‘You want to reward the people that are down’

Lead singer Dan Werb and drummer Paul Banwatt have come a long way since they united as the dynamic duo that is Woodhands but some things, like the raw intensity of their live shows, will always stay the same

Woodhands’ latest release came in the form of their mixtape No Feelings, an ode to their favourites and a nod to Lil’ Wayne’s monster mixtape, No Ceilings.
Woodhands’ latest release came in the form of their mixtape No Feelings, an ode to their favourites and a nod to Lil’ Wayne’s monster mixtape, No Ceilings.

Take a listen to some of Woodhands’ music and a bunch of things will scream for attention. The vocals, the danceability and how their music sounds like someone ate a lot of sugar and happened to have a synth, mic and a set of drums in the same room. It’s an unlimited amount of energy from no more than two people—Dan Werb on synth and vocals and Paul Banwatt on drums.

It’s interesting to notice that the pair don’t use a laptop on stage, unlike so many other musicians who associate themselves with this type of music.

“The no laptop thing has always been a rule we’ve had to keep things interesting for the audience ... I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I always want to know what the fuck the person’s doing with that laptop,” Banwatt said, “Show me on a screen behind them what’s going on their screen, are they playing Call of Duty or are they making music? … If that was projected behind them then you’d have access to what they’re doing.”

Werb put it simply. “I don’t know what I would do with a laptop. Honestly, what would I do with a laptop?”

Finishing each other’s sentences over the phone from the west coast, Banwatt and Werb told me their performance at the Grad Club will have them breaking their own rules.

“I just started using a laptop actually … strictly to control our laser show,” Banwatt said. “We have a pretty complicated laser set-up,” Werb added.

As if every band out there can say that so matter-of-factly.

Things have expectedly evolved since the conception of Woodhands. After all, it’s been a good four years since the dance rock duo met at a CD release party for Henri Fabergé and the Adorables in Toronto.

“We didn’t know each other when we started playing together,” Werb said, “It was a mutual appreciation thing.”

As most classic love stories go, the bromance has been alive ever since.

“It’s always simmering,” Banwatt said.

“There’s just so much of it,” Werb added, “we need to find a billion different ways to get that energy out.”

One of these ways entailed the January release of their latest full-length Remorsecapade. It’s a fitting departure from their first album, Heart Attack, which put the band on the radar of critics and music lovers alike.

“Our band is always changing and evolving,” Banwatt said, “I don’t think we play any songs exactly the way they are on the record. By now we’re still playing songs off both [our] records but they’ve all sort of grown.”

Remorsecapade may only be their second LP, but the band has also recently released a mixtape: a mosaic of remixes with beats done by Woodhands and their favourite collaborators paired with acapella samples grabbed from a variety of their most-loved rap songs. The EP is aptly called No Feelings.

“[The title] kind of fit perfectly because the whole thing about the mix tape is that we took out my vocals,” Werb said, “So all my angsty, emo lyrics and wailing was gone. So all the feelings were gone.”

“It’s just beats and energy,” Banwatt said.

In a move rarely heard of in today’s music industry, the band made No Feelings free for download.

“We would’ve gotten sued,” Banwatt said with a laugh, “so that was a big factor.”

“It was for the fans ... you want to reward the people that are down with you with extra shit,” Werb said.

Banwatt agrees. “It takes extra effort to pay attention to an indie band that’s not thrown in your face all the time, so if you’re paying enough attention to notice we put out a mix tape, you should just get that.”

The fans have played an integral role for Woodhands, a band recognized for providing an amazing live show.

“We’re known as this shit hot live band and I think it’s because people come to our shows with great energy and want to see us succeed,” Werb said, “We’ve been lucky that the people that like us, really seem to like us a lot.”

Werb told me how fans will come to say hello to the band after a show to talk about the kind of performance they bring, which still carries the same raw intensity from when they were playing to 10 people back in the day.

“Even though our music has evolved, the energy we bring to each show is the same,” Werb said.

This past summer, Woodhands played Toronto’s Pride Festival and tomorrow’s show at the Grad Club is in coordination with The Queen’s Pride Project (along with Kingston’s Flying V Productions).

“One thing that’s interesting, before anyone gave a fuck who we were in Toronto, Kids on TV, [this] awesome queer band ... really brought us into and introduced us into the music community,” Werb said, “Our association with queer music has gone back quite a while but we’re just a dance band. A queer-positive dance band.”

“Part of our message is to be really comfortable with yourself,” Banwatt said, “One of the best things that ever happens at our shows is when everybody else in the room starts enjoying themselves and being free to be whoever the fuck they want to be. And that’s when it turns into an awesome dance party.”

The fans will definitely be dancing at tomorrow’s show, which can be added to the long list of dates the band has played in Kingston.

“Kingston is one of the most fun cities to play,” Banwatt said.

“It really is. We played on my birthday two years in a row in Kingston and both were awesome … they both ended with great make-out sessions,” Werb said with a laugh.

So what’s next for Woodhands?

They’re currently doing a CBC Radio guest-hosting gig and, of course, they’ll keep going with the music.

“This is the last tour for this album and then we’re going to record a bunch of shit,” Werb said, alluding to their upcoming EP.

“We don’t have a name but we have the mantras,” Banwatt said.

“The mantra is, intensely intense and fucking beautiful,” Werb added.

Woodhands play The Grad Club tomorrow at 10 p.m. Tickets are $15.

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