At the moment, Widowspeak lead singer Molly Hamilton lives in a modest, comfortable flat in Greenpoint. But, like everyone else, she endured her fair share of Brooklyn housing nightmares before she got here. She recalls living in a tiny basement apartment with water bugs “the size of mice.” She once shared a three-story, one-bedroom loft with seven other people. At another place, holes in the ceiling invited a deluge of music and beer from upstairs neighbors. The idea of “privacy” was foreign: “I once heard a two-hour long conversation, word for word, of the guy next door breaking up with his girlfriend, or his girlfriend breaking up with him — it was definitely his girlfriend breaking up with him,” she says. “It’s not even muffled, it was literally like, ‘Wow, that was pretty messed up. You should not take her back.’”
Widowspeak just released their sophomore album, Almanac, and are about to embark on a three-month tour of Europe, but Hamilton was kind enough to show us around her place before they take off. It’s inspired in equal parts by her Tacoma, Washington, roots—a mounted deer’s head looms over the kitchen table—and ‘70s thrift store kitsch. Eat your heart out, Portlandia.
When did you first move to Brooklyn?
August 2008. I remember because I was gonna go to school again. I had just finished my second year of college, and I’d done one year in New York and one year back home in Washington, because I hated it when I lived here, and I hated being back home. So then I just moved back out here, because I didn’t want to move to a third place to wait it out and see if I wanted to go back to school. And then I didn’t end up going back.
What’s your favorite thing about the apartment?
Honestly, I like that there’s not a living room. I like how this kitchen’s kind of a communal space. I see my roommates sometimes, but I also like that it feels less cluttered and there’s less to keep clean. Only because I’m here a lot, and sometimes I’m gone for months on end, and it would be weird if I came back and it was like, ‘Oh, the roommates…” I’ve lived in so many different types of apartments. One time I lived in a loft with seven roommates, it was three stories; then I’ve lived in tiny apartments, and huge apartments, and I feel like this is the perfect medium.
What’s your least favorite thing?
The blue walls. We’ve been talking about painting them since we moved in. I just don’t like that color of blue. It’s really weird. We were thinking, ‘What color can we paint it?’ Because the floors are grey. I’ve only lived here for eight months, so it’s like, ‘Do I ever have time to do things like paint? Am I investing myself in the space?’ And that’s true of any New York apartment. You’re always wondering whether your rent is low enough to incite you to stay, or whether there’s a better space for that price, or whether you’re gonna be there to renew your lease or not. I’ve lived in a lot of different places. I’ve only lived in one for two years. But yeah, I think one day we’ll paint it.
What are the first three things you’d save in a fire?
It’s great because all the musical instruments are in our practice space, so I don’t have to necessarily worry about that. My notebook I would save. Just because…not that notebook, the notebook I had before, I left it in a car that had broken down in Montana. And they had to mail it to me. And I guess I’d say my computer, only because it’s a different type of notebook. I keep memos and stuff on there. I’ve had a computer stolen before, and it’s really devastating, when all of your music files—GarageBand stuff—and photos, and even just CD’s you’ve uploaded and they ended up breaking or getting scratched. All of your music library is gone. Even just little things, like weird things you saw on the internet and saved. I was always a collector. I had this breakable bird collection when I was a kid. Literally just thrift store figurines — I think that I like collecting things. But a lot of this stuff isn’t things that I brought from Washington, just because it was a hassle to bring suitcases on the plane full of chachkas. But I guess there’s a couple family photos I would save. There’s this photo of my family that I totally took out of my family album, and they probably don’t even care that it’s missing. It’s all of us wearing white denim; it’s very dated. But I really like that photo. I feel like that needs to survive.
There are quite a few saws on the wall.
It started because Kyle [Jacques, the drummer] was like, ‘Do you want a couple of these saws?’ and we lived right by a junk store, and my old roommate got a couple more of them. We had them on the wall in my last apartment, and then I acquired them. There’s a couple things in here that I’ve been carting around from apartment to apartment. It’s really hard to part with the littlest, weirdest things. Like that wooden duck. Why do I still have that wooden duck? I don’t know.
What’s your favorite room in the apartment, and your favorite time of day?
Molly: Well it is a small apartment, so I would say that my favorite room is my bedroom. In terms of a workspace, I don’t necessarily work on band songs in there. But it’s a really good space to focus on things. I like working on ideas there more than I like working on ideas in the practice space. I would say my favorite time of day is really late at night in the apartment. I like being in rooms at night. Morning is great, but let’s be real, I’m not really a morning person. There’s this joke when we’re touring that if I wake up, go to sleep, and wake up again, it’s called my ‘second wake-up.’ It’s when I’m being the most grouchy and curmudgeonly. But if I’m at my house, I don’t usually go back to sleep.
If you suddenly received a windfall of cash, what changes would you make to the apartment?
I would paint it green…I would leave [laughs]. No, I actually really do like this apartment. I moved here because it was cheap and I was moving out of my old place, but the actual layout of the apartment is cool, it’s just that the other two rooms are occupied. I think what I would do is rent the whole thing myself and have one of the rooms be more of an art studio. I have an easel, but I don’t really draw that much. If I actually had the space devoted to it, where I could get a big table, and some good lights, I think I would totally work on that again. New York apartments are not really conducive to that sort of thing, because everything is in a corner or has to be converted. Or I’d just acquire more chachkas—I’d just have a whole bunch of stuff and be a crazy old lady with all of her weird junk. I had a cat. Maybe I’d get another cat.
If you could move the house/block/neighborhood to another city, which one would it be and why?
This is Greenpoint, and I feel like Greenpoint belongs in Brooklyn, so I wouldn’t move that.
I think maybe if the apartment was in California, it’d be a cool beach flat with a big kitchen. Except instead of this stuff we’d have tiki stuff on the walls. Or maybe in Tokyo or something. A real city apartment.