You Can Become Something Else: An Interview With Young Widows

Posted by: Necci – May 07, 2012


Young Widows is a post-hardcore band out of Louisville, KY, who have been gathering an increasing following since the mid 2000’s. Their sound brings to mind bands like The Jesus Lizard and Shellac, but they use their limited instrumentation to create a distinct feel. When you hear a Young Widows song, you know it’s a Young Widows song.

They debuted with the heavy, “kick-your-dick-off” album Settle Down City, which garnered much critical acclaim and laid the path for 2008’s Old Wounds. This followup kept the same intense vibe, and brought the band more attention. I didn’t get a chance to see the Young Widows on their Old Wounds tour, but caught them a year ago at Strange Matter, after the release of their latest album, In And Out Of Youth And Lightness, which differs greatly in style from their previous two albums. Lightness focuses more on the softer and more minimal side of the band, which left some fans disappointed. There is a definite emotional weight to the record, which is likely due to personal circumstances – guitarist/vocalist Evan Patterson had just gone through a divorce at the time of recording. This year’s annual Young Widows appearance, at Strange Matter on April 24, was not as somber as last year’s, however, with the band playing several new songs that seemed to go back to their heavier roots.

I stuck around after the show to see if I could get a word from the Young Widows guys, and ended up talking with Evan Patterson. I stupidly forgot to record the first 5 minutes of the interview, while we were discussing the difference between their latest release, In And Out Of Youth And Lightness, and their previous releases, so here it is from T+5min:

Photo by Wade Gosselin

EVAN: In And Out Of Youth And Lightness was a heavy record emotionally, and I’m in a place now where I’m not in a heavy place emotionally. I’m ready to make music that’s a little more fun, and a little more enjoyable, because honestly, playing those songs is not enjoyable for me sometimes. I don’t like to think about that shit I went through, and I don’t like to play [those songs] in front of all of these [people] every night. So, turn the page.

There’s definitely a lot more emotion from Lightness. Are you trying to get back to the aggressive side?

EVAN: I wouldn’t say I’m trying, it’s just naturally happening. I’m not going to force anything ever with music; it’s just going to be what I want to do, all the time. Music’s kind of a self-absorbed thing, really, especially songwriting.

So, it’s been a year. What have you been busy with the past year?

EVAN: Well, Nick, our bass player, had a baby, that’s a really special thing. He’s raising a child and we’re practicing twice a week. [We] did this nine day tour, [we'll] probably do a couple more shows. The band’s going to exist, but we don’t have a plan, we don’t have a goal. It’s not really about seeing how it goes – it’s going to go. If it’s bad one night, it doesn’t matter, because we’re going to do the thing we always do, and it’s just going to go. I’m over the idea of bands breaking up or having too busy of a lifestyle to make the band function or tour. It’s like at this point, you let things happen the way they’re naturally going to happen. If we’re too busy – obviously we’ve got babies, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and jobs – we take a break.

It’s not about how many shows you play, it’s more about what you're doing. It’s more of an event when a band comes through, when they haven’t played here in a year. It makes it more of a special occasion. It’s like... so-and-so is coming through a town four times a year. They’re great, but it’s like, "If they play here four times a year why should I go see them? I’ll see them next time."

I mean, you did come back on almost the same day.

EVAN: You know, I had this vision when I was a lot younger, and I was like, we should just do a tour, every year, in the same dates in the same cities, just be like a one year anniversary show.

Photo by Will DeShazer

I hate to ask this question, but I have to: influences?

EVAN: Who do I admire? It’s such a broad world of music that influences me. I was raised on classic rock and The Beatles, then my brother got me into punk rock, and I was raised on punk rock. Then the more I listen to punk the more I got into the dissonant world of hardcore. Not really metal, but bands that were post-metal, but doing this aggressive thing that was void of theory of music. And now the more it goes on, I’m discovering these artists from the 60’s and 70’s. Like right now, the world of music, and the vinyl world, I think is the best it’s ever has been. There’s all these reissues, all these things coming out, and I’m taking that all in. I hear Serge Gainsbourg’s records and I’m like, "This is amazing to me. This was made in the 60’s?" Or you hear a Tangerine Dream record, and you're like, "How can anyone even attempt to make music like this?" So you know, these current artists like Nick Cave, Bill Callahan, and Leonard Cohen; and My Disco, who we take on tour; they’re a huge influence on me. The whole idea of influences isn’t a specific thing anymore. You work within your boundaries. You know, we’re a three piece band – bass, guitar, and drums. So that’s what we have to work with. That’s not necessarily what I’m influenced by, but that’s what we can use to make this music. Within rock music, the rhythm section is, to me, the most important thing that exists. So I don’t know. It’s such a hard question to answer.

Sorry, I had to ask. But I mean, what are you listening to lately?

EVAN: Right now, I listen to The Pretty Things and the Troggs, and you know, like, not a lot of modern music. Because when I listen to those artists, I hear a lot of real sincerity. Their influences are so limited – there hadn’t been much rock music up to that point. They might have like, The Rolling Stones, or The Beatles, or a couple other rock bands that are influencing them, [but] they’re out there trying to make something new. And they turn these songs into amazing pieces of music that are just a good time to listen to.

Photo by Jay Moffatt

So you appreciate originality in the songwriting?

EVAN: That’s really mostly all I appreciate. I think that’s why my influences are constantly going to be changing. I’m not about hearing the perfect melody, or the perfect pop song. I want to hear something that I’ve never heard before.

That’s what I’ve always said!

EVAN: Yeah, like, regardless of who’s making it, or where it’s coming from. I just heard this record by this band called Demon Fuzz, from London in the 70s. They were an all-African band, and I listen to that record all the time. And that just got reissued on vinyl. Otherwise I would’ve never heard it. But you know, other days I’m listening to Leon Russell. It’s all over the place.

But do you enjoy other acts that are similar in genre to you?

EVAN: Yeah, of course, I mean, I love Swans, and I loved Jesus Lizard at one point. That’s a really hard thing for us, because I always try to think of bands we could take on tour, or bands we could go out with. But there’s pretention to modern music. Even bands that I like, like A Place To Bury Strangers – they’re a great band, but there’s always a pretention to everything. Someone might listen to us and think I’d rather listen to Swans, or Jesus Lizard, or I’d rather listen to… fucking Danzig, I don’t know. [laughs] I don’t know what people want to listen to when they hear us.

Photo by Greg Daniels

Obviously everyone was here tonight to see you. You seem to do be doing well.

EVAN: Of course. I mean, regardless of doing well, man, it’s what I’m going to do. It’s what I’ve done since I was 16, and I love every second of it. You know, I drove through horrible traffic all day, personally drove through it, and got here, and we’re like, “Got an hour before the show’s going to start – let’s go to a record store.” That’s what I want to do. I want to buy music, I want to create music, I want to listen to music. It’s the form of art that I find extremely relaxing, and that’s more or less what it is. It’s a relaxing state of mind in a place where you kind of get an out of body experience, more so than art. With art you have to keep your eyes open and look at it. Music, you can close your eyes, and forget where you are. You can become something else, and be somewhere else, so easily… it’s pretty important .

Very well said. I will definitely quote that. [laughs]

EVAN: I’m just ranting at this point. so whatever you quote, I’m totally fine with it. I back it all up 100%. 110%.

I’ll quote that too.

EVAN: 110%. I’ll back it up.


By Will Hooper