Austin A2W: Wooden Birds

thewoodenbirdswooden_birds_02_lowresSeeing as how we haven’t run one of our Austin Artist to Watch features in quite a while, we thought we’d kick things off again with obvious A2W choice Wooden Birds.  This new Austin band has been getting a ton of local and national press coverage as of late, mostly for their mellow take on indie folk rock, and partly because the band is fronted by local music legend Andrew Kinney (American Analog Set).  After 6 long years in Brooklyn, Mr. Kinney moved back to Austin recently and decided it was just about time for a new music project.  We had the good fortune to speak to the man behind Wooden Birds and ask him some of those burning questions about his relocation and his music.  Follow the jump for full interview with Andrew Kinney.

ATH: How would you describe the sound of your new project?

Andrew: When I was getting this project started, I knew that I wanted the Wooden Birds to have some kind of “sound”.  After 13 years with the AmAnSet, I didn’t want to drift into that dangerous singer/songwriter/solo record territory.  Sure I might enjoy that kind of music, but I just didn’t want to make that kind of an album.  About 5 years ago, I started pounding out beats on my guitar top instead of using a metronome or a drum machine.  I made all the demos for ‘Magnolia’ that way and ended up preferring it to real drums for the recordings. I also began playing bass in a different way that helped give the new project a more percussive lean.  I tried to engineer a guitar sound that had very little carry as well. Over time, things began to sound very wooden and so the sound was born piece by piece.  The vocals figure in heavily as well and nearly all the songs were written with two voices in mind. Leslie and I had done some singing together here over the years so it was great to finally find project for us to try together.  So what’s the bottom line? How about “simple, vocal intensive songs built on a tidy percussion loops?” Does that get it done?

ATH: Do you feel like Jack White in the Raconteurs?  As in, do you think a lot of people are focused on you in the band because of your fame in the Austin music scene?

AK:I don’t know! I doubt it though. That guy IS famous.  I have a lot of friends and family in Austin, that’s true. But Austin isn’t really a city obsessed with fame. There are so many people making music in Austin, there just isn’t room for a pecking order. That’s just one of the reasons I love Austin. It doesn’t matter how big you are in Europe (yeah we do OK) or how many people you played for last night in Philly (let’s call it a strong 11), everybody stands in the same line at the market.  As for my place in the band, it’s a new group and it’ll take a little time to get a little lime for everyone. For now I’m the guy.

ATH: How did this band get together?

AK: I have wanted to work with Leslie for years. She played the cello on an AmAnSet record called The Golden Band in 1999. I’ve also recorded a few of her solo projects over the years. Chris helped me finish the last AmAnSet full length record, Set Free, so I knew I liked working with him.  I spent a lot of time with David and his band, Ola Podrida, and so of course that was an easy call to make.

ATH: When and why did you make the decision to move back to Austin after so many years away?

ATH: My wife and I were washing dishes in our Brooklyn apartment and it just happened. Sheila put her hand on the brick wall above the sink and said, “I want a window here…. and enough counter space that we can both cook together.”  We came for SXSW last March thinking “maybe” and stuck around for a few extra days to think about it. We found an affordable rental in a quiet neighborhood and returned to Brooklyn with a signed lease. We moved 2 weeks later. If we had thought about it for any length of time, we’d have probably talked ourselves out of it. At least into waiting. But we both love being here in Austin and it was a great decision for us.

ATH:What did you miss most about Austin?

AK: Breakfast tacos. My best friends. Riding a bike. The first day the heat breaks at the end of the summer when everyone is so nice to one another. That’s a good day.

And a many thanks to you Andrew for making some time for us.

Wooden Birds debut LP Magnolia will be available next week via Barsuk.  You can also catch a sweet live performance by the band that was just posted over on the Woxy blog.  If you missed these guys during SXSW, you’ll have to wait until July 4th when they’ll be joining Explosions in the Sky for a show at Stubb’s.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/thewoodenbirds_sugar.mp3]

Download: The Wooden Birds – Sugar [MP3]

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