By Lily Keenan
VANCOUVER — Front man Steve Beddall’s reasoning behind his band’s new sound is simple. “Basically, I just wanted to get people dancing.” The Vancouver-based outfit turned heads last year with their mellow self-titled release. That album carved them a secure name in the Vancouver folk scene, which is why the upbeat funk-rock vibes of their new six-track release Sentient comes as such a surprise, but a refreshing one nonetheless.
“After doing so many low key shows I grew to miss the energy that came with a bigger band and playing bars and clubs,” says Beddall of Wooden Horsemen’s two-month tour across Canada last year. “When I returned to Vancouver I wanted to keep the music grounded in introspective folk, but I also wanted to energize the whole thing.” Beddall has expanded the ranks of the band immensely for the new release. What was originally a solo project (under the singular guise, “Wooden Horseman”) has grown to include seven members playing an eclectic range of instruments including horns, violin, and the organ.
These changes culminate in Sentient, which seamlessly muddies Americana rock with Latin and Afro influences. Combine this with elements of psych-funk and folk and you have melting pot of styles that has to be heard to be believed. “Head on a Plate” opens the EP with an irresistible fast-paced beat that toys with the psychedelic. “I’ll Follow You” reflects on the 72 hour Greyhound trips Beddall used to take to Ottawa, drenching a funky groove with soaring brass in the madness of long commutes. “Burn the Kingdom” is a military march, encapsulating the energy of the ancient Trojan War, and a reference to the band’s namesake. “I wanted this record to be really musically diverse because there were a lot of interests that we were soaking up,” says Beddall, citing Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jack White, and J.J. Cale as influences. “But we’re not really that focused on determining exactly what we sound like, we’re just having fun.”
Injecting the fun back into shows is essentially what this EP is about. And in this way, Sentient heralds a whole new era of live performance for Wooden Horsemen. This is evident even in the recording process, which was done with Mark Lawrence of Big in Japan Recordings. “To me, precisely editing each track just seems so counter intuitive to the enjoyment of music, for the most part this album is pretty much exactly what we sound like live,” he says. “So you’re going to hear a few fuck ups here and there in the EP and that’s totally fine because we’re humans and I think that’s the coolest part of that record and that’s what’s really special for me. It sounds really real.”
Wooden Horsemen perform at the Biltmore Cabaret on January 14.BC, Biltmore Cabaret, British Columbia, Wooden Horsemen