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The Sound Of Bottles And Bicycles

Patrick Watson and his band The Wooden Arms defy easy categorization. Hailing from Montreal, the group takes inspiration from contemporary indie rock, cartoon music from the 1940s and impressionist composers. Their newest record is Wooden Arms, on which each song is a lush, deep soundscape, achieved using unconventional instruments and found objects. Depending on the song, you'll hear pots and pans or bottles and barrels.

Cartoons And Composers

"We were really into a lot of cartoon music, the old cartoon music of the 1940s," Watson says. "Just how the instruments really tell narrative stories."

This comes through particularly well in the song "Beijing," which brilliantly conveys the sounds of a busy city. They actually used a bicycle to produce some of the song's sounds during recording. The song is powerful, to the point where it's hard to imagine that it wasn't inspired by personal experience.

"I've spent more times in places like Indonesia and Vietnam," Watson says. "It makes me think of more Asia in general. For some reason, though, at like 7 o'clock, this city has got, like, this 'on' switch, and it goes from being dead quiet to mayhem. Honestly, it's like in seconds."

There is clear classical-music inspiration in a lot of the group's sound.

Watson says Erik Satie and Debussy and other impressionists are among his favorite composers.

"I think that comes through," he says. "So not all classical music; my era is more the impressionism era. I think that's also the beginning of the music that inspired film music."

Ultimately, the music is subject to the message of the song.

"We are storytellers," Watson says. "It depends on the story: Sometimes the story is going to take us to country music, sometimes to classical music," Watson says. "I'm not the best lyricist in the world. That's not a natural talent; it's something I have to work really hard for. A lot of times, I'm really happy to have really good instrumental support to give the depth that someone like Bob Dylan wouldn't need with his lyrics."

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