As a band that’s been locally rooted in San Francisco for several years, I’m wondering if the Wooden Shjips have an opinion on that?

N: I mean yeah, it’s definitely getting harder for musicians. I don’t know if as a band we have a really strong feeling about it. We love San Francisco and we always get a really good response when we play in town so there’s obviously a good audience here still. People are still going out and seeing music but it is harder as a musician to survive on music in San Francisco because of the cost of living.

TBB: Maybe it’s an evolving audience.

N: I’m not sure how things are going to go in the future, but there are a lot of people who go out to see live music. A lot of that is probably workplace culture where people are listening to music in the office and maybe they bring their coworkers out with them? Maybe that’s what keeps it going.

TBB: I hope so.

Wooden Shjips, Carlton Melton, Golden Void
The Chapel
January 23rd, 2014
9pm, $14/advance, $19/doors