Interview: Redwoods’ Musicians Matt Molarius and Daniel Schraer Talk New Birdy Bardot Album

Monofesto reached out to the talented Redwoods’ musicians behind the Birdy Bardot II album to find out a little more about the new release. Long-time, respected San Diego artists Matt Molarius (guitar) and Daniel Schraer (keyboard) provided some insight into how the new album came together and what it is like to create within The Redwoods Music endeavor.

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photo by Kristy Walker

Molarius, frontman of San Diego’s iconic Transfer has stepped away from center stage to co-start and run The Redwoods Music, spending more time producing and managing, but his participation in the Birdy project has given him a chance to continue to write and also focus on perfecting his guitar chops. Both in the studio and on stage his contributions are a driving force behind the stomp and swagger that brings a welcomed edge to the music.

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photo by Kristy Walker

Resident keyboardist for the Redwoods, Schraer is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who has worked with numerous bands and projects around San Diego and Los Angeles. Studying music at UCLA, he has also been involved in film and television project scores. His work on the album is evident, as the keys are featured heavily on several tracks and provide a “vintage cool” tone throughout.

Monofesto: It’s been mentioned that Birdy Bardot II is probably the most collaborative Redwoods album to date.”  Bringing this type of communal spirit to the creative process is commendable. What do you see is the greatest reward or benefit in taking on such a collective project? 

Matt: I feel like it’s far more personal for everyone when they are able to put their creative stamp on the music. At the same time, it’s also very unifying to complete an album where everyone has a meaningful contribution and you can look around and say, “Check out what WE did. It rules.” All the players in this band are a force in their own right, so I feel like it really enhances the final outcome of the album when the spotlight moves around a bit.

Daniel: I think when everyone is on board with the general vibe of the band great things can happen. Everyone in the group is on the same page in terms of musical taste, so when we bring ideas to the table they tend to work together to make something even better. 

photo by Kristy Walker, courtesy of The Redwoods

photo by Kristy Walker

MF: Concurrently, what are the biggest challenges that arise in working within such a large collaboration?

Daniel: There’s a lot of people in the band, which can create a “too many cooks in the kitchen” type of scenario. If there’s too many ideas kicking around it can make it really difficult to move forward with a song. Luckily everyone knows when to contribute and when to step back, so we usually avoid that problem.

Matt:  Scheduling is a challenge. Everyone hustles, and to get several people with revolving time slots of availability in the same room at once can be tough. Fortunately, everyone involved is committed and this project is a top priority for all the players so it tends to always work itself out.

MF: With so many diverse contributions, was there an attempt to create a unifying theme, feeling or tone for the album? 

Matt:  I wouldn’t say that there was any specific theme or direction that we were trying to laser in on but I will say that we wanted something that would highlight what Birdy does best. In that, there were several ways we could go and ideas we could explore in developing these songs as she has a pretty vast range within her vocal approach. The album more presented itself rather than us having a detailed roadmap. Heavy riffs and some over the edge moments, some sludgy mid-tempo, dark colors as well as preserving some space and letting some fragility be exposed. It just kind of came together and took on its own shape…we just tried to stay out of the way.

Daniel: We just wanted to create something that is tasteful, layered, and kick ass. Birdy has a very distinct style, so as long as it fits her voice and vibe, it works.

MF: Can you talk a little bit about the production process for the album and how creative decisions were ultimately shared along the way?

Matt:  We always demo ideas out and shoot them back and forth for refinement. Once we have a skeleton, we get the right tempos and hit the studio for drums and bass. Then the layers of guitar, keys, percussive ideas, weird sounds are added before finalizing the song with the vocals. Everyone gets a listen to the rough mixes for any additional notes before we send off to our mix man, Jordan Andreen. 

Daniel: I wouldn’t say all creative decisions were shared, but everyone came in and did their part. Some songs we worked out as a band and played live for a while before finally recording, while others began as a small demo with maybe Jake, Alfred and whoever wrote the music. Then we would flesh out the demo and figure out what parts to add. 

photo by Kristy Walker

photo by Kristy Walker

MF: For each of you, what song(s) do you have the most fun playing on this album? What makes these songs enjoyable to perform for you?

Daniel: “Fortune” might be the most fun song for me to play, although “Take It All Away” and “Had My Doubts” are great too. Its fun to show off a bit during “Fortune” and I love the way the keyboard parts fit with the rest of the music on those other two. 

Matt:  I like playing several of the songs on this album. I particularly enjoy the more ripping tunes as they are loud and dynamic and you get to lose yourself a little more in the performance. “Fortune,” “Had My Doubts,” “Only Need You to Love Me”. That’s the rush that gets to be addictive in this process. The collective energy created by the crew when we’re all in the moment and tearing it out together.  I also enjoy playing Black Mirror as it’s a fun acoustic guitar Travis Picking song that’s a little out of character for the record but somehow fits just right.

photo by Kristy Walker

photo by Kristy Walker

MF: What other take-aways do you have from the experience of making this album? 

Matt: I feel like we got to be a little more experimental with this album and let go of some inhibitions musically. Which is such a liberating process but doesn’t always produce results that you might expect. In that spontaneity, I feel like another side of player’s sensibilities are revealed. And in this case, they all blended together in such a cool and interesting way. I don’t think we could have planned where we would end up but I couldn’t be more pleased by where we landed.

MF: Thanks to both of you for the insight into the creative process over at the Redwoods. 

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