Interview: The Woolen Men

No strangers to recording live – every single one of their three albums has been recorded that way – The Woolen Men will bring their three-man show to the Banana Stand on November 30 with The We Shared Milk. Lawton Browning shared with us the band’s history in the Portland scene, why they favor live recording, and what’s next for the band.

How long has the band been together in its current form? How did it come together?

The Woolen Men have been playing music together for about two years. Prior to that Raf Spielman and I had worked together on a number of different projects, including his ongoing experimental collective, The Polyps. Alex Geddes, our bassist, had also played with Rafael in another long standing Portland band, The Golden Hours, which continues to this day. Our first songs were written almost immediately after we started playing together. For me it was the realization of the kind of band I had always wanted to create.

How would you describe your sound? What are your key influences?

I think The Woolen Men are most interested in making music that expresses an essential purity of intent. The collaborative nature of our song writing attests to the importance we place on creativity and self-expression within the imposed limitations of rock and roll music. Influence-wise, Alex comes from a background of stripped garage and punk rock, Raf is a virtual encyclopedia of music history and a restless experimenter, and I have always loved classic rock and roll singer-songwriters like Harry Nillson, Nick Lowe and Scott Walker. All of us are obsessed with The Clean, Flying Nun, and the New Zealand sound in general.

Tell us your thoughts about recording live. What makes you interested in recording live?

All three of The Woolen Men records have been recorded live, with very few overdubs. Live sound perfectly matches the Woolies aesthetic.

What’s your favorite memory of a live show? Least favorite?

Anytime we have been able to bend or break the rules in a live setting. We’ve played great shows recently with The Shaky Hands, Archers, Mattress, and Orca Team.

What are your favorite live albums?

Rust Never Sleeps the great Neil Young record. Elvis Costello’s Live at the El Macombo.

What other projects are you all involved with?

Like I mentioned earlier, Raf and Alex both perform in the Golden Hours and Rafael does collaborative sets with a rotating cast of musicians as the Polyps. I also write commercial and soundtrack music and occasionally release electronic music records under the name TRUST.

What are you working on lately?

The Woolen Men just released our third record, “The Portland Building,” which is available now on local label Gnar Tapes & Shit. We are currently mixing our fourth, which should come out in the next three or four months, God willing.


Huge thanks to Lawton from The Woolen Men for participating in our interview. For more from The Woolen Men, check them out on MySpace and Facebook.