Inside the Songs with The Woodpile: 'Mind Missing'

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:

In the shadows I was lost for a year or two 
Pulled my head from what was rot so I could start anew. 

Backwards, step into the line. 
In the lead, but think we lost our minds. 

Planted on these wooden steps preaching my despair 
Home to what I thought was dead, only brings me stares. 

Pulled my glasses off to find 
We're going nowhere, think we lost our minds.

The Process:

“I started writing this song during my last semester of college,” Gwin said. “I know that it was 2015, it was spring of 2015 that I started writing that song. I was just in my head about dropping out of college, it seemed like a giant decision and it was at the time. I was really stressed out about it and I was justifying it in my head by disliking the collegiate system and demonizing it. That’s what I was doing in that song. It’s really just a complaining song saying that there’s all these people going to the university blindly to do what they think they ought to do, it’s another quickly thought statement that I don’t know if I agree with anymore, kind of like Reconciliation but you know that’s where I was at the time. It was real angsty.”

“The original version I just intended for acoustic guitar and then at the very end, I would just do really loud strumming and then kind of scream the end and then I brought it to these guys,” Gwin said.  “It was the first song that we arranged that we really got into as a group. Especially that last part.”

“That’s because Evan was like, ‘I want drums on this,’” Ruwart said.

“And then Brendan was like, ‘f**k yeah, I can do drums on this,’” Gwin laughs.

“I was excited because I didn’t want to play any more Cajon,” Ruwart said. “That first drum beat when I come in with the full drums, I didn’t come up with that, Evan did.”

“I told him I wanted him to sound like The National,” Gwin said. “I had to show him several songs by The National and they have a couple songs with this nice drum beat with the alternating bass and snare. That’s what I was feeling, but then he added his own spice to it of course. It’s a lot more than just that beat.”

“What was weird is that somebody decided that we should go into a 6:8,” Ruwart said.

“That part was wicked because I thought we were going to end the song there,” Gwin said.

“He [Nolan] came up with this nasty bass part and was playing it and we were like, ‘what the f**k is that?’ It was sweet and then he decided he was going to make the transition and at first it was going to be, I think Nolan just by himself, but I was just doing hi-hat to make sure we could get to 6:8 from the 4:4.”

“Yeah that transition was weird for us and also counting it out and then later in the studio,” Gwin said. “It took a long time to figure out exactly how long we were playing each of those sections and we kept f**king it up.”

“I kept f**king it up,” Ruwart said. “Because they were like, ‘you always play it three’ and I was like ‘God dammit, four just feels right,’ and they were like ‘no, three’ and I was like, ‘God dammit’ and I kept playing it f**king four times. I kept losing my track in my head for some reason. I was terrible.”

“‘Mind Missing’” Ruwart said. “The recording that we chose was one that we were not satisfied with, but it just had the energy. There’s flubs in that EP.”

“But- they are flubs that have turned into parts that we play live now,” Gwin said. “Like the crash cymbal leading up to the transition, a bass part, it’s just great, it sounds so good.”

“We were there [at the studio late] and we smoked some cigarettes and got kind of drunk,” Gwin said. “But Will told us to, he was like, ‘guys this is f**king rock and roll.’”

“He said, ‘you need to go smoke a cigarette, you need to go take some shots,’” Ruwart said. “Nolan had some Crown in his car.”

“He said, ‘you guys are playing it like musicians, I need you to play it like rock-stars,’” Gwin said.

“That’s why Will is the G.O.A.T because he was able to bring out the shit that we needed,” Ruwart said. “Any other person that we would have worked with would have been fine and been like, ‘oh yeah that sounded really good,’ but Will was like, ‘you guys, listen, you need to do this.’ He would push and pull us-he obviously had his own input of what he thought it should sound like-but he was able to bring out what we needed it to sound like.”

“Like what we wanted,” Gwin said.

“Or he’d be like, ‘I heard you guys and you might think it’s great but I’ve heard you do it better, so I’m going to make you do it again,’” Leibee said.

“Will did that with every single track we would do,” Gwin said. “He would be like, ‘I think you can put a little more heart into that vocal.’”

“If we’d get it first track perfect, he’d be like, ‘oh no, you got to do another one,’” Leibee said.

“He’d say, ‘we’ll hold onto that one, but let’s do three more,’” Gwin said.

“Caleb was all about this one when we wrote it, it’s his favorite,” Ruwart said.

“I think it’s the most fun we’ve had, it really solidified us as a band, writing this arrangement,” Gwin said. “It was the first arrangement where it was almost like equal additions to the arrangement because it was completely unwritten before that, the ending part anyway.”

“This was the only piece on the EP that when we first wrote it was for drums and then I had to transpose it to the Cajon,” Ruwart said. “Cajon was the game for the first 8 months of the band. Evan just hated it, he hated the cymbals. But, cymbals are just the icing on the cake, they just make things better and I knew that, but that was my own opinion. Evan was the driving force behind the music at that time, so I was just like, ‘whatever,’ and then finally I was like, ‘maybe we should switch to drum set, I feel like we could be more legit.’”

“This is the song we normally close our shows with because we can’t find a better place to put it in a set,” Gwin said.

“It’s too high energy, you can’t follow it,” Ruwart said.