Noise Annoys: Derry alt-rockers The Wood Burning Savages on debut album Stability
Noise Annoys quizzes Dan Acheson, bassist for powerful Derry alt-rock combo The Wood Burning Savages, about releasing their excellent debut album Stability and the quartet's wrestling alter-egos
HOW was your album launch at The Nerve Centre last Saturday?
Spectacular. Derry is a special place for the band and to have such a brilliant turnout of friends and acquaintances was the best possible way to launch Stability. People were charged up and the room was electric. We can’t wait for the rest of the tour dates.
Can you tell us about writing/recording Stability?
The album came together over a period of years, really. It includes some of our earliest material as well as newer songs that seemed to fit the overarching theme of the album – songs full of frustration, empathy and love, but drawing a line in the sand.
Paul [Connolly, singer/guitarist] and I have a lot of ideas, and we took the best ones and hammered them into shape with the guys [Elliot Finlay – drums, Michael Woods – guitar] until they were ready.
We recorded the album over a couple of weeks in Start Together Studios with Rocky O’Reilly. Rocky is a joy to work with – his strengths match our weaknesses on the recording front and I really feel he got the songs to where they needed to be.
It was an intense but immensely enjoyable process. The bedrock of each track was recorded live and then we spent some time carefully crafting the production and sonically sculpting it. I really think that the live energy of the band comes across, and there is plenty of detail in there for repeat listens.
A lot of thought was put into the track order and the musical topography of the songs, so we recommend listening to it in one sitting, with the lyric sheet, through the best hi-fi/headphones you can find!
There’s a tangible, socially aware anger fuelling songs like the title track, Freedom of Movement and Purple Heart. Has Paul always been so ‘outward looking’ in his songwriting?
Paul is not a particularly self-indulgent lyricist. Joe Strummer once said "without people, you’re nothing". That’s Paul all over.
The songs are packed full of honest empathy, ranging from vitriolic critiques of injustices in our society and across the globe to tackling difficult issues facing us all on an individual level; depression, maintaining self-esteem and finding a genuine sense of purpose in life.
It is compassionate fury – sometimes that means a slap in the face to get the point across. For me, that’s what this album delivers.
Is there a particular moment on the album that represents a big step forward for TWBS?
Not necessarily one moment. I feel that we are constantly honing our craft. The lead single, I Don’t Know Why I Do It To Myself is certainly one of our most anthemic, universally relatable songs to date, and there is an undeniable emotional weight present in Lusitania and Freedom Of Movement.
Rather than being a mere step forward, I feel that Stability is a planting of the feet and raising of the middle finger to the people at the top who are tearing the planet apart.
We’re mad as hell and we need solutions, fast. It’s a clarion call to bring people together, because together is the only way forward.
Paul and I are open to all kinds of songwriting and self-expression and we can’t wait to see where the next album takes us. We have one rule: it must be honest.
Have you had any ‘record company interest’?
We’re very proud to be an independent band. Writing, recording and promoting Stability is one of the hardest things we have ever done. We always believed that we could create something people can relate to and we’re thrilled by the incredible response to the album so far.
As a musician you can get too caught up worrying, ‘will the music industry like this?’ when, if we’re being honest, the majors haven’t had the greatest track record with new guitar bands recently.
How many leather jacket-clad moody teenagers doing Oasis or Nirvana impersonations does the world need? It’s vapid, mundane, and often bereft of conviction.
There are some incredible labels doing great work though, from Milk! to Constellation, Bella Union or Big Dada. So if any of them are reading this, let’s have a beer some time.
You don’t necessarily need a label to be a band making vital music, and The Wood Burning Savages are in it for the long haul, regardless of what happens.
As a musician, it can be tough to make things work financially and maintain any kind of ‘normal’ life. We’re tenacious, and we do this because we love it and genuinely believe we can effect positive change through our music.
Stability is being released under our own label, Flak Jacket. There’s a reason we chose that particular name: our music is our shield.
What’s the most important lesson the band has learned?
Keep moving. Believe in yourself, work hard, be honest, and trust in one another. The path of the original musician is a treacherous one in 2018.
In fact, life is full of uncertainty for everyone right now – we’re promised Stability but is that what you see in the streets, or on your newsfeed?
We all need to do better and be more kind to one another.
Best gigs to date?
The Derry album launch was fantastic. Other highlights; Glastonbury, a sold out DIY gig in the derelict loft of an old building in Belfast and opening for Death From Above in Dublin.
However, the next gig is always the best gig – we truly put our all into every single show. Things are tough right now for people, and if they come to a TWBS gig we’re not going to let them down.
Allegedly, American wrestler ‘The Product’ David Starr uses We Love You as his entrance music: what would your wrestling names be and what music would you get in the ring to?
Haha! I’m gonna go with 'Nacho Sedan': I’d cruise down the ramp to the ring in a 62 Chevy Impala, sporting a Sombrero. The entrance music would undoubtedly be Guns N' Roses' Get In The Ring.
Finishing move: The Tortilla Twist.
I could see Paul as some kind of Doctor Who-esque mysterious character called 'The Doctor' involved in creepy behind-the-scenes antics: pitting other fighters against each other, filling cars with concrete, etc. He’d have obscure 60s psychedelia soundtracking his affairs.
Michael and Elliot would be a Hardy-Boys style high-flyin’ tag duo with Tommy Wiseau as their manager. Vulfpeck entrance music. Spandex. It would all end in tears. Real tears.
What else have you planned for the rest of 2018?
Well, we’re going to start with suspending pay and removing our useless government from office. People need to believe that we can, and should.
TWBS also have a few huge album release dates, the biggest of which is The Limelight in Belfast on May 27 as part of BBC6 Music’s Biggest Weekend.
We have a lot of special things planned for this show including interesting guest appearances and we'd urge people to get their tickets ASAP.
It’s a bank holiday the day afterwards and it’s going to be an amazing weekend of music.
Stability is available now, visit FB.com/TheWoodBurningSavages