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Speaking with Widowspeak

Speaking with Widowspeak

ABQ Free Press spoke with Hamilton by phone about Widowspeak’s upcoming tour with NPR rock darlings Lord Huron

BY M. BRIANNA STALLINGS

Indie rock duo Widowspeak has made a lot of headway in just five years. The group’s sound has been described as cowboy grunge, dream country and earthtone pop. A ghostly cadence haunts their catalog.

In 2010, Tacoma, Wash., singer/guitarist Molly Hamilton formed Widowspeak with longtime buddy Michael Stasiak in Brooklyn. Then they recruited guitarist Robert Earl Thomas. In 2011 the band released their self-titled debut album, which was produced by Jarvis Taveniere of folk band Woods. Touring bassist Pamela Garabano-Coolbaugh joined Widowspeak in 2012, then left along with founding member Stasiak.

Relocating to upstate New York, Hamilton and Thomas continued as a duo, starting work on second album “Almanac” with producer Kevin McMahon (Real Estate, Swans). Widowspeak released “Almanac” in early 2013 and followed up in November with “The Swamps.”

ABQ Free Press spoke with Hamilton by phone about Widowspeak’s upcoming tour with NPR rock darlings Lord Huron; forthcoming album “All Yours” and its new single, “Girls”; the cinematic nature of the group’s sound; and the future of Brooklyn as a creative hub. Catch Widowspeak live on Sunday, July 12, at Sunshine Theater,  120 Central Ave. SW.

ABQ Free Press: Are you looking forward to this tour? Have you worked with Lord Huron before?

Hamilton: We’re definitely looking forward to it. It’s a good pairing; I think sonically and aesthetically we have a lot in common. Obviously we’re two totally different bands, but we like going on tour with bands where we can fit into their world. We haven’t played with them before. We haven’t even met them, but hopefully it’ll be cool.

Us: Speaking of aesthetic sensibilities, if ever there was a band that seemed perfect for New Mexico it’s Widowspeak. What are your thoughts on the Southwest?

Her: We [Hamilton and bandmate Robert Earl Thomas] were just talking about this the other day. We always felt like the high desert is kind of our spiritual home. That area resonates with us. We like the color palettes and the speed of life. So we can definitely say we write songs with that in mind. I’m from the Pacific Northwest, another mountainous place, but I’ve always loved desert imagery. It’s hard to put into words, because it’s not where I’m from. It’s weird, being in love with a place you’re not from.

We played in Albuquerque a couple of years ago. Unfortunately we didn’t get to spend much time there. But Rob and I talked about moving to Santa Fe. We’re vagabonds. We move around a lot. So maybe we’ll end up there someday. (Laughs)

Us: Will there be any other band members joining you on tour?

Her: We usually play as a four-piece. We make records as a duo, and we’ve had other people involved in the recording process. For touring we have a drummer and a bassist – James Jano (of Brooklyn folk rock group Chimneys and XLR8R writer) and solo artist Willy Muse. They’ve been with the band for two years now.

Us: Tell me more about your new album “All Yours.”

Her: We started playing around in November, then didn’t go into the studio until March. During that time, we were feeling out how we wanted to build the songs. We didn’t want it to feel exhausted or overly edited, so we tried to let our song ideas remain pure. We took a lot more time thinking about instrumentation and mood. We worked again with Jarvis [Taveniere]. He produced on our first record. He’s really great. Compared to “Almanac,” our last record, this was a lot more laidback and casual.

The new single “Girls” garnered a lot of attention, and for good reason. The lyrics strike a brilliant balance between envying youth and the wisdom of age. Tell me more about it.

There’s so many reasons why I wanted to put that song on the album: coming to terms with myself as a creative person, but also as a person. Sometimes it’s regret that I should’ve been more proactive earlier because I would be in a different place. Sometimes it’s regrets about things I’m working on. Sometimes it’s seeing friends I went to high school with, and being like, “You own a home.” But I was also thinking about how I’m impressed by women who’ve been having amazing moments in the last few years. Specifically I think about “Rookie.” This teenage girl (blogger Tavi Gevinson) is running her own company. Anyway, there are people doing things, and if you like what you’re doing, that’s cool. I am on my own path. This may be my creative moment. Every moment is a creative moment. There is no deadline.

Us: Widowspeak’s music is often described as cinematic. “Harsh Realm” was used on an episode of “American Horror Story.” Would you ever consider scoring a film?

Her: I would love to explore non-lyrical music. I don’t know any filmmakers yet, but I would say my favorite director is Terrence Malick. I love the slowness of his films, how reliant they are on lighting and expansive spaces. “Badlands” and “Days Of Heaven” are both incredible. I know he’s still making movies. Maybe sometime in the future I can be like, “Hey man, what’s up?” (Laughs)

Us: You said in a recent interview that you and Rob relocated to upstate New York after recording “Almanac” because Brooklyn was becoming prohibitively expensive, and that it wasn’t sustainable. What do you think the future might hold for Brooklyn?
I’m actually in Brooklyn right now, but yeah we live upstate now, in Roxbury. It’s beautiful. A lot of people are starting new creative communities up there around Woodstock, Hudson, Poughkeepsie.

Her: I think there’s a couple of things happening with Brooklyn. People are being pushed out to the fringes, especially younger people without careers. I just don’t think it’s sustainable in the long-term to keep supporting the people who struggled to make it happen.

— Brianna Stallings

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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