Interview – Dan Werb of Woodhands August 9, 2010

Originally appeared in Beatroute Magazine. Woodhands put on one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Playing ahead of the utterly insane (as mentioned) WhoMadeWho and (what I was able to see of) !!! was kind of a dream bill. Dan Werb is a stand up dude, both on stage and doing an interview in a less than ideal setting. Funny guy too.

“Kids in Toronto love music,” states Dan Werb, one half of the Toronto-based dance-rock band Woodhands. It’s an almost painfully obvious answer to an unlikely question: why is there so much good dance music coming out of southern Ontario? Werb tries to explain, saying, “They love to blog, they love to dress up, they love to party. They thought they loved indie rock but actually what they really wanted was to dance their fucking asses off.” Woodhands responded to that demand with a string of releases aimed squarely at those dancing asses, culminating in 2008’s Heart Attack and their newest this year, Remorescapade. Werb says that many of the dance acts together now came up in an indie rock world and saw a way to improve upon it. Despite some initial uncertainty, Werb thinks the success came from simply reaching the right number of people. “It was awkward at first but now that there’s a critical mass everyone is happy and satisfied.”


Woodhands stands out among a crop of peers with a hard-nosed propensity towards clear, punchy dance numbers that pop right off your speakers. While others are satisfied with fuzz and detachment, Werb and bandmate Paul Banwatt serve up crunchy guitars and tight dance beats, the latter courtesy of Banwatt, who also lends his services to similarly notable buzz band the Rural Alberta Advantage. Werb is aware of the cross contamination between the projects. “He often claims that he has a specific style of drumming that he takes with him to all the projects he’s working on. So even though the RAA is ostensibly a folk band, the drumming is totally dance-oriented. Check it out again; you’ll hear a ton of the dance influences in his drumming with the RAA.” While this is more than clear when comparing Woodhands tracks like “Dancer” and RAA track “Rush Apart,” the similarity is more obvious in the thrilling velocity shared by the two bands. While seemingly worlds apart, Banwatt’s talent links the two. “When you’re as good as Paul is at drums, you can basically do whatever the fuck you want whenever you want with whoever you want and it’ll sound amazing.”

A key skill for a dance rock band to have is the ability to transfer a certain amount of energy into whatever audience is presented to them. Inhibitions can only be brought down so far, something Woodhands seemed to learn when touring behind Heart Attack, writing their follow-up throughout. The result is an urgent and exciting work of pop that moves crowds, an effect that was crafted specifically. “They are definitely meant to hit hard live,” he says of their latest. While seemingly most at home in a sweaty, cramped bar or club, Woodhands has been popping up on outdoor stages at summer festivals for most of their career. It’s an environment that could shelve their imitable live presence, and is a risk Werb shows at least some concern for. “We love the festivals because we’re always making new fans and playing outdoors is so thrilling,” he says, adding, “We are torn though because our lasers don’t work as well outdoors and we do love our lasers.

“Did I mention our lasers? We have lasers.”

Comments Off on Interview – Dan Werb of Woodhands