A Conversation with Doldrums



Airick Woodhead is the mind behind Montreal-based musical act Doldrums. In contrast to his 2013 debut Lesser Evil, an album of experimental electronic glitches fused with pop melodies, Woodhead’s follow up album The Air Conditioned Nightmare is a much more cohesive and formulated project. I chatted with Woodhead about his new recording process, how Doldrums has evolved from an experimental art project to a live band, the meaning of an Air Conditioned Nightmare and how his community in Montreal has defined his music.

The title of your album is named after the 1945 collection of essays by Henry Miller. I’m currently four blocks away from where Henry Miller spent the first nine years of his life, 662 Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg. It’s kind of ironic with the way this area is now, as it’s kind of a bit of a nightmare.

Yeah that’s true it’s kind of the epicentre of the new bourgeoisie. He wrote “Black Spring” about growing up there. When I started going to New York in 2007 I was staying on Driggs probably a few blocks away from him.

When did you start making music?

Well, I started playing rock music in a psychedelic band when I was 13. It was me and my brother. Basically that band carried me into my late teens and Doldrums kind of started because I wanted to put down the guitar and start experimenting with collaging and sampling. I was getting very inspired by Baltimore noise musicians. Dan Deacon and Narwhals of Sound, these are people who were playing small shows at the time and who I was getting to see live or who friends of mine in Toronto were bringing in to play at our house venue. Then I met a bunch of Montreal artists when I was like 21 and that kind of made me want to do Doldrums as a bit more of a live band and make albums and not have it be so much of an art project. Like seeing Tonstartssbandht and hearing the first Blue Hawaii record. That was pretty huge for me. Then I basically moved to Montreal and slept on Sebastian’s couch for a while until he signed me to his label, Arbutus Records. Ha!


How did you produce this album differently from your last album ‘Lesser Evil?’

This record was made using samples from a lot of different records. A lot of exotica records and film noir soundtracks. Some old synth records from the 60’s and things like that and then I wrote the songs on top of those and then I brought it to a mixer who works in Montreal, named Damian Taylor. I finished it up with him. It was a much more structured process for me to make music where as before I think I was just like experimenting really rampantly and there wasn’t much form to it. So this time around it felt way more cohesive and I think that’s why the record sounds more cohesive too.

How important is originality to you?

Not very important.

Do you have a favourite period of music?

No. I probably sample more from 60’s and earlier because I’m more attracted to the fidelity. It’s something that I can’t recreate with my own recording gear. But as a fan definitely not, I listen to music from any time. Whether it’s Drake’s new record from last month or Frank Sinatra or whatever.

Well…everyone loves Drake.

That’s just the postmodern attitude though right? It’s post-genre. Ha Ha. Post-temporal you could call it. Post everything.

Post Something.

Post office.

Which would you sacrifice first the melody or the lyrics?

I guess the lyrics. I find usually the melodies are more important to me. I can always just write on the side and not have to have music be lyrical but I don’t think I could have music not be melodic.

Do you think you live in an ‘Air Conditioned Nightmare?’

The title’s supposed to capture the insanity and mundanity of modern living. Whether or not I personally live in those circumstances…I don’t think so. It’s more supposed to be an impression of an aspect of living rather than the entirety of our situation. It’s just one shade of it.

Stream Airick’s new album Air Conditioned Nightmare

Do you think mediocrity has been given too much exposure now that anyone can be given a platform for their work online?

Yeah. Ha. Definitely. I mean there’s a lot of benefits for musicians now that we have such easy access to streaming and torrenting and things like that, but there’s so much more shit to filter through. I think that the solution as a fan is to focus on older music because you have a way of siphoning up to the top when an artist is good. Rummaging through new bands that come out every single day is pretty daunting. I’ve never really done that. I’ve never really been someone who reads blogs about modern music and things like that. I’m happy that I’m in a community where I can go and see a live show and see something sweet. I don’t need to rummage through the internet for that.

Does being Canadian inform your music?

Yeah, I guess living in Montreal informs my music a lot. But it’s more specific to a group of people than it is to the actual place. I don’t think it has much to do with being Canadian necessarily. Most people think my music sounds quite American actually. I think Mac (DeMarco) or Viet Cong, or some other bands, to me, are pretty definitively Canadian-sounding. But I think when you make electronic music it’s harder to have a Canadian shade to it. If you’re an electronic musician in New York or London or something then there’s definitely a mould for you to fit into but as a Canadian there isn’t really.

Check out Doldrums’ album release show in Montreal on April 9th at Bar Le Ritz