The local Laramie band The Woodpile has only been around for a few months shy of a year, but they have entered the local music scene with big dreams and sights on success. The band is nothing less than motivated and it shows with the clear excitement in their voices when they talk about the band and their upcoming projects.
A Band with Eclectic Style
The Woodpile has four members; vocalist and guitarist Evan Gwin, lead guitarist Caleb Childress, percussionist, backup vocalist and banjo player Brendan Ruwart and bassist Nolan Liebee. The band formed in February of this year, bringing a mix of backgrounds to the table. The members all have different style and it influences the music they play now.
“I really enjoy folk music because I got really into Mumford & Sons and I used to listen to a lot of electronic and like heavy metal and then I started listening to Mumford and I was like ‘woah, I really like the harmony and the structure and how these guys can have so much grit but so much feeling in their songs,'” Ruwart said. “I don’t know, it really got to me. My whole perspective on music has changed since then.”
As for Gwin, folk has always been an interest of his. He’s been writing songs since he was a sophomore in high school.
“When I was writing my own music, that’s just what I liked and then these guys happened to be on board,” Gwin said.
Childress came from a background that strays away from folk a little bit.
“I love a lot of jazz, a lot of gypsy jazz, rock ‘n’ roll,” Childress said. “I also listen to some flamenco and stuff but we kind of jumped on board with Evan here. I also love Mumford & Sons and the Punch Brothers and the Avett Brothers and all that.”
Finding Inspiration and Sound
As for songwriting, Gwin said he finds inspiration in everything.
“Personal relationships are a big thing for me,” Gwin said. “Not just like things with girls but just everyday interactions with people and philosophy and stuff that bugs me.”
Gwin is the sole lyricist right now, but Childress and Ruwart take on most of the writing instrumentally. Ruwart is currently a music major at the University of Wyoming, which helps him with the writing process.
“When I hear something I can think of what I should do as far as stylistically or melodically or as far as harmonies go,” Ruwart said. “It’s been a process of learning how to link up what I’ve learned in school to putting it into this group and being able to create things of my own.”
Ruwart says it has taken him a lot of time and practice to do this for the band. As for Childress, it comes to him when he’s just playing guitar.
“For me it’s like playtime when you sit down and you mess around and you stumble across something that you think is cool and you’re like ‘oh, no way, that’s awesome,’” Childress said. “When you get that idea you can record it at home by yourself or expand upon it with these guys so that’s how it grows into a song.”
Gwin says he always records ideas into his voice memos on his phone.
“My voice memos are full of s***ty ideas,” Gwin said. “And some of them are really good.”
The Recording Process
Gwin made a solo EP called the Woodpile prior to the band’s formation. He recorded it all by himself in his spare bedroom on his MacBook. The band doesn’t plan on changing that process for their upcoming album.
“I have a little MacBook Pro and Garage Band which is a free-to-use software to record music and I have a little USB microphone and I just recorded everything in my spare bedroom of my apartment,” Gwin said. “We’re recording two songs right now just by ourselves in Brendan’s basement.”
Gwin said they want a full length album out within the next couple months. Though the Woodpile EP was originally just Gwin’s work, the band has made it into a group performance when they play live shows.
The album is going to be recorded solely in Ruwart’s basement and created by the band themselves.
How Challenges Turn into Rewards
Though the band is fairly new, they have run into some challenges. The biggest one is time and being able to work with busy schedules.
“The challenge as far as getting to meet up at certain times of the week because I am super busy, I mean we’re all busy, it’s just hard, we haven’t necessarily found a set meeting time but we try to meet at least twice a week,” Ruwart said. “Another challenge has been trying to market ourselves and get out there.”
Ruwart said they’ve been doing well with getting out and playing shows, but it’s still a challenge for them.
“It’s just been a process of trying to build up our confidence and learning where we need to go and who we need to talk to and what we need to do to get further into this music scene here in Laramie and hopefully further outside,” Ruwart said.
Childress said marketing themselves and finances are also a challenge for the band. They don’t have all the equipment to play huge shows.
“Even for me is procrastination as well,” Childress said.
Gwin said sharing his music has been his biggest challenge.
“For all these years up until recently I’ve been keeping my music to myself,” Gwin said. “I write it and I’m the only listener and it’s fine. So being able to open up and not only share that with listeners but share it with people who are going to play with you has been really difficult for me.”
Gwin said working with others on music has taken some adjusting for him.
“It’s been really rewarding too because these two other minds think totally different than me so they bring something completely different to the table,” Gwin said. “That’s really cool.”
From Basement to the Stage
The Woodpile try to rehearse every day of the week but if they don’t have a show they try to meet at least three times a week.
Gwin said the band has only played three shows, but their first show was an adjustment for all of them.
“It freaked me out, not necessarily to the point where I was really nervous like so afraid, but it was just a completely different setting because you can’t hide,” Ruwart said.
Ruwart said playing with three people makes it easier to see mistakes which stresses him out but he has a lot of fun because it gives him a chance to be a leader.
Childress said he doesn’t have a lot of experience performing but it doesn’t scare him as much.
Though the band hasn’t played very many shows, their favorite was the Union Gardens show, which they played Sept. 8.
“It was pretty spot-on,” Childress said. “There was a lot of people, it was a really good environment, a lot better than the last show we played no doubt.”
What’s Next for The Woodpile
The band is just getting started and have many goals and plans for the future.
“We’re recording some things and we’re trying to get some videos together of live performances to kind of put out there,” Gwin said. “We’re still talking to a couple people downtown like at the Buckhorn.”
The band wants to get a couple albums out; that’s their priority. They also want to play more shows.
“As far as long term, it’s to play some gigs, some huge gigs, maybe hundreds of people,” Childress said. “If we can get booked for maybe Frontier Days or Jubilee Days, that’d be pretty bada**.”
“In the short term and the long term I think, like Caleb said, I want to start playing and getting bigger gigs as we go, keep writing music together and keep pushing forward and see where it takes us,” Ruwart said. “I’d definitely be willing to do this for a long time.”