Letters Have No Arms have packed their bags, put their travel hats on, and moved to a new land!

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Friday, July 3, 2009

LHNA talks to The Woodlands!

Hannah and Samuel, a.k.a The Woodlands released their first, self-titled album recently. As soon as we listened to it we dug out our English dictionaries and started flipping desperately through them, looking for the right words to describe it. They had to be beautiful words, big words, words that hadn't been used before! We kept looking and looking and meanwhile "Summerland" was spreading all over the blogosphere and we thought maybe it was time to stop trying to come up with adjectives and descriptions and just post the songs for everyone to hear. That's approximately when the band e-mailed us promoting their album. Light bulbs appeared above our heads and the idea was born: what better way to find the right words than to ask the band to give them to us themselves? We decided they would be the first band we'd ever ask for an interview. Lucky for us, they said yes.

1. "Look at us, we formed a band!" How?

The Woodlands came to be in somewhat of a roundabout and unintentional way at first. When Samuel and I first met, I had begun playing guitar a couple of years earlier and started writing some songs. Samuel was always musically minded, but didn't actually pick up the guitar until the first year after we got married (about seven years ago). He just decided to teach himself guitar and poured himself into it.

Since we got married we have both worked an assortment of jobs (some 9-5ers, some part-timers) to work hard, but to also keep a flexible schedule for traveling and visiting friends and family. We started playing some of my really old songs together a couple of years after we got married--I would sing and play guitar and Samuel mostly messed around on the harmonica. On a few of my newer songs he just started writing some guitar parts to them and we felt a musical intertwining happening. Meanwhile he was beginning to write lots of his own songs (Of The Isles www.myspace.com/oftheisles), and then we started writing together.

A few years ago we sold, stored or gave away most of our things and we moved down to central america for several goals that we had (to live outside of the US for awhile, so I could learn Spanish--I had always wanted to, and Samuel already spoke it, to volunteer at some orphanages, for an adventure, for a challenge, to write music, to see if we would live abroad permanently, etc.).

We came back to the US after seven months, and realized that we wanted to pursue our music more seriously as The Woodlands. We were absolutely broke coming back, but worked jobs and started writing more songs together and playing some small shows. We set a goal of recording our first album. After moving to Portland a little under two years ago, we began the process of recording at home in the corner of our bedroom with some equipment and a lot of blankets, pillows, sleeping mats and foam pieces built around us. We spent that year recording and writing and developing our songs as we went, and ended up with our album that we self-released a couple of months ago. Now we are working hard and trying to get it out there as much as we can on our own (although we just won a contest from Tinderbox Music that chose us as the winners of their 2009 national college radio campaign contest that will be very helpful), and hoping that we can keep living simply and have some income from our music and the hard work that we have put into it. We have started to get FM radio play in the US, UK, Australia, Spain and also gotten reviews and exposure in those countries as well as Germany, France, Wales, Portugal, Sweden, Canada, Peru, etc.

2. Describe your sound in five words:

Magical. Ethereal. Sincere. Hopeful. Charming. (LHNA: there you go people, the words!)

3. The band you’ve been compared to the most times is…

Feist. Jaymay. Gregory And The Hawk.

4. Your favourite song from what you’ve written so far is…

Hannah: Summerland is my favorite, because after writing it, I had the realization that I really believed in what we were doing. I felt that something inside of me was made to write songs.
Samuel: King And Queen because I like the lyrics that I wrote and Hannah's haunting voice. We were living in Guatemala at the time and we were hanging out in a dim bedroom while the weather stormed outside and it felt like we were castaway lovers in castaway times.

5. The craziest thing a fan’s ever done for you is…

Our fans have been relatively sane up until this point. We were recently playing a show in Idaho and someone said they saw our video on YouTube. This was a surprise to us because we had never made a video. We found out that a kind filmmaker and artist gentleman in Scotland had searched through heaps of songs and chose "Summerland" to make his next project. That was one of the most enjoyable surprises by a fan.

6. You like …
H: kombucha tea, the forest, morning coffee, walking where I go, red wine, Amsterdam, dark chocolate, tiny cafes, tapas, strings of white lights, indoor basil plants, porches
S: cloudy days, strong cheese, cream and tan and grey colors together, letterpress letters, Scotland, dark chocolate, foreign films, autumn, textile patterns, night showers, old machinery, writing poems, olives

7. You don’t like…

H: wearing socks, really cold weather, worrisome thoughts, perfume, wasting food, staying up really late
S: social injustice, raisins, chalk on my hands, heat, clutter

8. Your favourite bands at the moment are...

H: Seabear, Shout Out Louds, Blind Pilot, Noah & The Whale, Youth Group
S: Seabear, Folded Light, Arcade Fire, Beirut, Band Of Horses

9. Your favourite book/writer is...

H: Thomas Merton
S: C.S. Lewis

10. (You might be a talented musician and we might hate you for it but it will make us feel better to know that) you suck at...

H: being on time, technology, doing dishes
S: I have a terrible tendency to leave long and rambling phone messages, fixing car problems

11. What helps you write songs? (Booze? Crappy teen movies? Heartbreaks? Popcorn? Anything goes.)

The need for an outlet to process sorrow. The stimuli and adventure of travel. A desire to see things change. A glass of wine. Insecurity. Confidence. Being immersed in nature. LOVE. Inner silence. Time for contemplation. Awe at the genius of other music and writers.

12. Do you read music blogs? Which ones?

Honestly, no. The main music blogs we have read are when we are searching for music blogs to feature us or when we are reading something that someone has written about our music. Selfish, but that is just what it is at the moment with our schedule and time. We will say that often times the most arresting blogs are those that also have a great artistic visual aesthetic as well. Yours is one of them (and that is sincere, no lip service).

13. You're in a band because…

It just happened. We both love creating and writing and the expression of song. We also love hanging out together, so making music together became a very natural extension of just living our lives together in such close proximity on so many levels.

14. You wish everyone would…

Buy local goods. Buy fair trade goods. Buy our album. Be more nerdy. Laugh at themselves. Choose time, people and experiences over money. Learn to enjoy stillness and solitude.

15. Are you worried about the future of the music industry? Do you think it’s true that unless you’re Coldplay you can’t make money just by playing in a band anymore? Do you guys have day jobs?

Not worried, but trying to figure out how it works and how it is going to work as time progresses. Bands have to be more innovative, self-motivated and creative in their approach to music as a career. We are trying to find out how as well. At this point, we still have to work day jobs waiting tables (Samuel) and as a nanny (Hannah). Our goal, however, is to be able to make a simple living from our music.

Download: Can We Stay
Download: Summerland

Buy the album here!
A big big thank you to Hannah and Samuel for agreeing to answer our questions.

Edit: The Woodlands are still unsigned. Seriously, record labels, what are you waiting for??


Liz said...

great great interview! love the new banner, too.

Eliza K. said...

Agreed, I'm very pleased with the interview! Thanks!

Re the banner:
It's all Steven's doing I have to admit - he deserves tons of praise!