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The Wooden Sky find their inner youth on new record

Toronto’s dark folk fivesome plays the St. Albans Church Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.

Toronto’s The Wooden Sky plays their Annual Holiday Show at the St. Albans Church this Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.

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Toronto’s The Wooden Sky plays their Annual Holiday Show at the St. Albans Church this Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.

Gavin Gardiner can finally be a creative kid again.

After pushing a radio-friendly sound on their last record, The Wooden Sky has returned to the sound that got them to where they are today: a stripped down, honest, psychedelic ride down the sonic burrow.

It’s where the band feels most comfortable – playing in the sand, getting dirty, the farthest point from being a responsible adult.

“We felt a lot of pressure to make this radio, Canadiana music, which is kind of what we did on the last record, or at least thought we were making,” says Wooden Sky vocalist Gavin Gardiner from his home in Toronto. He’s rearranging Aerosmith songs into lullabies for his young niece during our short chat.

“On this record, it felt like we were not so concerned with (radio play), and we just got back to the music that we love. It’s not that I don’t like the last record, but I just felt all the pressures of adulthood weighing in on me, and trying to respond to that to make a career and be successful, and this time, it feels more like we are trying to contribute to the music canon.”

Canon? More like a Howitzer. The songs off the yet-to-be released fifth studio venture entitled Swimming in Strange Waters hits right in the gut, with raw emotion, personal predicaments and intricate emotions woven through perfectly pitched soundscapes that vibrate off your chest. But it has all seamed up tight within The Wooden Sky’s dark folk sound, flanked on both sides by Gardiner’s haunting, yet beautifully soothing vocals – a tongue can slowly put you to sleep on one tune, and wake you up to the world around you on the next.

You can hear how personal Gardiner gets on Born to Die when he croons through his dusty throat, “I guess we are out here on our own.” It’s been a conscious effort for Gardiner to just sit and process the moment, letting his feelings vibrate between the strings of his acoustic guitar. He just hopes he hasn’t gotten too personal.

“Lyrically, I feel like I have gone back to a very honest approach. Not that I was steering away from that, but there something very personal about some of the lyrics,” he says. “I hope they are not so specific that they will be too isolating for people.”

A lot has happened to the Toronto five-piece in the past few years: new management and label, exhaustive touring and other personal aspects that have led to members Gardiner, Edwin Huizinga, Andrew Kekewich, Simon Walker and Andrew Wyatt simply growing up, or in the case of the new record, being kids again.

They’ve also raised an impressive $15,000 for charity over the past six years with their Annual Holiday Show and they’ll do it again this Monday at the St. Alban’s Church. It’s incredibly humbling to see a band, that isn’t the biggest band in the world, that hasn’t seen multimillion dollar contracts, or private jets or champagne rooms, still find the time to give back to the community. And, even as Gardiner says, “there are lots of people that do way more than us,” it needs to be said that many people do a lot less.

And it’s this Holiday Revue that has become the most-anticipated gig every year for the band. Not just because they are giving back, but because it’s a fully, DIY show, where Gardiner and crew book the venue themselves, deliver tickets via bicycle to local record shops and ticket centres, they set up the stage and the seating, the sound gear and every little detail in between that makes a show stay on the rails.

“It feels like a community event, as opposed to showing up at the bar and just playing, which is fun too,” adds Gardiner.

“But it’s also a reminder of how much f---ing work it is to put on a show.”

Proceeds from Monday’s show will go to Carty House, a communal first home for refugee women in Ottawa.

Music starts at 8 p.m.

It’s an all ages show, so come and be kids with these fantastic gents.

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