In an attempt to shine light on local music, The Lantern’s “Columbus’ Own” is a weekly series that will profile a new Columbus band each week.
If a seed grows into a tree, then Drew Williams and Adam Schutz are the seeds and Deadwood Floats is the tree. Stemming from a two-man band, Columbus folk sextet Deadwood Floats members express their emotions through ambiguity and enigma.
The six-piece includes founding members Schutz and Williams, as well as Joel Arter, Katie Kramer, Luke Fleeman and Tommy Williams. Their wide choice of instruments ranges from acoustic guitar to accordion and violin to ukulele.
Drew Williams said the band’s music is a mixture of nostalgia and melancholy.
“Its pretty introspective,” Drew Williams said. “We sing about our experiences — it’s mundane stuff. We are emotional people.”
Schutz said their songs focus on times and places in life, though sometimes they add a dash of melodrama.
“We make our lives sound like they are a lot harder than they are but they are still experiences. It’s on a personal account,” he said.
The band’s song “The Colours I Earned,” written by Schutz, expresses challenging events such as roommate bickering and disagreements.
“It was pretty mundane, normal roommate arguments that I turned into a song. In my head at the time, it was a more intense than it really was,” Schutz added.
Drew Williams’ “Mars Oversea” tells of a long-distance relationship he was involved in. The song was inspired by a phrase in the song “I See the Moon,” written by Meredith Wilson.
“There is a weird little saying I heard once: ‘I see the moon and the moon sees me and the moon sees the one that I want to see. So God bless the moon and God bless me.’ It’s about the fact that we can both look at the same thing in the sky from different points — different time zones even — and feel connected,” he said.
Responsible for writing many of Deadwood Floats’ songs, Drew Williams and Schutz have different writing styles.
Drew Williams said the initial step to his writing routine involves repetition and finding the right melody. As a way to develop the song, Williams said he sings the same phrase over and over to see if it fits the stanza, phonetically and rhythmically.
“That line will stay in the song but it won’t specifically mean anything in the context of the song, but it’s there. There’s a line in ‘Line in the Sheets’ — ‘It was a perfect night for this / Until you threw it to the seat.’ That was just because it was the right amount of syllables. It doesn’t really make a lot of literal sense,” he said.
Conversely, Schutz’s writing is more calculated.
“I’ll take a whole verse just to describe one thing. The verse (might) sound a lot more grandiose than it really is,” Schutz said. “It’s never succinct — it’s really drawn out.”
Schutz said the lyrics are fairly vague to listeners, partly because of the band members’ anxiety. Aside from musical content, the anxiety is evident in their stage-performance style. The group avoids eye contact and often sings with closed eyes.
A mixture of stage fright and social anxiety, the detachment is a coping mechanism for the hyper-awareness of both their surroundings and imperfection of their material.
“It’s harder to play a whole show with everyone just watching you. I played once by myself and it was the worst things I’ve ever done,” Schutz said. “When you close your eyes, you can block everything out and focus on what you’re doing a little more. I can’t even begin to describe what I do when I make eye contact (with someone) or am looking at the camera. I just can’t control — I just start doing weird things.”
Still, the two see anxiety and ambiguity as traits that allow their audience to relate to them.
“Both of us have lyrics that are fairly vague to other people. I think that is a good thing because I think people can relate well,” Drew Williams said.
Schutz said the ambiguity is “almost like a defense mechanism – it’s a way to be personal without being personal. It’s like being vulnerable without completely being vulnerable.”
Though the two rarely write in conjunction, they’d like to change that to improve their overall sound. Schutz said they are hoping for more focus in direction.
Deadwood Floats’ most recent album, “Three Years,” was released in June.
“We’re really proud of it. It’s very cohesive but there is a lot of different directions. We’ve been talking a lot lately and we are trying to focus our sound a little more. A part of that would be working together. Our songs have always complemented each other but they’ve never necessarily been one sound,” he said.
Keihin Rhoden, a fan of the band and roommate of band member Tommy Williams, said he thinks Deadwood Floats brings a new quality to the table as well as an array of emotions.
“I come (to their shows) because I get in this mood when I listen to them and it puts me into another world. I am not an emotional guy but when I listen to them, it’s just phenomenal,” Rhoden said. “I like to think of Deadwood Floats as a band that will break your heart, and then will heal your heart, and then break it again.”
Rhoden said the band relates well not only to their listeners but also to each other.
“You can really feel the vibes they have with each other. They come together great,” he said.