Working with new producers allowed the band to tinker and tamper more than it had in the past, to really start over; if they'd teamed up with Robbins again, it would have been like starting a crossword after someone had already filled in most of the clues. And along with Street and Caldato, the group had another collaborator: vonBohlen has joked that the doctors who worked on his head stole all of his fast songs, and Wood/Water, for the most part, backs him up. It makes sense that vonBohlen's meet-and-greet with his own mortality would pay off in a more reflective record. As in: "If I had a dime for every time I should have stopped playing guitar and put my nose in a book/Then my head would be healthy and my guitar would be dusty," he sings on "Stop Playing Guitar." Or: "It's been one cruel year/And we all feel better knowing that you're back here/You wouldn't believe it/So I might as well lie/I almost had to say goodbye," as he says in "Wake Up April."
The music matches the mood, slow but not always low, often acoustic but always electric. And in the end, not all that different than some of the band's old songs. Difference is, those were just sketches; Wood/Water is the finished painting, all the details carefully in place, all the colors just right. "We don't think that we're Pink Floyd or anything," Gnewikow says, with a laugh. "We're not under the illusion that we're making groundbreaking music. It's just different for us. Not different for music."
Now that Wood/Water is finished, the band will have to reacquaint itself with the old songs in the rearview mirror and drive to all those cities it's been to a dozen times, the places that no longer hold the same thrills. The funny thing is, though, since they've been avoiding it all for so long, it's exciting again. Sort of.
"For me, the hardest thing is going out and playing the old songs," Gnewikow admits. "It's not that I don't like 'em, and I completely understand the impulse to go and see bands and want to hear songs that you're familiar with. I do it, too. But we haven't been on tour in forever, so I think the sheer excitement of going out and playing the new songs is impetus enough. It's weird, now that we have half a new band almost--a new bass player and a keyboard player. There's a bunch of exciting things out there on the horizon, and I think that's impetus enough to go out. We'll probably be sick of it by the end of the year. By the end of the summer, maybe. But it's part of it. And there is that element of no responsibility on tour. You know what I mean? What's hard about it?" He laughs. "Get out, play for an hour, party." Hard to walk away from that.