The Wooden Sky’s new studio album Let’s Be Ready is a compilation of songs that mirror everything the band has become on stage and beyond. Armed with swaggering guitars, rolling drums and melodies that sweep their way toward open-armed choruses, The Wooden Sky’s newest record is at once familiar, while fans will mark a definite evolution in their sound. The band have never sounded quite as bold — or nearly as raw — as they do on Let's Be Ready.
The Wooden Sky toured the world in support of their previous releases, and watched as the music shifted and grew over the course of nightly gigs. By the end of a long tour, the songs seemed to be bigger, fuller, and more dynamic than they did at the start. When the time came to record something new, front man Gavin Gardiner wanted to harness that live energy — the attitude and adrenaline of a Wooden Sky concert — and funnel it into a studio album. First, though, he had to write the songs. There was plenty of inspiration to go around: changes in band membership, time spent in foreign countries, the death of loved ones, the excitement of new relationships, and the challenge of staying afloat amongst an ever changing world. Gardiner got to work, writing songs on a farm in Quebec one minute and an old German airpark in Berlin the next.
Songs in hand, the band hit the road on another tour. The goal was to take Gardiner's new songs and play them for a live audience, allowing the loose arrangements to evolve and morph along the way. Some songs sped up. Others slowed down, while some fell by the wayside. At the end of the tour, the Wooden Sky had a new batch of songs — from "Saturday Night" to "Don't Worry About a Thing" — that sounded more dynamic than anything they'd done before.
"It’s either sink or swim when you play live," says Gardiner. "You quickly learn which parts work and which parts don't. You learn how to convey your ideas in a way that the audience responds to. When we recorded Let's Be Ready, we really embraced the rawness of the that live experience. It was fun to make something that was a bit more ragged." Let's Be Ready was partially recorded in Gardiner's home studio. Looking to preserve the spirit of their shows, the band captured most of the songs in a series of live takes. They focused on sounding real, not perfect. Rough edges were highlighted, not sanded down, and the do-it-yourself approach wound up giving the Wooden Sky a better sense of ownership over their work. Let's Be Ready wasn't just another album recorded in a top-dollar studio. It was their homemade, hard-won baby. The album also marked a turning point for Gardiner, who — after nearly a decade's worth of touring, writing, recording, and experiencing the general highs and lows of a band on the run — needed something new to remind him that this crazy career was a worthwhile endeavor. He needed to renew his vows.
The solution? Make a rock & roll album that mixes the indie spirit of a bar band with the poise and punch of an arena act. "It felt, to me, like a do or die moment," he says. "We'd spent so much time on the road, and we came to a fork in the road where we had to choose whether to go on or just stop. Let's Be Ready gave us a sense of renewed energy. It's more of a rock album than anything we've ever made before. It's fun to go for broke, and we were happy to do it.”