The Wooden Sky reach for the top

Young stars of Toronto’s alt-country scene break hearts, change names

The Wooden Sky recently changed their name, from Friday Morning’s Regret, because their old name didn’t fit anymore, says vocalist Gavin Gardiner.
The Wooden Sky recently changed their name, from Friday Morning’s Regret, because their old name didn’t fit anymore, says vocalist Gavin Gardiner.
Credit: 
Supplied photo by Beth Hamill / rockpaperpixels.com

Once they’ve started to play shows and promote themselves, most bands don’t change their name—especially after reviews in national newspapers, an appearance on MTV Canada and a variety of festivals, the prospect would seem like a publicity nightmare.

For The Wooden Sky, formerly known as Friday Morning’s Regret, it was a natural representation of the changes they were undergoing within their own ranks.

“We added a bunch of members and lost one of the founding members,” said the band’s guitar player and lead vocalist Gavin Gardiner.

“We’d had that name for a long time and we didn’t really feel like that name fit anymore, so we were like ‘What the hell, make the change.’”

The name change came earlier this spring, just before the band went on tour, making the transition easier than it might have otherwise been—while on tour, they were able to update fans and pick up new fans under a new name. Gardiner said for the band, accurately representing their music was the most important factor.

“I think when you change a name, then you open the name up for interpretation,” he said. “It’s just the name of the project and it’s the project that really matters.”

The band originally got together when Gardiner wrote some songs for a school project he was working on while attending Ryerson University. His friend Chris Cocca, who has since left the band, was a drummer, and Andrew Wyatt, whom Gardiner had met at an open mic on campus, was a bass player. So began Friday Morning’s Regret. These days, the Wooden Sky consists of Gardiner, Wyatt and three other members including a second guitar and a keyboard.

Gardiner is friendly and familiar, speaking on a cell phone from a cafeteria-style Thai restaurant in downtown Toronto, where he’s having dinner with a few members from the band Ohbijou. Gardiner and his band are part of a group of musician friends whose roles and creative abilities overlap into an amalgam of different projects.

“We’re all just friends,” Gardiner said. “[Ohbijou members] Heather and Casey [Mejica] and I went to school together and I played drums in their band for like a week.”

The Wooden Sky was a participant on the Friends in Bellwoods albums, a low-fi fundraising compilation that took the Ontario indie-scene by storm last year—and which, along with the Guelph-area Track and Field festival, has become the banner under which many of these bands are creating. Gardiner produced the Bellwood songs, which were all recorded in Ohbijou lead-singer Casey Mejica’s basement. Now, he’s working on Bellwood friends the Forest City Lovers’ new album.

And while Gardiner said he and the Wooden Sky have found a supportive community in Toronto, after getting a taste of how the rest of the country lives on a West Coast tour last summer he said he realizes how hard Toronto can be on a band.

“The biggest difference is that people out west don’t have so many expectations,” he said. “In Toronto, and I see this in myself even, you’re not necessarily there to see the band, you’re there to judge the band.

“If you want to see a really different reception, you just play in Quebec. Not in Montreal so much, but in rural Quebec—people there are just fanatical about the music, it’s fantastic.”

The band released their first full-length album , titled When Lost at Sea, last February. The album, which floats between alt-country bad boy and ethereally melancholic, was recorded in various locations around Toronto—typical for Gardiner’s hands-on approach.

Background sounds were recorded in Gardiner’s downtown apartment, while some main elements were done in the schmaltzy, incense-burning setting of the Orange Lounge on Toronto’s hip Queen West, and others were recorded during after-hours at Sony BMG Studios once Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter was finished with the space.

“It’s not like we make a conscious effort to just get our name out there; we’re trying to work on new things all the time and playing shows,” Gardiner said. “It’s a lot of work, for anyone in Canada, and that’s what drives us.”

The Wooden Sky is playing with Knock Knock Ginger and Graven at the Artel this Saturday. Tickets are $10 at the door.

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