Looking at James Woods, you don’t see the same youthful Eddie Vedder-ist that proudly fronted All Souls Avenue at the Bar & Grill and the Holy Cow a decade ago. That much time will erode anyone, especially a musician that has watched 10 years of his life sneak by without significant success. Still, he looks good and, against all indications, content.
Nowadays, Woods fronts SuperSoFar, only one member removed from his old band, but different by an eighth of a lifetime. SSF is, according to Woods, simply a continuation of the post-ASA solo work he began in 1999 under the name of the James Woods Band.
“It was just me after ASA,” says Woods, “doing acoustic shows, trying to stay busy.” He “got a lot of shit” for going solo as opposed to forming another rock band, but says that was all he had to promote—himself. So, with the help of Honest Engine frontman/producer Tom Cram, guitarist Pascal Jacob and bassist Rehan Jacob, Woods recorded Moodswing, a super-slick collection of the pop songs he’d been serving up solo. Woods, naturally, had high hopes.
“Moodswing was supposed to be the big launch for the James Woods Band,” he says. MTV picked up a track, “Remember … Nevermind,” for its Undressed series, the disc garnered good reviews locally and Woods played a couple of shows with a full band, but he ultimately was consigned to looking beyond Utah for attention. San Diego looked a little better, and Pascal Jacob and ASA’s Briggs brothers (bassist Dave and drummer Derek) followed. The experience was “fairly productive … it made me keep busy,” he says, but was also expensive. Pascal Jacob split for L.A., and Woods returned to Salt Lake City.
Upon returning, Woods assembled a new band and attempted to revive the interest he’d had here. That version of JWB was short-lived. “Long story short, my bassist, Alex Fuller, left to join The Uninvited and I only kept [guitarist Mike] Stipanov. But I heard the Briggs brothers were coming back to Salt Lake, so they joined up. This lineup has only been together since January of this year.”
It was when the Briggs brothers rejoined the band that Woods reconsidered the James Woods Band moniker. “I decided the whole ‘James Woods Band’ thing didn’t mean anything. We’re bros, and we always have been. And ‘Super So Far’ is an old ASA song, so it was only natural.”
Woods also reevaluated SSF’s sonics, saying Moodswing was “too tight, too polished,” that he wanted to recapture ASA’s raw rock & roll mien and retain JWB’s polished pop smarts. Watching performance videos of “Out of the Blue” and “A Smile For You” on the band’s neato CD-ROM interactive press kit (someday to be available at www.SuperSoFar.com), it’s evident he has achieved the goal as well as a comfy yet rock-solid lineup. “I think previously, the songs just lacked energy and feeling. I love them, they were just different from what we wanted to do. And you can tell.”
Even so, Woods is still getting “little hits” off Moodswing. Undressed continues to use tracks from the disc and United Way/Mars Records will use the track, “Moodswing,” on its Sept. 11 benefit compilation, Band Together, which also features Peter Frampton, Fu Manchu, Eric Johnson and Seven Mary Three. This, as Woods and SuperSoFar concern themselves with forward motion, while recording new tunes for an eight-song EP to be released later this summer. “It’s different, but you can still tell it’s us,” he says. “It’s really melodic and catchy, with cool guitar … quite a bit edgier and looser than Moodswing, but not in a ‘sucks’ kind of way.”
And his hopes for the band? At this stage, success is a desire, but less of a concern. “We’re hopin’ for good things, but we’re just doin’ what we love to do. It’s just fun to us. You can tell we’ve been playin’ together forever. We’ve been best friends playing together since we were 18. I can’t complain.”