While conventional descriptions of San Franciscan quartet Wooden Shjips would have them tagged as psychedelic or minimal rock, a more interesting examination of their music is centred on ideas of diversion and escapism.
With performances that can, at times, veer into the unknown, drummer Omar Ahsanuddin sees his role as an anchor to the explorative sounds coming from the instruments around him. “As a drummer, if you start fucking around too much you get everyone out of the groove,” he says. “I’m a very nuts and bolts drummer. I definitely think of the rhythm section in this band as, like, being sort of a platform or foundation where those guys can build other stuff off and launch stuff off and do whatever they want.”
By providing his band mates the opportunity to lose themselves in their own performance while he maintains a structure, Ahsanuddin has allowed for a certain kind of narrative to develop around the band’s music. “I think the idea of a journey resonates for me,” he says. “Because of how the songs are structured and how we play live. I mean, a lot of the time our songs are on the long side you know, so it can be in the five or eight minute range. So that gives people the chance to un-focus for a moment, maybe even lose themselves for a moment, go along the ride with the band and see where we end up.”
Those yet to get on board with the Wooden Shjips can test the waters with the band’s latest album, West, released in September 2011, with its eight tracks of hazy rock, hypnotic chords and blissed-out vocals. While West can be digitally downloaded via iTunes, the band has something of a fondness for vinyl and have has released the album as an LP complete with an inner sleave featuring stunning full-colour art work.
In fact, many of Wooden Shjips’ releases can be bought on vinyl, including Remixes, a 12” EP featuring exclusive cuts from Andrew Weatherall among others, 500 copies of which were pressed on crystal clear vinyl with black streaks.
Having spent the last few month touring back home and then in Europe, followed by a well earned rest, the band scheduled in some time for rehearsing before they boarded the flight over here. This is their second Australian tour and one everyone is eagerly anticipating hitting the stage.
“We really enjoy it [Australia],” Ahsanuddin enthuses, “and I don’t know if this is something people say a lot, but [Melbourne] had a sort of feeling that was more of San Francisco. The response last time was really good, especially for the first time down there. Maybe this time a few more people will have heard the record, so that’s something to look forward to.”