Wooden Indian and Califone Obscure as Much as They Reveal

Whatever dust songwriter Tim Rutili, who records and performs as Califone, got on his shoes when recording parts of his 2013 album, Stitches, in Tempe and Phoenix appears to have stuck. On Friday, March 21, he'll join forces with psychedelic Phoenix outfit Wooden Indian for a mini-festival at the Icehouse (the downtown venue, not to be confused with the dive bar/ice rink combo in Arcadia), where Rutili will perform with members of Wooden Indian as his band, alongside Destruction Unit, North Brother Island, Cherie Cherie, Los Puchos, and a proper set from Wooden Indian.

Like the Rutili's recordings, the sound of Wooden Indian defies easy categorization. Both bands share roots in the blues, with Rutili embracing the sound of the Delta and Wooden Indian's Wally Boudway drawing from the Sonoran blues of Rainer Ptacek. But neither act keeps thing traditional, incorporating elements of noise and Afro-pop into a framework that obscures as often as it reveals.

We spoke with Wooden Indian's David Moroney about how the alliance with Califone developed.

Up on the Sun: How did the Califone and Wooden Indian combination come to fruition?

David Moroney: Mike Krassner [Califone producer and Phoenix-based musician] took an interest in the band and helped set us up to host a Califone show at the Dressing Room. [He] shared our music with Tim [Rutili] and he really dug it. They started talking about having us back him on his next record and possibly live. From there, we just created this show for the fun of it . . .

Has Tim been in town with you guys practicing?

He just got in last night and we had our first rehearsal. We spent a couple of weeks working up a set list of Tim's suggestions and Wally's [Boudway] Califone favorites. It was really fucking magical last night in that cathedral room [of the Icehouse]. Very delicate balance in that room with all of those players, but we're making it happen.

Where are you drawing the songs from?

Stitches [Califone release, recorded in Southwestern cities Los Angeles, Austin, Tempe, and Phoenix] predominantly, as well as All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, Roots & Crowns, and his very first self-titled album.

What's the ratio of improvisation to woodshedding, you'd say? For this live show, I mean.

We spent a good three to four weeks woodshedding, and then when we all got in the room together, there was a comfortable feeling of everyone being on the same page that allowed for that improvisation to seep in. The real improv happens between songs . . . leading into and out of them.

Where do you believe the musical overlap between Califone and Wooden Indian falls? What are the common vibes?

Even though Wooden Indian has taken a turn to a denser Afro-pop vibe with our most recent material and live performances, Wally and Ross [Andrews] have a whole lot of material that stands in that folky, more roots music-oriented field, like a lot of what Tim does. His music also served as a source of inspiration for them as songwriters and producers when they were coming up and honing their craft.

Califone, Wooden Indian, Destruction Unit, Los Puchos, North Brother Island, and Cherie Cherie are scheduled to perform Friday, March 21 at IceHouse Phoenix.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.