True Widow tumbled out from the heart of Texas with a knack for the reverberatory arts. Their ‘stonegaze’ sound, as some call it, sounds a bit like a cool soothing rockslide. Their newest album—the improbably titled As High As the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth—was released on Kemado and they will play the New Weird America Fest this Saturday at Nomad. Win tickets here! They speak to us from deep within a mineshaft somewhere in the land that cellular service forgot. This interview by Matt Dupree.
I know people want to know how you came up with the band name, but I’m not going to ask that. How’d you get the name Slim?
Slim Starks (drums): That’s older than the band name! I used to run around with a guy named Richard, when we were like, 15 or something. This really close friend of mine, who still has this habit of nicknaming everybody, he dubbed us as Rico and Slim. So we ran around as Rico and Slim and it just evolved from that. That was when I started getting into rock music, so everybody that met me knew me as Slim. The same guy that gave me the nickname, we’ve got a screenprinting business that’s been going since ’99. Everybody that’s met me via that’s known me as Slim. It’s just stuck. When we started doing press releases and all that shit for Kemado, it was just one of those things. They all knew me as Slim.
What’s your given name?
Timothy! Yeah, how bout that? But we’re all fans of nicknames. Nicknames are a part of life. We’ve all got ‘em—different nicknames for different situations. Like if I get too drunk, and I’m fin’ to get agro, they call me ‘Slam.’ Nicole’s got an alter-ego named ‘Lala’ when she’s loaded. Dan’s got a few alter-egos, depending on what kind of intake he’s on. Keeps it fresh! And who wants to be calling somebody’s name all the time, anyway? Like, my parents call me that. I collect all sorts of nicknames. My friend from L.A. came to visit me at the print shop I live at—it has the business and everything, it’s all in the same warehouse. I never really go out much when I’m home. They dubbed me the ‘Print Troll.’ So I’ve got that. I’ve got ‘Wizard’ from a few people.
Is that the beard?
The beard, the hair. I don’t know—I like magic!
You guys got a pretty sick write-up in Pitchfork. Did you feel suddenly more legitimate the day afterward?
Hell no! We weren’t expecting anything like that, or at least that kind of attention that fast. But it doesn’t really have any bearing on us either way, man. This is our little pet project. It’s more about what we wanna do and how we feel about shit than how people are responding to it. But fortunately people have been responding to it good, so we’re able to get out and play this shit live and come see you guys!
You’re gonna be playing with some pretty heavy acts. Is that unusual for you?
We’ve been fortunate that we’ve really been able to mix it up. We’ve done heavy shows before—our buddies Saviours, we played with them a few times on some really heavy lineups. And we’ve done shows with MV & EE, who are really mellow stuff. So we’re kinda all over the place. It’s a blessing and a curse as far as that goes. But it’s been really cool, man—we don’t get stuck listening to the same type of opening bands everywhere we go. Seems like everyone who’s putting these shows together has a different idea of what they think would be the best thing for us. It’s been pretty cool to just sit back and see how it plays out, you know? Sometimes people are WAY fuckin’ off, but usually it makes for a good night.
Is that because some people think you’re a drone act that’s slower? And others think you’re more of a shoegaze act with crazy, sludgy riffs?
That’s the sense I get. They go for one or the other—there’s no middle. When we go home we try and mix it up. We’ll have a guy open a show that does old bluegrass—mountain music—and then have a metal band play after him and then kinda bring it back down at the end of the night. It’s just fun to mix it up. A lot of bands don’t have that, or aren’t afforded that opportunity. And the coolest thing is that we in the band all have our own taste in music, although we all appreciate a lot of different shit. For some reason, with the True Widow project, we’ve all been able to play with bands that we’ve admired in the past of all different sounds. Every night, at least one of us is stoked on who we’re playing with.
Have you gotten really good at nodding along to people trying to explain your music to you?
Ha ha—yeah, I’m pretty much to that point now. It didn’t get like that on the first record, but there wasn’t nearly the attention. Honestly, certain stories get run and re-run and … yeah, so… you just get to that point. But it is cool to listen to people just take the time to vocalize their thoughts. Some people will surprise you—you might get turned on to a new band. I’ve listened to so many bands now because people thought we sounded like them. Bands that I’d heard of but never listened to, so we’ve actually found some cool music that way. It has gotten a little weary, just because it seems like there are lot of people that are adamant in their opinions on True Widow. If they don’t like it, it’s the worst thing ever. If they do like it, its because it reminds them of a mashup of these two favorite things or whatever.
It’s like a Rorschach test.
Yeah—looking back at yourself.
Or an exercise in poetically describing a sound.
Yeah—the gauge of the strings and the hotness of everything. There’s definitely been some of that surrounding us. It’s fun to see where people go with that. Most of the stuff is detuned to some degree, so its pretty loose and sludgy sounding. Live it’s even more so than the record. There’s no filters there—it’s just raw. But none of us take it that seriously. When we see people getting amped up about little things like you’re talking about its like, ‘Really? I turned a knob on a string. That’s all I did.’ But that person had a deep connection with the music that allowed their mind to wander and go to deep places. On that level, I think its pretty cool when people start to rant about little things. It’s like ‘Wow.’ Part of me thinks you gotta have something better to do but part of me is like it must’ve really struck a chord. There’s been a lot of questions about tuning. A lot of questions about the song ‘Skull Eyes.’ The beginning of ‘Skull Eyes’ is actually a guitar. Everybody just assumes it’s a bass when they review the song just because it’s so heavy. Then when they find out its not a bass but a guitar they really freak out. Especially if they were already interested in the specifics of all that, then they really go apeshit. Its weird—it’s not like we’re in some mad scientist’s lab creating this shit. It’s way more haphazard. Get ripped and see what we can put together that might not or shouldn’t go together, and then if it works try and do something with it. We let shit fall where it does. Then after the fact you get all these inquiries: ‘What were you doing to make this sound?’ I don’t know, man, it’s the only pedal we had! We only had one cord, so we couldn’t plug anything else in! No grand plan there!
Speaking of grandeur, you came up with possibly the most epic title for an album… ever.
Yeah, it’s pretty beastly. We all have a light side and a serious side. That album title resonated for all of us on both levels. Part of it was there was a genuine interest in what that title means and how it works toward what we were trying to do with this record. Aside from that, it’s just been a blast seeing how people respond to it. All the press shit having to type it out over and over, its almost become comical.
Is this another example of you guys going with your instinct and getting a really unexpected response?
People can research it and find out what it means or just take it for what it is. A lot of people think its just another inside joke, which we do have a few of, but that’s our style. It’s cool, it has meaning, and it makes us laugh. I don’t think we’re going to win any awards for longest album title, though.
You’re gonna be playing with Red Sparowes—I think they’ve got you beat on length.
That lineup is killer! We’ve got friends in Night Horse. We’re looking forward to partying with them. California’s been really tough to get to, which is why we were glad when this show came around. We’ve got a lot of friends out there through the band so we were just happy to get a chance to come out and see everybody even though we weren’t going to be doing a bunch of shows. It’s looking like we’re gonna be pretty busy for the next year. And where we’re at with the band, we really just want to get it out in front of people, you know? That’s making itself a reality, so we’re just gonna roll with that and see what happens.
L.A. RECORD PRESENTS TRUE WIDOW WITH RED SPAROWES, NIGHT HORSE, RADIO MOSCOW, THE FUCKING WRATH, IDES OF GEMINI AND SPECIAL GUESTS ON SAT., JULY 2, AT NOMAD GALLERY, 1993 BLAKE AVE., LOS ANGELES. 2 PM / $10. TEEPEERECORDS.COM. WIN TICKETS AND A SPECIAL TEE PEE VINYL PACK HERE OR BUY TICKETS HERE.