Now based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Scott Woodruff’s reggae project Stick Figure blossoms as a ‘real’ band
Stick Figure has been on the road quite a bit these past three years—especially considering that before that, they’d never played live at all. Beginning in 2006, Stick Figure had been a studio project for sole member Scott Woodruff. But after the release of his fifth album, 2012’s Burial Ground, he got an offer to go on tour for a couple of weeks.
“I never thought to myself, ‘someday I’m going to hit the road.’ I had never been attracted to it—then I got that offer,” Woodruff says. “I was in a place in my life where I was ready to try something new. I started thinking about it more and got excited.”
He assembled a band, rehearsed for a of couple weeks and hit the road. Once they got back, he liked it so much, he booked another tour, and has been playing nice-sized venues ever since. He headlines the main stage at the Catalyst this Friday.
Woodruff arrives in Santa Cruz armed with a new Stick Figure album, Set In Stone. It’s the first album since the project became a live band, but the record isn’t a band album. It was written and recorded the same way his previous five were—all by himself in his home studio.
As a one-man reggae band, the sound he produces is a bit different than your standard roots reggae band. There’s a trance-y vibe, a lot of electronics (he samples drums and then programs them), and cites Pink Floyd as one of his biggest influences. But more than all of that, he is influenced by dub, the spacey sub-genre of reggae from the ’70s that is a forebear to the remix and to some extent the modern-day electronic music scene.
“I prefer electronic drums over the acoustic style. It’s almost like you’re listening to a Dr. Dre album, just really thick, when you put it in your car and you can feel it,” Woodruff says. “I will always incorporate elements of dub, those echoes and reverb. That’s in every song. I can’t even help it. If I tried to stray away from that for a certain song to give it a more poppy feel, I always add that stuff in.”
Set In Stone was written and recorded right here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Woodruff relocated from San Diego about a year ago and built a home studio, which is basically a log cabin behind his house, which he calls Ruffwood Studios.
“I literally put up the studio the same week we moved in. Before I put my clothes away in my bedroom, I had guys over here pouring concrete and getting the studio underway,” Woodruff says. “Right behind my studio is just a redwood forest. It has this big window that looks out at this beautiful landscape. I find a lot of inspiration from nature and being out in the woods. My environment plays a big factor in the type of music I play.”
The new record actually isn’t much of a departure from Burial Ground. If anything, he’s become more meticulous about working with electronic elements. He admits to spending days sometimes just to get the perfect bass drum sound for a single track. The biggest difference is that he now considers his live band when he writes music, something he never did for his previous five records.
“Before, I would make a part that calls for having three keyboards on stage. It would never matter. It doesn’t matter that it would take six arms to do this part. I made this one a little different, because I know it would sound different live,” Woodruff says.
Woodruff is already thinking about his seventh record.
“When I finished Burial Ground, right when that album was done, the next part was, ‘oh man, now I have to start a whole album from scratch.’ That’s where I am right now again. It can be a little intimidating,” Woodruff says. “You feel really proud of what you just put out. ‘How am I going to be able to top that? What am I going to be able to do different to impress people and show that I’ve made progress and come a long way from the last album?’ There’s always that question of how you’re going to keep progressing.”
INFO: 7:30 p.m., Jan. 15, Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $17/Adv, $20/Door. 429-4135.
GO FIGURE Stick Figure plays the Catalyst on Friday, Jan. 15.