Sometimes the Internet is good for something, case in point how I found out about the Texas based trio, True Widow. Finding their self-titled debut album streaming online and being so compelled to check out the record, I listened to it once. The record struck me so much that I immediately listened to the album again and then again. Fast forward to the end of 2008 and the album lands in my top twenty-five, just a smidge out of my top ten actually, and I felt as though an interview was called for with the band. After contacting them and conducting the discussion, the band strikes me as very down to earth (much like their album) and worth any attention that they have thus far garnered.
Scene Point Blank: Would you give us a rundown on the band (i.e. who does what where and when type of information)?
Dan: We are a three piece. I am Dan and I play the guitar and sing, Nicole plays the bass and sings, and Tim plays the drums. On the record, a few more instruments were played and I think I played most of them. They include the steel guitar, piano, and some shakers and the like.
Scene Point Blank: How and when did you all get together to make music?
Dan: I think we hooked up in September 2007, or sometime around then. I was living in Boston previously and had moved back to Texas in May of that year. I didn't really intend to put a band together, but after a few months back home I thought it necessary. I talked with some friends and found a bass player and drummer. The band was not to be a very serious endeavor and was pitched to the members as such. But the more I screwed around with it, the more I wanted to get serious. The drummer really had no time to spare, and the bass player had a band and was moving to Austin. So I was by myself with the songs again. While on the hunt for new band people, I would jam with my longtime friend Tim. He had a drum set, and was just proficient enough to work out songs and keep a steady beat, but was by no means considered a drummer. Tim was, and has always been, a bass man. But we have all this stuff together (drums, amps, bass stuff, and recording equipment) and over the years have made countless recordings at our various locations of residence. One guy mans the tape machine and the other guy does his business in the other room. We have been like this with each other for quite a long time. Anyway - as I was jamming with Tim, looking for a drummer, I realized I was overlooking the obvious. Tim is the perfect drummer for the band. Yeah. Nicole, not sure where she came from. A friend recommended her and the friend was right. I met her out one night and gave her a CD-R of songs I had recorded at home while in Boston. She was into it, so we all got together and started hashing it out. After a few months of that, we dragged all of the recording junk out and did some demos. And so on…
Nicole: I would like to note that I made him meet me at a karaoke bar. I don't think he knew what he was getting into at the time.
Scene Point Blank: Would you describe the True Widow writing process?
Dan: Basically, I write little things that either turn themselves into garbage, or into songs that I am not embarrassed about. I will hang onto those for a while, sometimes years, until I am confident they are not garbage and then show them off at practice. By that time I have a pretty good idea of what the song should sound like as far as drums, bass lines, and arrangement go. Half the time I am wrong and we change it up. And, each guy is certainly encouraged to make their own part theirs. I just provide an idea. Sometimes the song that I thought was great turns out to be a dud, but more times than not it ends up being a song we add to the list. Lyrics come absolutely last, for the most part. I hate writing lyrics. I am hardly a poet or wordsmith and this is where I am most self-conscious. I always have a melody, and the first round of demos almost always has a doubled track of straight gibberish. I then listen back to the gibberish and decipher what it is I might be saying. I do this a lot. Otherwise, I sit there and come up with lame rhymes and boring subject matter. I prefer to decode myself in the manner described above. I think Nicole writes in the more traditional sense.
Nicole: I'm the same as Dan but with lyrics. I have lyrics and poetry in folders stretching all the way back to my youth. I like to feel the mood of a song and see what lyrics will go. Most of the time they need be tweaked for rhythm and flow and sometimes new words all together. Most of my songs come from working out jams repeatedly but I also tend to dream a lot of melodies/harmonies. I always have a recorder by my bed.
Scene Point Blank: What dynamics do the members bring to the band?
Dan: We all have certain things in common, but we are definitely all over the place personally with where we are coming from. I have spent a lot of time with old music. Be it country, field recordings, 50's and 60's garage and pop stuff, and whatever else. In my musical formative years, I had a friend Brian. Brian's older brother was a serious punk rocker. He played bass in a band called the Projectile Vomits. This was about the time I started playing the guitar (ten years old). He gave me so many tapes, most of which I still have. These tapes were a major influence on me and have never escaped my consciousness. After that it was all Metallica all the time. And then the black album came out. I HATED IT. That is when I quit Metallica. For good. As far as modern music, there are tons of bands that I love. Some of it has had a profound influence on my songwriting and general aesthetic. Lungfish, Low, Unwound, Stereolab, Electrelane, Butthole Surfers, and too many others to list. Anyway - that's where my dynamic is rooted. Not sure if that's what you were asking about?
Nicole: I also had a "serious punk rock" background. All I wanted in my early teens was to be a U.K. 80's punk rocker, but I was an American and it was already the 90's. I seemed to have made it a point to stay away from anything with the brand "alternative music" on it for quite a long time which kept me from a lot of decent and probably formative material. The country classics, rockabilly roots, and 70's rock are staples of course, but I do still love the rock n roll. Currently I think different metal and experimental rock genres keep my lust for speed quenched. I love soul music though. Period.
Slim: Our common interests keep us bonded, while our differences allow us to grow. D.H. brings a great ear and eye for composition, and has a knack for dialing up guttural yet beautiful tones! He has a laid back demeanor, but can find an overdrive gear when it's party time. Nico is a talented player with a great voice and a love for all things heavy. What more could you ask for? She's turned out to be a real champ in my book. Not to mention her social butterfly status and what band doesn't need one of those.
Dan: Myself, I try to bring a cohesiveness both in tone and rhythm, and think we sound best when it's loose but kept in check. Knowing when to hit hard and when to let up. I would also be considered the troglodyte and night owl of the group.
Scene Point Blank: What influences the band's music (Other musicians? Books? Movies? etc.)?
Dan: Influence comes from all over, naturally. Books for sure, I've read a lot of Cormac McCarthy. Larry Brown is another author I thoroughly enjoy. And Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry - epic novels are something I love. I am currently reading In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. It's non-fiction about the whale ship Essex, which was destroyed by a whale, leaving the crew on small whaleboats, only to survive by eating each other. Gruesome. I like my reading to be dark. Art inspires me a lot. And antiques. Patina. I love early American decorative arts. It's an area of focus I dived into headfirst while in Boston. Its all stuff I had paid attention to before, but really started devouring while in the northeast. I also love to hear new bands and see live music. I always walk away with some inspiration.
Slim: For me it would have to be cinema. Movie scores have always been my favorite and the use/placement of sound F/X. Bands worth noting include ZZ Top, Sonic Youth, and the Butthole Surfers. I may wear boots and be from the great state of Texas, but I've never been a big country fan. Life experiences play a big role as well, whether it's remembrance or escapism.
Scene Point Blank: Is there a main songwriter? How about lyrics?
Dan: I write most everything. But if Nicole is going to sing a song, I feel like she should write the lyrics. And she has come up with some monstrous riffs that we are playing around with now. This is just how I have always done it. I am not opposed to jamming and coming up with stuff, but there is something about walking into the room with a song ready to go, and working it out as a band. Seems to move a bit faster and feels like "ok….this is a song"
Scene Point Blank: How long did the writing of the record take?
Dan: I was in Boston for two years. During that time I did not have a band. So when I had three or four songs worked up, I would set up my eight track and drum machine and all that junk and spend a couple of days recording it. It made an enormous mess in my tiny apartment, making it difficult to live, so I would get it all cleaned up and put away as quickly as possible. I did this a couple of times in those two years. I ended up with a nice little batch of songs, about half of which became True Widow songs. The others came as we were getting to know each other, once the band was together. The songs I recorded changed a bit from their initial personality, but the core was there. And the overall sound had been established. Once the band was together the sound transformed slightly to what you hear now. Mainly things slowed down. I think we were together for six months or so and had played a couple of shows before we went to the real studio. Which was in May of 2008.