Widowspeak talk about Migration, Regional Inspiration and Their new Record, “All Yours”

photo: Shawn Brackbill
photo: Shawn Brackbill

The dreamy soundscapes present on Widowspeak’s new record, All Yours, smack of the inescapable serenity of the Hudson Valley. The sounds bring to life rippling streams, weeds swaying in the wind among lazy stone-filled river banks and the faint glimmer of the Hudson during a dying sunset. All Yours was recorded in the Hudson Valley and generally reflects the cutesy hamlet situated just north of a chaotic metropolis, but Widowspeak is known for soaking up other regional inspiration like a sponge. They ensnared the roots-tinged Americana of the southeast on Swampsan EP inspired by evergreen marshlands and other native flora they encountered while on tour.

The band recently left Brooklyn for the Hudson Valley, swapping in the deluge of metro card swipes and sixty-hour work weeks for the unflappable calm of suburbia, but feel they’re indebted to the Brooklyn scene that birthed them several years ago, even if it doesn’t exist in quite the same incarnation in present day.

Below, Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas open up about their newest record, All Yours, set to release this Friday. They expound on some of the more routine gripes that caused them to leave behind their former home and chart a new existence. The band is now surrounded by stability in both environmental and musical senses. Their words lend credence to the power of living life as a nomad, as they discuss the journey that’s led them from their native Tacoma, Washington to Brooklyn, and then finally the Hudson Valley.

Brooklyn Magazine: Why did you two relocate to Brooklyn and not another major city like LA, San Francisco or Chicago?

Molly Hamilton: We both ended up here because of school; Rob (and our first drummer Michael) both went to NYU, and I went to the New School for a short time.   It was initially just the college that drew me here, and I was actually pretty lukewarm about the city; I dropped out after a year and moved back to Tacoma for a spell because of how homesick I was. Eventually I decided to try it again, without school and living in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan dorms, and it felt like a completely different experience.  I felt like there was more community, and like it was more open, like my life had more potential there.

Robert Earl Thomas:  I grew up a dedicated urbanite in Chicago. I told my folks I wanted to go to NYU, but I really just wanted to move to New York City.  It seemed bigger, faster and wilder, all the cliche stuff.  In retrospective, I should’ve dropped the collegiate guise and just packed up and left.  At least that way I would’ve saved myself a mountain of debt. I ended up in Brooklyn because that’s what made sense.

Brooklyn Magazine: I read that Molly described your record Almanac as such: “Almanac is like moving into a big old house in the woods with sheets covering all the furniture, and then taking all the sheets off.” If either of you had to describe your new record in such a capacity, how would you do it?

Hamilton: I guess if we were running with the house analogy, I’d say All Yours is sort of like the house we’re renting upstate right now.  It’s comfortable, it has good light, it feels like home.  It’s got all our stuff in it, so it’s a reflection of where we are right now.

Thomas: Yup, All Yours is a house that’s lived in, not one thats explored and fetishized.

Brooklyn Magazine: I’ve also read that the American southeast provided a lot of inspiration, at least in a musical sense, for the songs on the Swamps EP. Where did you glean most of the musical ideas for your new record?

Hamilton: I think this record is definitely inspired by our time up here, in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley, but also by the places that I was before; there’s some Pacific Northwest in the there, and some Brooklyn too.  It’s kind of about making peace with leaving things behind, for better or worse.

Thomas: I don’t think All Yours is inspired so much by any specific place as it is by moving to and from places. It’s not about transition, but more the reflection that comes afterward.

Brooklyn Magazine: You guys kind of came up in a Brooklyn scene set against the backdrop of the Great Recession. How has that scene changed since then? Has it changed? Is there still even a potent local scene in your view?

Hamilton: I can’t forecast the future, especially since we’re up here for now, but things have definitely changed.  I loved my time in Brooklyn and our band wouldn’t have happened without it, mostly because we could physically live there, and because there was so much going on around us.  I know everyone in Brooklyn says it will always have artists and a music community, but I wonder about the sustainability of those things when housing is so expensive. I mean, we definitely got priced out; I also wasn’t willing to keep moving away from neighborhoods I was finally feeling at home in… So that’s part of it.  New York City will always have art and young people, but I think it will just move around to wherever the cheaper apartments are.  Because I feel like to have a band, or even just a recording project, you need at least some small amount of free time, at least some nights off work, and it’s hard to have those things when you’re working two jobs, 60+ hours a week to pay rent.

Brooklyn Magazine: You’ve gone through quite a few line up changes in a short amount of time. Are you comfortable with the two-piece line up as of now? Are you thinking about changing that?

Hamilton: Our live band actually includes a bassist (Willy Muse) and drummer (James Jano) that has been consistent for about two years, so at least on that end things are pretty stable.  We are definitely comfortable writing as a duo, but for shows I like having more dynamics to play around with.

Pre-order All Yours here.

Follow Sam Blum on Twitter @Blumnessmonster 



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