About Cowboy Grunge and Neil Young – Interview with Rob from Widowspeak

When you were a kid you always wanted to be a cowboy or marry one? Well, it’s never too late… at least in your dreams you can still live the imagination. You only need to put the right music on and you are in your own world. For this journey I can highly recommend Widowspeak’s recent album Almanac. The Brooklyn based duo knows how to create a beautiful western-tinged sound that keeps you dreaming of endless prairies and horseback rides. Read below the interview with Rob who kindly answered some questions for IANS during their North American tour.

If you want to see Widowspeak live on stage then this is your chance to WIN 1×2 TICKETS for their show at Comet Club in Berlin on May 7th! Just leave a comment at the end of this article and tell us who your favorite cowboy is.

When you were writing the lyrics for your recent album Almanac in 2012 doomsday was a main topic. Were you really afraid that the world would end?

Yes and no. Molly grew up in the northwest and she has a sort of built in fear of natural disaster. Past that we both have a fascination with the idea of “the end of the world.” So in some way we wanted to believe the world could end, as silly as that may be. What really happened was the doomsday preoccupation morphed into a fascination with the change of seasons and cycles of death and rebirth.

Now that we all survived what might be the theme of your next album? Doomsday survival or something completely different?

We haven’t locked in the exact theme yet, but we’ve talked a lot about the 1950s idea of the perfect nuclear family pitted against the cold, isolation of the space race and futurism. Stylistically we’ve been preoccupied with the lush soundtracks of early Disney movies and slow psych jams.

Is one of you more involved in writing lyrics or is it an equal ratio?

Molly writes all the lyrics. For each record she has a notebook full of lists and charts– they’re like class notes on her brain. Going into the writing process we have a constant dialogue of ideas, themes and influences. We try to watch the same movies and share photographs and music. Then she works on words in her notebook and I make demos on the computer.

You once said that your music moniker would be “Cowboy Grunge”. Please tell us more about this funny description.

Well we love cowboy music and western soundtracks, not to mention the whole myth of cowboys in the Wild West. So those influences have always been present in our music. As for grunge, I was hesitant to ever use that word because I don’t think we’re a grunge band at all. That said, Molly grew up in grunge-land and I think her lyrics, at least on the first record, reflect that region’s omnipresent emotional state.

You are both fans of Neil Young. How does he influence your music?

Neil Young has influenced us in many ways, from the sincerity of his lyrics, to the sounds on his records, to the record covers themselves. I tried to replicate many of his guitar tones and we had Harvest in mind when we decided to make a big band logo for the Almanac cover.

Can you imagine still being on stage when you are 67 like him?

I want to continue recording and performing until I’m underground, but in a way that makes sense for my age. By the time I’m 67 I’d hope to be a wizened singer-songwriter, or maybe an experimental composer. I think Molly’s compassion and insight will only get better with age, so I eagerly look forward to see what she does at 67.

From a 3 piece band you became a 4 piece and now you are a duo. Why did Michael and Pam decide to go different ways? And how is it to be a duo now?

I think Michael had just grown weary of being in Widowspeak, which is sad because he really started the band. When he left, Pam had only recently joined and it seemed uncomfortable writing a new record with someone who had just come into the picture under different circumstances. As a duo Molly and I were able to streamline the creative process and develop Almanac as a sort of total idea, plus I got to go wild with the instrumentation which was fun. For our current tour we are performing as a five piece. I think Molly and I are going to develop a set as an acoustic duo though, just so we have that up our sleeve.

Your touring across North America right now. Where was the best show so far?

There have been a lot of good shows, but I think the best so far was San Francisco. We played at a relatively new venue called The Chapel. The place used robe a mortuary and had this amazing arched ceiling in the main room. A lot of people came and the band was really tight, not to mention the people who worked at the venue were really sweet to us.

I’m really excited to see you in Berlin soon. Especially to hear “Perennials” live! It’s my favourite song of the album. I can hear it over and over again and it never gets boring. Tell me a song (any song) you love so much that you can hear it every time.

We love Berlin and have been looking forward to the show for months! The theme song for the tour has been “Hotel California” by The Eagles. I must’ve heard it a thousand times by now, but I still love it and it makes for a great singalong. It’s funny because I used to hate the song, but now I can’t get enough of it!

  1. it’s definetely the real franko nero “django” – he was the first guy shooting in his rivals back. no false glory, no false honour. AND: he got a huge coffin with an automatic gun inside, I mean, how cool is that.

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