Ghosts and Shadows – Wozniak feature

I stumbled across Edinburgh’s Wozniak almost by accident. It was going along to Hookers for Jesus’s Edinburgh debut where I first saw the band – who were also promoting the show.

And I was pretty much hooked from that first show. Whilst the label ‘shoegaze’  was – and still is – applicable to Wozniak (in part), for my money, they bring far more to the table than any early 90’s revivialism.

Sure, there’s washes of guitars in there and they, unashamedly, love their pedals and effects. But whereas some of those bands from back then tended to almost ooze  past me without making much of an impression, Wozniak have a welcome added edge.

The quartet undeniably have an ethereal component to their sound but they can also rock with the best of them whilst having a nice, occasional sideline in electro danceability.

The reason for this piece is the long-awaited arrival of their debut LP. ‘Courage Reels’ which was released last Friday 21st on Morningside Young Team and is an elegant addition to a back catalogue that already boasts two E.P.s and two singles.

It also comprises entirely new material (excepting album taster ‘Perihelion’ which came out just a few weeks back with a couple of unreleased songs) many of which have been appearing in the live sets for some time. It both firms up their recorded identity, yet at the same time establishes a mood of its own.

I’m genuinely not sure if I have any favourites at this stage because every song is more than capable of standing up for itself. I’m certain though that it is a fine debut and worthy of a wider appreciation.

Ahead of Friday’s Edinburgh show, Andy and I chucked a few questions at Sarah from the band on the album, its inspirations and what comes next.

Can you tell us a little bit about the title of the album?

“The name comes from the song ‘Scottish Dancer’. Courage Reels is a Scottish country dance, but that’s not really how we’re using it. It’s more the idea that your resolve is being tested.

“We recorded the album throughout 2016 and it felt like there were lots of times we were left reeling in the wake of awful global events. I think that’s what we were trying to get at.

The album cover and a number of the song titles give a sense of nature, of wilderness and space. Was this intentional and how do you decide on titles, particularly for instrumentals?

“We do tend to go for this kind of cold, natural imagery for our covers. This one is actually an archive image of a trip to Antarctica and the ice cave just seemed very otherwordly and eerie. Because the songs are big and expansive, we are drawn to visuals that convey a similar sort of feel. It was important, especially for the album, that there was that sense of cohesion.”

How did you approach the recording of the album? Were the songs already written or did you have a concept and write with that in mind?

“The album was recorded throughout 2016, in a few sessions. For the first session, all the songs were written well in advance and we rehearsed hard beforehand so we could really get through a lot in the studio.

“Then we started working on the next batch and followed a similar pattern. We did have some late arrivals though – ‘Shader’ came out of the ether at a rehearsal and we decided it would be a strong opener, so we were not too rigid.

“There was no specific concept in mind in advance, although we definitely focused on making an album that fit together, not just a random collection of songs we’d written until now. A theme did emerge around ghosts, shadows and a general impending sense of doom, but that wasn’t pre-meditated.”

It seems a very early 90s thing to do – put out a couple of EPs then release an album, ignoring the EPs. So how did you approach deciding what went on the album? Did you consider putting any previously released material on the album, and if so, what?

“Well, we’re taking that as a compliment! We are really proud of the EPs and the songs on there, but this album has been a long time coming and we felt it was important to break new ground and be ambitious about what we could create.

“We discounted songs we didn’t think fit with the feel of ‘Courage Reels’ which is kind of icy and isolated.

“We knew that people wanted ‘Ground Echo’ to come out, but it was so different to any of the other songs, and recorded a long time ago. That’s why we made it a B side on the ‘Perihelion’ single. It’s our Krautdisco number. Which is not a phrase I thought I would ever type.”

The initial reviews of the album have been very positive. How do you feel about the album now it’s completed and out in the world?

“Relieved! Sending the album out for review is so nerve-wracking. There has been some really encouraging feedback so far. It’s fantastic to read other people’s interpretations of songs and hear it afresh through their ears.

“Something that’s coming through is that Wozniak don’t fit neatly into a specific genre. Obviously there is the shoegaze thing and the post-rock thing, but it seems to be hard to pin down. Some folk like that and others find it difficult. That’s cool. We’ll just happily be our own genre…”

Who is Natsuko?

“We don’t know any Natsukos, but liked the word. It has multiple meanings depending on how it is written, so it can mean ‘summer’ or ‘reminisence’ which is really beautiful.”

And what’s the octopus all about??

“The octopus’s 8 tentacles represent each of the genres that Wozniak’s music is influenced by. Plus it’s a cool illustration.”

What are your plans to promote the record?

“Well, we’ve been hard at work at that for a while now! We’re trying to get the album out to as many people as we can, including your good selves. We were quite proud to get played on KEXP recently.

“And of course, gigs!  Our Edinburgh launch gig is this Friday (28 April) at the Wee Red Bar.

“We hope to have some news about gigs further afield soon – we are working on it with a brilliant promoter. We’ll keep you posted.”

 ‘Courage Reels’ is available from the band’s Bandcamp site and will undoubtedly be available at Friday’s show.

Here’s a chance to check out the wonderfully named ‘Super Panther’ from the album: