Local folk act drops the twee for a fuller sound on new EP
“Cosmodromes,” the lovely first track on Deadwood Floats' new EP, Baby Blue, was originally titled “Drew Lives Alone.”
“In a dark way, I was kind of making fun of myself, but also owning who I am right now and what I'm doing. Not that there's anything wrong with living alone,” said Drew Williams, one of the primary songwriters in the folk-rock band that has been knocking around Columbus for several years.
On “Cosmodromes,” a man stomps around his lawn in the dark amid the mundane minutiae of everyday life (kitchen lights, bedroom snacks). “All my life I thought I would ramble,” Williams sings in a smooth tenor.
“The stuff you daydreamed about when you were young — it's still valid and important, but you also have to reconcile with surviving where you are,” Williams said.
Williams and fellow Deadwood Floats singer and songwriter Adam Schutz each contribute songs to Baby Blue (as does guitarist Luke Fleeman). The two have been playing and writing music together since their high school days in Westerville, along with bassist Colin Matsumoto and drummer Joel Arter.
“When you're friends for that long you have parallel experiences,” Williams said of his friendship with Schutz. “We've leaned on each other through some stuff. It shapes who you are.”
After playing Cheap Trick covers in high school, Williams and Schutz started a folk duo at Ohio State around 2010, soon enlisting the talents of violinist Katie Kramer to play gigs at now-defunct campus spots like Scarlet & Grey Cafe and Bernie's Distillery. The band's first full-length, Three Years, took, as you might have guessed, three years to make, and after the album's release, Deadwood Floats began moving away from the sound of a twee-folk collective toward more of a full-band, folk-rock sound.
“We dropped the bells, the accordion, the ukulele,” Williams said. “I play piano on all the tracks, and they all have bass.”
In his songwriting, Williams takes inspiration from the 2006 Midlake album The Trials of Van Occupanther and how the band's then-singer Tim Smith could build unspoken narratives with scene-setting details and images. On “Cosmodromes,” for example, Williams sings, “Olive lies and Elroy stacks” without any further explanation for the two names. And yet they fit within the world of the song.
“I like building an environment that you tap into when you listen. I like using specific images, but also having a vagueness,” he said. “You can talk about personal things in a way that's not specific to you.”