There’s just something characteristically Canadian about bands that identify themselves with nature and scenery, whinge about location, or whose music is embodied by soft, folksy guitars and banjo, stammering keyboards and delicate refrains.
But Ryan Boldt, frontman of Saskatoon-based band, Deep Dark Woods — which, for all intents and purposes, meets the above requirements — begs to differ.
The five-piece, which also includes guitarist Burke Barlow, bass guitarist Chris Mason, organist and pianist Geoff Hilhorst and drummer Lucas Goetz, formed in 2005 and made a name for itself nationally after winning the CBC’s “Great Canadian Song Quest” with a number called “Charlie’s.” That didn’t exactly hinder the band’s ever-so-Canadian image — which apparently the boys aren’t going for.
“I wouldn’t say it’s uniquely Canadian, but it definitely has a little bit to do with where I’m at,” Boldt says of his music, who argues that his sound is more Americana than Canadiana. “You know, a lot of songs I’ve written are written in the winter because that’s the time I have off. So yeah, they tend to be a little sadder because winter is kind of depressing in Saskatoon. I don’t know if I would say it’s Canadian though.”
The band has penned four full-length albums over the course of seven years, the latest of which is The Place I Left Behind, released in October of last year. The disk is equally exquisitely beautiful and devastating, with unabashed moroseness and down-tempo ballads that speak of alienation, heartbreak and sadness. Perhaps a melancholy-steeped record that only one who’s ever spent a winter in the Great White North can relate to.
But Boldt gets his inspiration not just from wild scenery and seasonal depression, but from having an inspired frame of mind to write a record. Ironic, though, since the bulk of his band’s fame came from writing a song on a two-week deadline.
“I was nervous because I had never written a song with a timeline on it, I think we were on the road at the time and we had to come up with a song really quick. We had two weeks or something like that, and we had to record it and write,” he says.
“It seemed to work out really well,” he digresses. Having a forced deadline on his music is not something he’s looking forward to in the future, however.
“In most cases, it’s kind of bad. You can’t really force things. I was lucky because I had the perfect feeling to write the song within that two-week period. Most times, you can’t really put a deadline on anything,” Boldt says. “Part of the reason why all of these great artists are making these great records at first, like The Band, they made a couple amazing records and then I think — I don’t know, this is just my theory anyways — they’re pressured into making record after record and then it kind of, it’s not as good as those first couple records because they’re just pressured into making more records so I think you gotta be aware of that.”
In the future, Boldt and the rest of Deep Dark Woods look forward to writing at a leisurely pace when they’re not all stuffed into a tour van on a grueling six-day-a-week show circuit. Ideas seem to flow freely when they’re not shackled by deadlines.
“I write a lot, so I think maybe it’ll slow down in five or 10 years or something,” Boldt says. “But at the moment I could put out a record every year or two and it wouldn’t be a problem. As soon as you start feeling the pressure, that’s when you start making bad music. You can’t be pressured by anything; it’ll cause problems.”
Deep Dark Woods plays Deer Lake Park on August 11.
By Kristi Alexandra