Concert Preview

Six Questions With Wooden Indian Burial Ground

The Portland quartet gets major love from the New York Times and NPR—and from us! The band plays a record release show on Friday at Doug Fir.

By John Chandler October 29, 2012

First things first: Thanks a million to Brooklyn-based publicist Mona Dehghan for introducing me to the wild and wondrous world of Wooden Indian Burial Ground. Apparently, this Portland combo has been kicking around for several years, but since they have yet to appear on any incarnation of Law & Order, it’s understandable that our paths haven’t crossed. What I can tell you is that Wooden Indian Burial Ground wowed both veteran New York Times music writer Jon Pareles and NPR music critic and All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen with a recent performance at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City. Pareles wrote, “They ride their rudimentary riffs toward euphoric dementia,” and Boilen described them as "the rare breed of psychedelic garage music that rises above the mediocrity of most bands making this sort of music these days and gets me remembering why I've loved this kind of music for so long," before naming them one of his favorite 10 discoveries of CMJ.

I can likewise verify that the band’s soon-to-be-released, self-titled album (on Mon Ami Records) is not only hotter than a habañero smoothie, it is also triumphantly and unabashedly weird. WIBG revel in low-fi garage rock primitivism, but that’s just genre camouflage for a lot of freaked-out hollering, and bad-trip guitar solos, with occasional flashes of surf, punk, soul, and waltzing gloom. Can we just call it junk-drawer rock? Bandleader Justin Fowler (guitar, vocals) was kind enough to answer my inane questions while prepping his band mates for Friday's album release show at Doug Fir Lounge.

First, let’s hear a little about yourselves. Names? Ages? Are you all from Portland? Have any of you been in other noteworthy projects?

Justin Fowler, 32, Portland. Bands included Please Step out of the Vehicle, Run-on-Sentence, Curious Hands, Thee Electric Witch

Paul Seely, 28, Salem. Builders and the Butchers, Autopilot is for Lovers, Porches, Alameda, Pancake Breakfast

Dan Galucki, 27, Ballstown, Maine. Run-on-Sentence, Zeb Dewar, Please Step out of the Vehicle, Old Believers  

Perry Pfister, 29, New Orleans. Run-on-Sentence, PWRHAUS 

WIBG is such a wild and weird confluence of sounds: garage, surf, soulful testifying, girl-group/doo-wop, punk, rockabilly, even some Gothy elements. What’s the songwriting process like for you guys?
Pretty simple. I usually write and compose on a piano or acoustic guitar. And when I feel like it's a song, I teach it to the dudes and we fuck it up and ruin all my hard work. Lots of the songs on our new LP were tracked hours or a few days after I taught 'em to the boys. I like things to sound ramshackle, so you can't know the song too well before you record it. Paul, Perry, and Dan are insane musicians. I can just throw them a tune and we can get it to tape in a couple takes.  

Who are some of your influences, musical and otherwise? I’m guessing Link Wray, The Cramps, Santo & Johnny, The Fall, Flat Duo Jets, Man or Astroman, Misfits, The Cure, Pixies, Modern Lovers. 
I'm not speaking for the boys here, because we all listen to all sorts of shit... From your list, I can say Modern Lovers, Link Wray, The Cure, and the Cramps have def influenced the way things sound. My main influences as a songwriter are much broader, though. Silver Jews, Tom Waits, Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Leonard Cohen, Billy Childish, Ennio Morricone, Dead Moon, White Noise, Stooges, T. Rex, Kinks, Swans, Neil Young, Bauhaus, Magnetic Fields … Lots of contemporary and more obscure stuff too, but those bands come to mind first. I dunno, I could go on forever. Painting, printmaking, friends, and family are also major influences.

What transpired at CMJ that resulted in the outpour of love from NYT and NPR? Will this media “blitz” result in more hometown shows?
We've stepped up our game the last 4-5 months... The new material from the record we just finished translates better live than our previous works. More energy, more chaos. Luckily Bob Boilen from NPR and the New York Times (guy) were at the bar during our set. We tend to play 1-3 times a month in Portland when we aren't on tour, so I dunno if that's a good idea. We'll be banished if we play more than that.

How ambitious are you? If the answer is “very” or “yes,” what would some of these ambitions or goals be?
I'd say, yes, very. The goal is to have as much fun as possible while paying our rent outta the band fund. The rent thing hasn't happened yet, but we are kicking ass and taking names in the fun department.

If someone pointed a large caliber handgun at your head and told you to describe WIBG in 25 words or less, how would you respond?
I'd say, "Ah geez, put the gun down, man. Don't get all Phil Spector on my ass."  

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