Analogue Music | Shy Kids

Shy Kids

By Matt Conner

At first, Walter Woodman wasn't sure what "new album" to discuss.

As part of Shy Kids, an uber-talented trio of creatives from Toronto along with Pat Cederberg and Matt Hornick, Woodman stays insanely busy with any number of creative plates to spin—as part of an overall team constantly creating to fulfill both internal and external demands.

If this sounds different, it is. Most pop bands aren't also writers and animators and directors and... you get the picture. As a trio, they write and record and release and tour like other bands, and yet, at any given time, they're also directing music videos for Alvvays or Shania Twain or creating Emmy-winning animations for the likes of HBO or Netflix or creating their own short films.

Shy Kids is a bit difficult to encompass, but that's also why Woodman isn't sure which album to talk about. Despite the fact that the indie pop brilliance of house cats (Everything Forever) is still warm from July's release oven, Woodman and company have more songs in the hopper. Of course there is.

Analogue: You’ve said Shy Kids is "a band, a production company, animators, writers, directors, musicians, storytellers.” For some industries that would take as much as you can give them, how do you figure out how much to lean into any one direction?

Walter Woodman: That’s a really hard one. I would really love to focus more of our time on one thing. I think a lot of the time, things can feel scattered. It does start to add up and you do start to feel that way, so I’d love to focus more time on something.

Like everything in life, it’s about making time and finding balance. The hope, I think, for us is that as we can progress, we can hopefully begin to have more time. Even the example of the new album is a great example of that. I was working on a documentary and that was where most of my time was going. Matt was working on the songs and that’s where most of his time was going. Pat was working on something else.

Segmenting things and having one person take a leadership role in those various projects is really good, and when the others come to the table, hopefully, they feel refreshed and rejuvenated to take part in the idea that’s mainly been cultivated and gardened by one person as opposed to everybody sitting around together trying to figure out one thing.

Analogue: What does this mean for you on house cats?

Walter: For these songs in particular, I’m trying to stay out of it as much as possible. I think the reason for that is that the songs have such a distinctive voice, which is the voice of Matt. Sometimes I feel I can be not overbearing, but it becomes different as soon as someone else enters the conversation or the new song.

I think I only sing on one track and play on 1-2 songs, which for some people might feel like, ‘Hey, you’re kicking me out!’ But I think I’m helping by not muddying the vision that Matt has. Pat has been working on a feature cartoon autobiography of the band called Shiloh and that’s definitely far more me and Pat’s sensibility. Matt doesn’t watch cartoons. So in the same way I’m only featured lightly in the new music, I think Matt will be the same way with that project.

Sometimes you can come into something and begin to overpower that but one of the ways we’ve found to balance that a bit more is learning you don’t need to have your hands on every single thing.

Not everything has to be agreed upon by all three people. I think it’s nice sometimes to let someone fly and go off on their own to see where that goes. That’s the way to get something interesting. Instead of getting something all three of us agree upon, what if it’s just two or even one of us? That’s how you get unique ideas.

It’s not about all of us liking it. It's about one of us liking it at least and the others supporting them. I think it’s something we’re good at or we’re still getting good at it, but it’s worth learning these new methodologies to cover more ground.

Analogue: That requires real trust and commitment to one another.

Walter: Everyone has what they like and don’t like and what’s hard for me is to not take that subjective reality as objective reality. Just because you like this style of music or this pace or feeling doesn’t mean it’s not for everyone.

I remember I used to be so negative toward jazz music or ambient music. I didn’t get it. You’re listening to someone hit a bell for an hour and it’s barely music. I’d wonder why we wouldn’t listen to Phil Spector and the Ronettes. But now all I listen to is ambient or instrumental music and I haven’t listened to a lot of that old stuff. I was so convinced I was right but I wasn’t. It takes some maturity and time to understand your taste is not always right and it’s not always going to be your taste. You never know what happens when you’re more open with other people. So that’s something we’re trying to be better at.

"It takes some maturity and time to understand your taste is not always right and it’s not always going to be your taste."

Analogue: Given that you were able to come into the album with fresh ears or eyes then, what’s your favorite part of the new album?

Walter: Since we’re always in the film world and trying to create narratives all of the time, I think my favorite element of it is that it’s more of a collection of songs—at times, random songs. It’s very interesting to me that the lyrical content and different genres… we were so nervous because we didn’t understand how anyone was going to listen to “Photo Op”. It felt so crazy and separate from anything else on the album, but I think that’s in our heads. I think most people think the songs work together. Random isn’t the word but there are a lot of different things and I like how it all works together. I love that “The Wind” is on the same album as “Photo Op” because they’re very different to me, yet they all work together.

Analogue: So what does support look like for this given that you have several other creative avenues?

Walter: Well, it’s interesting. A lot of people will ask us when we’re coming back to play live and that’s not something that’s been off the table for us. But it’s difficult for us because we try to play live, but we’d have these crazy stage shows where we’d be an opening act yet we had a projector and actors and dancers. It was really cool but it wasn’t practical. [Laughs] We’d be playing on the bill with five other bands and they’d ask where they could put their amps and we’d ask where we could set our film projector. We just had this crazy setup.

What was interesting about us playing live was the best shows we had were bigger shows, like bigger venues that were over 1,000 cap venues, or shows we put on ourselves, which weren’t as big as that but we’d have control over the lighting and things like that. Those were the best shows. When we’d play in a bar, we didn’t love it and we’d lose money on the operation. So we were waiting for a good opportunity.

There was this great opportunity that would let us open up for Born Ruffians, but that fell through unfortunately. So I think that where we’re at now is trying to figure out how to play live again. We want to figure out how to incorporate what we believe to make for an exciting live show with the songs we’re playing. But maybe this is a Bat Signal for one of the big bands to have us come and open. I think we could do a good job with that.

VISIT: Shy Kids