Getting lost in the magic of Woodes
In a world where reality seems to become slightly more bleak with every passing day, Melbourne-via-North Queensland artist WOODES continues to soar further and further away into her own utopian fantasy. Like the Peter Pan we only could’ve dreamed about, WOODES‘ music is as whimsical as it is human.
Having cut her teeth with a few collabs with fellow up-and-comer ELKKLE, the persona of WOODES became more and more realised with her every move. Absolutely seizing 2017 and milking it for all its worth, she conquered the year with a stunning debut EP, fully introducing her fully-fledged persona as an other-worldly nature-loving artist that is capable of anything. Her complete control over her creative work broke through to the greater Australian audiences thanks to lots of triple J love, a trip to SXSW and entering the electronic dance world with a feature on SET MO‘s euphoric ‘I Belong Here’ as well as recently joining PACES for his live shows, while her original work continued to sparkle and shine in all their glory.
Fast forward to 2018, and we have Golden Hour, which is the most formidable and impressive work yet from Woodes. Hitting the ground running in 2018 with this EP, Woodes really is just getting started, and while she’s definitely flying now, we can’t wait to see her truly soar this year.
We caught up with Woodes ahead of the final shows of her EP tour to talk working hard, the power of visibility and her influences. Check it all out below!
You’ve been touring a lot, whether it’s as a supporting act, providing live vocals for Paces or of your own volition. It’s become your bread and butter because it seems like you’re doing shows every other weekend.
Yep! Mikey (Paces) has been amazing. Just sort of having this little tour family for a couple of months now, and we’ve pretty much been playing festivals every weekend. So spending all that time away feels pretty nice but it’s also been very hectic.
Is it odd to come from a festival, especially with an artist like Paces, and transition to slightly more intimate shows?
No, not really. They’re just different. I love getting on stage with Paces, getting to dance around and have no instruments. Through doing the show over and over again, I’m gaining this confidence within my movements and interactions with the people watching. It’s been extremely valuable for me as a performer. But, my music is the stuff I know inside and out, and even though they’re more intimate shows, they’re obviously extremely special to me. It’s a totally different feel. It’s amazing to be able to play festivals with Mikey but, in time, I’d love to play festivals as Woodes.
Well I think it speaks to your versatility as an artist that you can do both pretty seamlessly.
Oh, thank you!
I did want to touch on the fact that you brought along some pretty big artists as supports acts for this tour. Eilish Gilligan, in particular, is blowing up right now. She’s everywhere.
Yes! I know! Actually, everyone on the lineup, I went to uni with!
Yeah! I went to uni with Dan from Seavera as well. I know everyone’s music and I’ve seen it all grow.
Is that what influenced you to take them on tour?
That and I just genuinely love their music. Eilish and I were in the same year, doing the same course, so we ended up studying production alongside each other. It’s so awesome – she’s always had so many different projects and now she’s finally exploding.
Yeah, it seems like she’s done the work and now is getting her due credit.
As for Seavera and their song ‘Make Me Uncomfortable’ –
The ending though.
It’s so beautiful.
As far as those artists are concerned, you’re all, on paper at least, in the same realm of music.
For sure, and I also made sure that any act who supports me has a female in it. That’s a conscious decision but there’s also so much good music to choose from.
That leads into my question perfectly. On an audience level, we’re seeing so many more women handling all aspects of their work as opposed to just doing the vocals because they’ve been given more of a chance now. Not to say that these women haven’t always been there, because they have. But how does that feel to be a part of this like new wave?
I definitely feel the new wave. For me, personally, it’s seeing everyone do this all for themselves and executive producing and having real control. I get hit up by a lot of up-and-coming female producers in my DMs just being like “what do you recommend for this?” or “how do you think I should do this?” It’s important because even if they can see me do it on a small scale and that I’m accessible, it just keeps growing.
Well that speaks to how important visibility is and why people are rightfully so mad about gender and racial disparities on lineups.
Totally. The past couple of festivals I’ve been to, like Secret Garden and Mountain Sounds, seem to have been improving on that. But I don’t know if I’m just only noticing the women or something like that.
I mean I noticed it too so you’re all good.
For sure, I mean watching the GRAMMYs I was thinking “damn it.” I was looking at SZA and Lorde and it was just…well, yeah.
Everyone knows that SZA and Lorde had the best albums of last year, though.
‘I Belong Here’ was a huge moment for you last year. The energy that beams from you when you perform that song is so palpable. How important is that on stage presence for you?
I love it. Obviously the chorus is straight forward, but when people sing the pre-chorus it’s insane. It’s the first song I’ve had where people shout back at me on a larger scale. That definitely was an extremely amazing thing to feed off of.
Let’s talk about the Golden Hour EP. What I’ve noticed is that there’s a clear element of fantasy that works its way in, even when it comes down to your artwork or costuming. There’s an element of make-believe and other-worldliness to what Woodes does. How important is that kind of stuff to your creation process?
Fantasy has always been a part of my life, in terms of the books I read and the films I love. My friendships growing up were anchored in this kind of thing. The first year I started putting stuff out, I was touring with Montaigne and Ngaiire and Lanks, and it was playing a lot of stuff about relationships, which is cool. But with this EP I wanted to give myself a set of parameters to write about things they made me feel positive. That awful year –
The worst year ever. I just felt like I can’t put out selfish music, I suppose. I saw Aurora’s live show, who is a huge inspiration for me, as well as watching a lot of Sampha interviews where he talks about the fact that he makes music to work harder to find the magic in life he felt when he was younger.
Yeah, there’s this beautiful quote from an interview with The FADER where he says, “As you grow older, you have to work harder.” I could definitely write about break-ups and relationships and I do as a top-liner, a writer and a producer. It’s very gravitational – we all feel those things. But I started the EP with ‘Hunger’, where it’s about holding on to a vision you’ve had, and then ending with ‘Still So Young’ where it’s very to the point.
The concepts in all your individual songs are very strong. In ‘Origami’ for example, did the concept of origami come first?
I’m working as a songwriter now with publishing, and there’s a whole lot of ways I like to write. ‘Origami’ was one of those songs where it was like, “What if we never strayed from the concept of folding paper, and wrote a song about it?” It’s therapeutic. I always learned Japanese when I was in school. There’s a whole bunch of elements in that that influenced that concept.
For me, ‘Origami’ represented your ethos as an artist, or my interpretation anyway. It’s very delicate and it’s whimsical but still has a solid beauty and foundation. And that speaks to what I get from Woodes. You can see the meticulousness of any Woodes song. You pick up on isolated notes. There’s a complex layering that all seems really crisp.
With ‘Origami’, it was quite sparse when it was first written and then I just filled in the blanks. I love producers like Jon Hopkins and Four Tet. Arca’s the king of details.
Arca’s not of this planet.
Completely. He influences so many huge people to make incredible art. It’s very vulnerable. I used to do percussion and Foley effects in theatre production. From there, I learned things like when you’re singing about silence, how to apply that silence. They’re not major elements, but I really enjoy it.
So the EP’s out, the tour’s just about done. Is there anything else 2018 has in store for you or is it back in the studio?
I’ve got some really exciting supports and collabs coming up. My manager wants me to work on an album so who knows? I’m still independent. Cutting down all the songs to seven songs for an EP is still a pretty long EP. I don’t like it when there are EPs that are just a bunch of singles and one other song. Plus, I just loved all of the songs.
It’s a record that if any one song was taken away it would feel bizarre.
That completely wipes out my fears! Thank you!
On a final note, a lot of people didn’t have a great 2017. You’re one of the few that did, at least professionally. It seemed like a breakthrough year.
It’s so hard creating art and being independent and trying to figure out how to go about it. Last year was my first year doing music full time, which is really fun.
Between the Set Mo collab, the onstage stuff with Paces and having these amazing support acts, how important is the Australian music community to the fruition of Woodes as an artist or a commodity?
It’s everything. We have something so special. Doing SXSW last year, people from across the world were always at the Australian showcases and it seems like everyone’s noticing what is coming out of Australia. The community is relatively small and not competitive at all. You tell Americans about Triple J Unearthed and things like that and they can’t fathom it. It’s everything to me, honestly.
Again, you look at women like Amy Shark and Tash Sultana or even newcomers like G Flip…
That is so fascinating to me. It’s amazing. I’m so on board with G Flip. I left band rehearsals the first day it came out and looped it. I had to watch it on YouTube because it wasn’t on anything.
It’s massive. In any case, thanks for your time – so good to finally chat to you!
You too! You completely understand what I’m creating. Thank you so much.