Wanting to focus on writing, the members of Sherwood recently sequestered themselves for six months in an Oakland apartment complex.
“There was crazy stuff happening on the street, outside the apartment,” said Sherwood drummer Joe Greenetz. “Lots of drugs, lots of prostitutes and pimps and people getting arrested right outside our window. We didn’t really like to go out too late at night.”
Avoiding the crime-ridden neighborhood around them actually helped the band, which originated in San Luis Obispo, to focus on songs — so much that it wrote more than 80 during that stretch. Ultimately, the band paired down its new material and compiled “Qu,” an album that came out last fall.
You can expect the band to play many of the songs from that album April 8, when it ends its current nationwide tour with a gig at Downtown Brew in San Luis Obispo.
As for the weird album name, Greenetz said, it doesn’t really refer to anything.
“We wanted the title to not give anybody any preconceived conceptions of what the album would be like,” said Greenetz, speaking by phone from a Best Buy in Chicago. “We made up this word, ‘Qu,’ and it’s worked out pretty well.”
While Sherwood is generally described as an indie band with a pop-punk flavor, for this album the band wanted to show a progression in the writing.
“We wanted to do something a little more mature and thought out,” Greenetz said. “Because of that, we took way more time on the writing and recording on this album than on any previous albums. We were much more picky and discerning with what songs we chose, what the lyrical themes were and the overall sound of the record.”
Sherwood, which sprang from Cal Poly seven years ago, is arguably the most successful band to come out of San Luis Obispo — thanks in large part to timing. The band hit it big on MySpace when the social networking site was at its peak of popularity.
MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson personally discovered Sherwood.
“He was browsing through artists, looking to sign a band called Shiny Toy Guns, who alphabetically came right after us,” Greenetz said. “And on some list somewhere he found out about us and listened to us and liked us and got a hold of us.”
The band had previously signed on with SideCho, a punk label. But at the time MySpace was making major inroads into the music business. Sherwood— which has the third-most-popular profile in My- Space’s history — became the first rock band to sign with MySpace’s record label. Meanwhile, Anderson remained a fan.
“He’s a very busy guy, so he’ll just show up sometimes when we’re playing in L.A.,” Greenetz said. “He came to the studio when we were recording there last year. He came and dropped by for a couple of hours and asked how he could help us out.”
While it was nice to have the support of an upstart with momentum, MySpace didn’t make the members of Sherwood rich recording stars, even if the band has amassed close to a million “friends.”
“Basically, unless you are an artist who sells millions of albums and gets a ton of radio play and gets your songs placed in movies and TV shows and commercials and whatnot, you have to go on the road to make money,” Greenetz said.
So Sherwood has been diligent in its travels — which actually made it easy for the band to live together in Oakland.
“We’ve already gotten through all of our issues and had our fights,” Greenetz said. “The Oakland situation was normal for us because we live on tour together for months at a time in even closer quarters.”
While the band isn’t topping the charts, Sherwood, which tours Europe this fall, has made strides. In the early days, the band built its base via the Internet, networking on computers at the Cal Poly library.
“The first tour, we were an unknown band, and there were very few people coming to the shows,” Greenetz said. “Some shows had zero to five people at them. It was just not paying the bills. We couldn’t even get gas to go to the next city or have money to buy food.”
In an effort to build a fan base, the band took to malls—uninvited — with a backpack of CDs.
“We got kicked out of many malls,” Greenetz said. “But we learned how to keep one eye on the person we were trying to sell the CD to and keep one eye open for the security guard.”
Eventually, the band appeared at the Warped Tour and started selling out shows across the country. Gigs in Europe and Japan followed.
Nowadays, band members are getting married and moving to different parts of the country. But in their press materials, they still label themselves a San Luis Obispo band.
“It’s as much of a hometown as we have,” said Greenetz, who has a degree in business administration, with a minor in music, from Cal Poly. “We love it there. I’m sure we would love to all still be there, but it’s not in the cards at this time.”