||Sherwood Ė 01.30.10
by Jonathan Bautts on 2010-02-07
The following is a phone interview with Sherwood vocalist/bassist Nate Henry.
Have you been enjoying your break here the last month or so?
You know, yeah, itís nice. Weíve been working a lot, so itís nice to have a break. Band guys usually get their summer vacation in the winter. Itís not usually the best time to be touring because itís really unsafe to tour, the shows arenít as good and people are doing other stuff. Usually, we work during the summer and take the winters off. Itís much appreciated to have the time to do that.
Whatís it feel like to have three albums under your belt and to have that much material to play around with now for shows?
First of all, itís crazy to have three records. I donít think when you set out to make your first record, you donít really think youíre going to make three of them (laughs), let alone be able to tour on three albums. Itís hard. Itís hard to know what songs to play. Each album is better than the last, or at least I think, and I think that as you grow as a musician you want to play your latest material but you still have to keep fans happy with what songs they like the most.
Weíve decided to play some new stuff. A lot of fans have been tweeting us to play certain songs. Weíve kind of been listening to the Twitter. We try to keep our fans happy. I think most bands do that. I donít know if thereís many bands that just decide to do whatever they want to do and donít care (laughs), but I guess thereís certain bands that do that. Itís crazy to have three records. I donít know where weíre going to start, but I think we got it kind of narrowed down.
It just came out recently that MySpace Records is folding. Where the heck does that leave you guys?
Weíre actually in probably a better place than people would on the outside looking in think. The nice thing is all the budgets were approved for a year, so weíre not left without the budgets to do what we wanted to do. Weíre going to radio and stuff, weíre going on this tour and doing other stuff to promote that. We were free agents after this record anyways, so in a way it helps to further along that process. Our managementís able to go to our label and be like, ďHey, this is what we need to do. This is what weíre doing for the next six months.Ē
MySpace has been kind of winding down as a website, let alone a record label. Itís a bummer because they were a really good record label. I really, really liked them. They gave us everything we needed. We were a priority. We had a good staff of people working for us. With this latest record, it probably wasnít as prevalent as our previous album just because MySpace isnít in general. I think weíre in a good spot. I think weíre able to move along and I think weíll probably find another home soon. I donít know whatís going to happen to the label. Itís hard to say. I donít know if thereís still going to be a label. Itís just up in the air right now what theyíre going to become.
So letís talk about this new record you have. I donít think Iíve ever heard what QU means and why you titled it that. Can you talk about that for a little bit?
Yeah. We decided to title the album QU, as in one, thatís what itís supposed to be. I donít think we realized people would be like, ďIs it Q-U?Ē or whatever. It was one of those things where the bandís sitting around and weíre debating on what we want to call the record. We just couldnít really come to anything. No one came up with anything good. We couldnít agree on what we wanted to call the record. We knew it needed to be something (laughs). It was probably an aesthetic thing. We wrote QU on a piece of paper and it looked cool. We thought itíd look pretty cool on a record. Itís something easy to remember.
The album title just means new album. It doesnít matter what it is. I donít think an album title ever really means anything for the most part, itís always just some clichť thing. Maybe it means something every once in a while if the record is trying to say something as a whole, but it just means new record. It doesnít really mean anything. Thereís no cool story behind it.
How did you end up writing the record? Was it done during one long session or over an extended period of time?
We actually took about a year to write this record. We did a few various tours between it. We did a tour in the U.K. in the middle of writing the record, and then we just did one-offs here and there. We rented an apartment in Oakland. They had these live-in studios. The good and bad thing about our band is everyoneís from all over the place, so thereís no central location for Sherwood. Thereís no, like, everyoneís from this town, so when weíre off tour we go hang out with our families and such. Thereís really no place for us to kind of go, so we decided to rent this apartment in Oakland. We just sort of lived, wrote and demoed.
It was a pretty good process. We were kind of in the ghetto, so it wasnít inspiring, to say the least. I mean, itís hard trying to get together and be creative. Thereís really no time. You canít really say when youíre going to be creative.
How long were you in the apartment for?
We were in the apartment for about six or seven months. It felt like about that long. Maybe five. I canít remember exactly, but it definitely was about five or six months. We had demoed some stuff here and there and then worked on that. Probably about 85 demos were made. Not all were complete songs, like some were first choruses. Half of those were complete songs. We knew we had to make a really good record in order to move ourselves along.
Unfortunately, having the label go down and the economy where itís at, thereís been a lot of stuff thatís just unfortunate, that the record itself is kind of in a slow build. A lot of people donít know the new albumís out. But, yeah, the record itself took about a year to make. We really, really like it. Itís our best record by far. Holistically, itís just got a good feel to it.
Itís pretty rare to have a band continue to get better with each record and I think youíve able to do that.
We try, you know. Itís really hard. Itís really hard to dig through your sound and also improve and push yourself as an artist and create songs that youíre going to love playing every night on stage. I think when you put out a few songs and start touring you realize, ďOh, Iím going to have to play this song every day for the rest of my life, so I should probably think about it a little bit more.Ē Some people like the easy stuff. The really simple songs weíve written, people like those best. Some people donít like them. I donít know. Itís really weird. I think weíre always trying to grow but some people like the old stuff. Itís hard to please everybody, thatís for sure.
You worked with Brad Wood on this one, and definitely from a production standpoint it sounds completely different from your other two. Can you talk about that and what it was like to work with him?
Brad is great. Bradís a really patient guy. Heís really smart. Heís really good at getting natural sounds. In a world where people overproduce their records, itís all squashed and compressed and everythingís so loud and the drums are pretty much just built in a program. Sometimes that sugary sound is nice, but we tried to create a record that still can be listened to in a few years. All this Auto-Tune, computer stuff, in a few years no oneís going to listen to that record. No oneís going to want to listen to that stuff. Itís just going to sound bad. Everybodyís going to be like, ďRemember in the late 2000s when everyone did that sound?Ē
Itís going to be like the MIDI stuff from the 80s.
Yeah, exactly, which some of that stuff is great, like The Cure. Thereís some timeless stuff in there, but the value of the bands that went all out and totally cashed in on the sound of the times, no one wants to listen to that stuff anymore. Bands who stuck to their format, the U2s and The Cure, these bands that really stuck to what they do, people want to listen to their records to this day. In the 90s, it was the same thing. I still listen to Third Eye Blind and still pop in their records. Theyíre great records and I still hear new things in the songs, even to this day. I still pop in an old Smashing Pumpkins record. Thereís something there.
Brad worked with the Pumpkins and I got to talk to him a lot about stuff he would do with Billy Corgan. It was crazy to be working with a guy whoís worked with some of my favorite artists. I donít know if we made a timeless record. I think we tried to. Thatíd be ridiculous if we just said that we did because thatís not something for us to decide or even say we did, itís something people will embrace. I think very few records are timeless. We just tried to make something that in 10 years someone will like this record.
I remember hearing that you contributed more lyrically on this record. Is that true?
Yeah. I think my nameís on, like, nine out of 12 songs. For me, in Sherwoodís past I had been doing all the business stuff. I took a very different role on this record because I had the time to be a part of the album. In the past, we were touring, we were booking shows, we were dealing with all our business Ė we were just trying to survive as a band. I was the oldest member in the group. I started the band. Honestly, there just wasnít a whole lot of time to spend on music. I donít think a lot of people realize that young bands are working nonstop.
With this record, we had all the other people in place and we had a little bit of a budget to live, so I could spend my days working on the songs and the lyrics. I feel like I finally came to a place where I had something to say as an artist. Weíd toured and I had met people and had lived enough life to say, ďHey, this is what I think about it. This is some struggles that Iíve been through and hereís some things that I think about it.Ē In the past, I donít think there was an opportunity to be as involved as I would have liked. But, yeah, this record I did most of the lyrics, and then it was kind of all my decision at the end of what I wanted on and what I didnít want on.
As you were kind of talking about it seems that this album is a little more serious than the other two. Is that something that comes with you getting older and all that stuff?
I think so. I definitely feel like Iím at the age, Iím in my late 20s, where youíre starting to see friends die. Thatís never been a part of my life before, people dying. A lot of my friends are getting divorced, and thatís something thatís just crazy. People got married a year earlier and now theyíre divorced and they got kids. I think it was the first time in my life where I felt, ďMan, thereís a lot of sad stories lately. Thereís a lot of people going through hard times.Ē
Last year was a huge struggle for us as a band. We came off this awesome year when our last record came out, and this yearís just been a lot of the struggle. The moneyís not there for artists as much. MySpace wasnít as big of a presence. We felt like in a lot of ways weíre just like farmers trying to create enough demand to keep going. When you get older and you want to settle down and live your life a little bit, itís hard. I think thereís a lot of life struggle in the record. Itís been a tough year for us as a band for lots of reasons, not just musically but in life.
I think that year was one of the hardest years of my life. There was a girl I was dating for forever and we broke up. I thought I was going to spend my life with her and it didnít work out. I knew in my heart that it wasnít right, itís just for years I didnít pay attention to that. My brother went through a divorce. There was just tons of stuff happening, and I think a lot of negative energy we tried to release in that record.
Is that kind of what ďNo BetterĒ is about?
Dan wrote that song. I helped shape it a little bit. I kind of directed him on that one. That was originally a harder song. It didnít really become a soft, mellow jam until the end. Dan just kind of did it on his own and he had this idea for it. I had sort of given up on the song, actually (laughs). I was like, ďI donít think the songís coming out right.Ē I definitely helped give him some ideas lyrically that he kind of used, but the idea of getting divorced is just not a good thing for anyone. So that song I sort of let Dan work on. That was one of the songs on the record that I didnít have much input on. Yeah, itís pretty sad. It definitely deals with a tough topic.
One other song I want to talk about is ďGround Beneath My Feet,Ē which is something else different than what youíve done before. What went into that song?
That song is probably the song I wrote the most lyrically on. That song is probably one of my favorite songs on the record, if not my favorite. That song started out instrumentally as really big with this slow intro, this punchy intro, and then the second chorus is pretty big. Itís kind of a two part song put together. When I heard the music to it there really were no lyrics to it. It just had this epic feel, kind of like a World War II vibe, when I heard it. So I told the guys, ďI just want to hear this song. I feel like itís that moment when you know youíre going to die in 10 minutes. Whatís going through your head?Ē So thatís kind of what the song became. The music dictated the lyrics, and thatís probably the first time thatís ever really happened in a Sherwood song where the music provides the vibe and feeling and I shape the lyrics around that.
Itís a story about a solder who has these flashbacks of different imagery as heís dying. Heís having flashbacks to this moment in his life where heís with his girl and sheís begging him not to leave. They have this fight and this argument, and then he flashes back to where heís at in the midst of this war and he gets killed. Itís about all of what would happen in that moment. It was a really hard song to write in general because youíre trying to explain this story but youíre not trying to use clichť words and ideas. I think I was writing the lyrics until the last minute when I was in the studio, scratching stuff out and rewriting it, but Iím glad how it came out.
Youíve gotten some comparisons to The Beach Boys with how you use harmonies and all that. Whatís the process like coming up with those and how are you able to work them in?
I think weíre just fortunate to have three singers in our band so that we can pull off the harmony. I know that Dan loves The Beach Boys. Growing up, they were a huge hit for him. I grew up listening to 80s stuff, so I didnít really get into the whole Beach Boys thing like he did. I think weíve always had this happy-go-lucky sort of vibe musically with really pensive, sad lyrics under it all. It sounded so ironic in general that these songs make you feel happy, but when you really look down and read the lyrics theyíre not necessarily happy lyrics all the time. For some reason people always say, ďOh, you made me so happy,Ē which is funny because the lyrics arenít all happy. The Beach Boys a lot of times did the same thing, but sometimes their songs were silly. Itís hard to say. Pet Sounds is a timeless record and is melodic genius.
I think when you can tap into the vocals and make them an instrument themselves, you open yourself up to a whole other thing you can do as a band. A lot of bands canít do that. Vocals, sadly to say, are not important anymore. Thereís people at the top of the charts who literally canít sing. They cannot sing songs. Itís crazy to me. I donít understand.
Weíre a band thatís the exact opposite. It takes three guys to sing to pull off our show, and kids will pack into a room and listen to a guy sing through a laptop. I donít get. Itís really hard for us to see that. It makes you feel like anyone can be a rock star. It doesnít have anything to do with your actual ability to sing songs live. I know itís been going on for a while, so itís no surprise to us that thatís whatís happening now. I donít know. We love melodies, we love vocals and we just try to bring it out in our songs, and Beach Boys are one of the best at that.
Did you write ďShelterĒ vocally or to an instrument? How did that work?
The melody was actually part of a song on The Thin Red Line. It was sort of like a native chant song that was in the movie. We were watching it one day when we were writing our record and thought thatíd be really cool to let that be an opener to the record. Dan wrote some lyrics over it and then it became this cool, melodic intro, but we kind of ripped it off from Thin Red Line.
Itís always little things like that that tie in. Thereís no cool story behind that. Itís just that we liked it and we wanted to use the melody as the intro part. The lyrics I think are a great opening to the record. Weíve always been that band who has just hoped. Hoped for more for ourselves and hoped for more for people. Weíve been a band of dreamers, and the ďShelterĒ song, thatís what it is. To me, itís a mix of all this stuff thatís going on around you, like an old gospel song almost.
Weíve been talking about the current state of music and the difficulties youíve experienced as a band. Would you say your passion for music and making music has changed since when you first started out?
Thatís a good question. IĎve talked to people in this business a lot about this. Iíve talked to photographers, like, ďDo you take photos when youíre home for fun?Ē Theyíre like, ďNo, I just take photos for bands. Itís kind of my job.Ē A lot of bands get burned out. Theyíre tired. Theyíve been touring for forever and itís kind of their job.
Itís really hard to say how I feel about music. The state music is in is depressing. What people consider music now is really depressing. Whatís selling, it just sounds like someone typed a bunch of words in Google, pressed enter and got this list of junk and theyíre just rapping over it. Theyíre making these techno beats on their computer, plugging it all in and singing about, in my opinion, some of the most worthless stuff. I know itís catchy, I guess, but I used to think music had something to say and had a message. It was an art form, and itís sad to say all the stuff thatís topping the charts these days, you know, kids just donítÖ I donít know.
But thereís still great bands out there. Vampire Weekend went No. 1 a couple weeks ago. Thereís still great bands making good music and trying to make great art, but for the most part whatís being put out there and accepted and produced is just kind of sad. The artists who are really trying to make a difference, make some noise and write good music are not getting paid attention to. Theyíre not getting on tours, theyíre not getting sponsored, theyíre not getting picked up by publishing companies and theyíre not getting their songs pushed because theyíre just not popular, so to speak, so they canít continue to make art.
I think when you start to see what gets driven, why certain songs make it to the top and you know whatís behind the song itself, it can make you really jaded. Youíre like, ďI know those guys are just a joke. I know they just made this as a joke. I know theyíre not even serious about this music.Ē Yet somebody they knew pushed it into the mainstream. Then it started selling, and they almost believe their own lie. Thereís a lot of that. I think that if youíre an artist and youíre trying to push your art forward, it can be really discouraging.
Weíre a pop band. Weíre not Radiohead or BjŲrk by any means, trying to be this band that is the pinnacle of expressing music to the masses. Weíre still a pop band, but weíre trying to do something that at least people can relate to and actually think about their life and think about whatís going on.
Iím not sure if this is right or not, but as someone whoís followed you for a long time I got the impression that if QU didnít do that well then this might be the end of Sherwood. Is that something that youíve been thinking about, too?
Thatís funny because Iíve heard that from a lot of people. I remember writing an email to Jason Tate of AbsolutePunk saying, ďHey, we need some help.Ē I remember him posting that first initial review for our record and saying that he thinks this is going to be our last album. Unfortunately, thatís probably the only bad thing heís done for our band because heís done so much good for our band. Heís posted a bunch of stuff, but I think that was the original message that started getting out that this was going to be our last record. For a while on Google when you searched our new album thatís all you got.
So I think that he kind of started that rumor and people have been believing it because MySpace hasnít had its ability to push out to the masses and our original publicist didnít do anything for our band. There were just no stories out. You couldnít read anything. There was nothing online. I remember the month it came out and I hadnít done one interview for our band, and our record had been out for a month. I was like, ďIím the singer for our band and I havenít done one interview. Whatís going on?Ē It was really a bummer because all my friends were like, ďHey, if I Google search you I get this interview that says you guys are, like, done,Ē and Iím like, ďCrap.Ē
Our last record had done, like, 40,000 copies. It was a really good first big step for us, and then this record came out and I feel like itís the classic band story of their third album or whatever that comes out. Thereís a shift and someone gets fired or something happens and no one knows the album comes out. Itís happened to so many of our friendsí bands, and in more of an indie way happened to us. I think it fueled that original review of our record.
Sherwood wants to continue. We want to keep making records. We would love to continue this band, but there definitely is the reality that your band has to be a certain size to make a fulltime job out of it. I donít think a lot of music fans understand what that looks like. They think that if they see your songs on TV and thereís some ad online that youíre, like, a rock star making tons of money, but I think that most band members are just scraping by.
If Sherwood doesnít make another album it would be because the system killed the band and not because the band killed itself. Does that make sense? It would be because we couldnít do it financially. Danís married now. Thereís this whole other stage of life that weíre entering into. All these young kids in these bands that are, like, 19 are starting to sell tons of records and play their little pop songs on their laptops and get huge. The guys that have been grinding it out for years trying to create a sound are just getting ignored.
I donít think this is Sherwoodís last record, but there definitely are things in the way. Our new single that is going out could do really well and then we could just laugh about this, but weíre definitely at that point where we need our band to get to another level. We need people to take notice to what weíre doing because thereís definitely too many people drawing off the fountain to keep surviving. I think there will be another Sherwood album regardless, even if itís just Dan and myself and we put out the record on our own or something.
I think Sherwoodís doing really well. We got the tour coming up. We shot a new video. I think thereís a lot of good things going on for us right now, particularly with the video, and we won that radio contest in San Diego for 10 straight days. So thereís a lot that continues going on, I just donít know if thereís an ability to create the overall awareness of whatís happening. I donít hear much about it. I think a lot of it has to do with our publicist I feel not doing anything for our initial release, and that started a ball of no one knowing our record came out.
I think weíre trying to dig ourselves out of that hole, and I think the MySpace Records thing was just really unfortunate. I think everyone else was like, ďOh, well, thatís the end. Sherwoodís done.Ē They already kind of thought that to begin with, which is really silly because no one in the band was saying that to anybody. I think weíre more in it. Weíre in it to win it. I think we have a good record and itís unfortunate that a lot of people wonít listen to it because they donít know itís out.
Yeah, itís definitely one of my favorites from last year and itís a shame that itís not getting that noticed yet.
Yes, thatís life. Itís just how it goes, but weíre happy. Weíre happy with it.
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