BANFF – Change is a constant in life and if the last 15 months is any indication, change can also be unexpected and life-altering.
Change in the life of The Deep Dark Woods' frontman Ryan Boldt, including relocating from his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to the East Coast, is a prominent theme explored in the Canadian band's latest album Changing Faces.
Following up on the success of the 2017 Juno-nominated album Yarrow, the latest release is the sixth full-length album from the folk-rock ensemble. It presents a re-imagined sound for the band with haunting melodies and a melancholy that leaves listeners pining for their lost loves.
The Deep Dark Woods, formed in 2005, includes Boldt (vocals, guitar), Banff resident Geoff Hilhorst (keyboard and organ) and Evan Cheadle (guitar). Supporting musicians on the new album include Leon Power (drums), Mike Silverman (drums), Erik Nielsen (bass), Clayton Linthicum (bass) and Kacy Anderson (guitar and backing vocals).
Originally, Changing Faces was set to be released in September 2020, "but then, of course, the pandemic hit and everything changed."
"We haven’t been able to play together since December 2019, which has been really challenging," Boldt said in an email to the Outlook. "For me personally, the first couple months of the lockdown was helpful in the sense that I was able to take a much needed break from the business part of music and rekindle my love of the actual music."
While he said he does not miss planning tours, with COVID-19 vaccinations and reopening plans gearing up across the country, it may not be long before the band takes the new album out to perform in front of live audiences.
Hilhorst said work on the band's next musical release began almost two years ago. He said it was an interesting experience to hear the full album after so much time had passed since he had recorded his parts.
"The album was done for me remotely," he added. "I did a bit in the studio in London, Ontario, but mostly I did it from my house in Banff.
"So much time goes by that you sort of forget what parts you played. So it was interesting for me to hear the record when it came out, too ... it wasn't fresh in my memory."
The Deep Dark Woods' first eponymous album was released in 2006, followed by Hang Me, Oh Hang Me in 2017. In 2009, Hilhorst joined the band after the release of Winter Hours, which saw a Canadian Folk Music Award win for ensemble of the year.
The Place I Left Behind, released in 2011, was nominated for a Juno for roots and traditional album of the year and won at both the Western Canadian Music Awards and Canadian Folk Music Awards.
Jubilee, released in 2013, received nominations at the Junos and the Western Canadian Music Awards. The band's last album, 2019's Yarrow, also received a nomination at the Junos for contemporary roots album of the year.
Changing Faces has a softer sound than the band's previous releases. Ballads like the first two singles "How Could I Ever Be Single Again" and "Everything Reminds Me" combine rich lyrical and musical textures with a sense of sadness and lost love.
"It is a record that I am happy with all the way through, which has never happened to me before," Boldt said. "I am a far better singer and songwriter than I was on the first record."
He describes the latest record as a "bit of a concept album." Boldt said it is a very personal record, with the songs relating to one another. He also produced the record, which he said came naturally to him.
"I had a vision of what I wanted the album to sound like and with the wonderful musicians that we worked with, I was easily able to get that sound," Boldt said. "Everyone worked together very well, understands and listens to the same music.
"If I referenced a song or artist that I had in mind, everyone immediately knew what I was talking about."
Hilhorst said the new album is a departure from the sound the band has had in the past, especially given its pedigree touring and playing in front of live audiences. The album title could also be seen as a nod to the fact the band has seen a number of different musicians featured on its albums, while Boldt and Hilhorst have been at the core of its makeup for more than a decade.
"Changing Faces lives up to its title ... the band is ever evolving at this point," Hilhorst said. "It is definitely a different album than the previous ones ... [our albums] have all had their own identity, but they are definitely Deep Dark Woods' records."
The energy of performing in front of a live audience, however, cannot be understated. It is something that is key to The Deep Dark Woods' success, having at times performed 120 shows a year in the past. For Hilhorst, that is the real test for a musician, to be able to interact with "the naturally occurring energy and vibe" that happens in a live setting.
With Changing Faces, however, the band was not able to perform the new music in a live venue. But things look like they might be changing soon.
Hilhorst said while plans for a European tour in 2020 were scrapped, it looks like the Scandinavian dates might be re-booked later this year. He said when people are able to buy a ticket to a live show again, it will mark the return to normal that musicians and audiences have been waiting for.
"As soon as you buy a ticket to a live event, or walk through the doors of a live event, that whole feeling is really going to be the ultimate indicator that things are in fact back to normal," he said.
Go to thedeepdarkwoods.com for more information on the band, or stream the new album on Spotify, iTunes or Apple Music.