Inside the Songs with The Woodpile: 'Hunting Hearts'

The Woodpile are a six-piece indie folk band based in Laramie. The band is made up of lead singer and guitarist Evan Gwin, bassist Nolan Leibee, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Brendan Ruwart, lead guitarist Jesse Twitchell and cellists Molly DeLau and Jessie Salas. At the time of these interviews, the lead guitarist was Caleb Childress who has since parted ways with the band and the cellists were not yet in The Woodpile. These interviews cover the band’s debut EP “Hunting Hearts” which was released October 20, 2017. The EP was produced by Will Flagg. Ruwart, Gwin and Leibee dive deeper into the writing and recording process of their release and reflect on the past two years as a band.

The Lyrics:

I can see the stars before the sun goes down 
As the lights go on in our little town. 
I will count the studs upon the belt of the hunter in the sky 
And wonder why you don't see him. 

Just twelve months ago, your breeze entered my veins. 
It chilled me to the core, then warmed me up again. 
So as winter comes I hope you look for the hunter in the sky 
And wonder why I don't see him. 

As the city stirs, we put our swords away 
Watch as shadows thin through our windowpane 
Our wandering finally through. 

Under sinking steps, I heard your harmony 
Tales of sinking ships in your mythology 
So as winter warms, I hope we look for the hunter in the sky 
To see him passing by.

The Process:

“This is the title of the EP,” Gwin said.

“It fits the EP in my mind because it’s a sampling of the things we are capable of for sure,” Ruwart said. “It’s a feel of where the band is going too.”

“I started writing this song in November 2014, Jesus…” Gwin said. “My girlfriend at the time had just moved to Italy and it was the fall, I guess early winter, and one night, I was driving for Jimmy Johns and I just noticed when the sky was still light at dusk or as the sun was going down, all the lights in the town started coming on early before it was dark out and I thought that was interesting for some reason. So I started that first lyric, ‘I can see the stars before the sun goes down, as the lights go on in our little town.’”

“In the fall time, the constellation Orion starts appearing the east and the constellation Orion was really important to me and my girlfriend at the time because we had grown up giving certain meaning to it when we were kids,” Gwin said. “I realized that as I was seeing it, she could not see it because she was 8 hours away over in Italy. When she was able to see it, I could not see it, so there’s this astronomical divide between us or whatever. I thought that was interesting thing to write a song about. So the first two verses are about being away and reminiscing on the starts of our relationship and then dealing with how we are apart.

“Then, the middle section when it gets quiet after the first solo is about being drawn back together,” Gwin said. “It says, ‘as the city stirs we put our swords away,’ so while she’s over in Italy, I talk about the Sun going down and the night time and being able to see Orion the hunter up in the sky and as the Sun comes up we put our swords away, so the hunter Orion disappears, so the conflict is gone because the sun is up and we are back together again. Then the last lyric is wishing that when we see Orion, we will see him together and we can see him leave, then that portion of our life is over.”

“For the name of the track, the constellation Orion, Orion is the hunter in mythology and he’s kind of watching over our relationship, so ‘Hunting Hearts’ just seemed fun,” Gwin said. “I also like the alliteration of it, alliteration is fun. I only had those first two verses written when I brought it to the guys and we started arranging it, then I wrote the third verse with my girlfriend when she was back in the country, so that’s kind of fun.”

“The arranging of it was super f**kng fun,” Gwin said.

“I arranged it on the Cajon at first, then bass drum and foot tambourine” Ruwart said. “The bar or the time signature goes from 4:4 to 5:4 to 4:4 again or something like that. It’s also in kind of a triplet bass feel. So it has mixed meter, which is not typical. It’s triplet-based at the start, it’s got that galloping feel, I wrote a simple shuffle to it. Then after that, we did the instrumental section and I was trying to figure out what to do and it has a 6:8 feel and it felt very similar to ‘Mind Missing’ to me. I wrote a beat similar to ‘Mind Missing,’ it’s pretty much the same, but not at the same time.”

“You have the second instrumental section and Caleb came up with this pretty nasty guitar solo- nasty as in good- it was very quarterly sound but also intricate and interesting,” Ruwart said. “He came up with this solo and it was the first time he was able to rip what he is capable of and he also really enjoyed writing it I think. He came to us with that and it was really cool.”

“The slow section, Evan came up with the meter as being a 4:4 or an 8:8 , but it’s 3 plus 3 plus 2,” Ruwart said. “Then he came up with the lyrics with his girlfriend. Then we came up with the next part, Evan and I were sitting in our basement and he was like, ‘I need this to start similarly but then I need the chorus to start somewhere else,’ then I was like, ‘what key are we in?’ then he said, ‘E,’ so I said we should try an E major seven. So, we went to E major seven and then it goes to an A major seven, then to some form of a B and then back to the A and then a D and a C. That was mostly Evan because he was just playing then was like, ‘oh, yeah let’s go to this chord.’”

“I wanted to keep the theme of the first instrumental section but then change it slowly,” Gwin said. “I wanted it to be more interesting and longer. Then I wanted Caleb to totally rip a big solo on the last part. It was great.”

“Then Evan goes into that E minor and that was weird too,” Ruwart said. “I would have never done that at the time. I would not have gone to the D major either. That was not calling my name at the time, but it sounds really good. The last part of the song is just a repeat of the first part to bring it home and all together again, back to the triplet feel, the gallops.”

“When we were writing the harmonies, and I call it the middle section of the song because when we were recording it, we split it into five sections. We have the first section and it sounds like the last section, then you have the two instrumental sections and then the middle section which is slow. The middle section, we were sitting down in the basement trying to figure out harmonies and came up with a few that sounded good then we ended up adding a fourth low one.  Then we were trying to figure out the next part when Evan says, ‘under sinking steps I heard your harmony,’ we wanted to come up with something and so we were kind of just singing random stuff, random vocals, random words, random stuff down in Chris’s room [Ruwart’s brother]. Tt was hilarious and we were trying to figure out exactly what to do and we thought about adding a third part but didn’t.”

“When we recorded it with Will and played it back, we were all just sold on it right away,” Gwin said. “I think it’s so fun. This is my favorite song to listen to on the record because it has a lot of energy and it goes places you don’t expect it to and it’s just a unique little song.”

“Will mixed it very well,” Ruwart said.

“Will Flagg is the best,” Leibee said.