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Wooden Shjips’ Omar Ahsanuddin Talks Subtleties of New Album ‘Back to Land’


‘Back to Land’ is a weighty album title for a band whose name references a sea vessel, but it’s fitting for psych-rock voyagers Wooden Shjips.

Released last month on Thrill Jockey, the Shjips’ fourth full-length was conceived in the wake of some major changes, including the relocation of two band members from San Francisco to Portland. In a recent interview with, drummer Omar Ahsanuddin chatted about the making of ‘Back to Land,’ life in Oregon and the new group (relatively speaking) he’s most into these days.

You spent 11 days in the studio recording. How did having more time than usual influence the overall result of the album?

In an aesthetic sense, I’m sure it had an impact, but I couldn’t say what it was exactly. It’s hard to know during the basic tracking part of recording what the finished song will sound like. We had a little extra time for the basic tracking, which takes a bit of the pressure off the band thinking that something is good enough. We’re not perfectionists by any means, but it is nice not to settle. There were some tempo shifts on the last record that I wish I had redone, but I haven’t felt that way listening to this record.

Is there a lyric or element of the album you’re most proud of?

The things that I tend to be proud of in a recording are probably little things that no one else hears. Since Dusty and I are pretty minimal and use repetition in our grooves, I look to try and do small things that make a rhythm feel different me than another song. On this record, I like the quick eighth notes on ‘Ruins’ that makes the pulse a bit looser. On ‘Other Stars,’ I searched for drum parts (and a bongo drum overdub) that broke up what would normally be a very galloping beat. It’s the little things that I remember when I walk away from a recording.

Wooden Shjips have been releasing albums for a few years now. Is there an up-and-coming act you guys are excited about?

They’re not up and coming, but in terms of music that I’ve been excited about, we just did a short tour with CAVE that I really enjoyed. I definitely found myself watching their show night after night. They were playing only songs off their new record, which I thought was really interesting. I’ve just been looking for Gram Parsons, Van Morrison and Stones records online, so I am not up to date on any up-and-comers.

You recently moved to Portland. What’s a great local place you guys have discovered?

I’ve been eating pie at Random Order.

You just released an album, so what’s next for the band?

European tour in December 2013, West Coast tour in January 2014.

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