At last year's Fun Fun Fun Fest I sat down with Evan Patterson of Young Widows to discuss the band's sleeper hit Old Wounds. Patterson opened up about his love of post-punk and minimalism and some of the ideas that went into the album's sound and the band's live set-up.
I found it interesting that [in 2008] our end of the year list contained Geoff Rickly's top albums. Old Wounds was his top choice.
Yeah. Is this the first time you've heard about this?
Actually, it's interesting. When the record came out, before it came out, he got a copy. He e-mailed me, one of the first people to e-mail me [back], and said some of the nicest things, like, "I really like this record...This is the first time in a while a record has come out and it has been really inspiring to me to keep on playing music." All this great stuff. It was nice to do that and then tour [with them]. We had to cancel half way through though.
I heard about that.
A friend died back home. It was a bummer to leave those guys. They're going through a really weird time with their band. I kind of hope they keep on going and reinvent themselves in a way.
What do you think about them bringing on you guys and a band like La Dispute? Then there was the whole Diatro thing. It seems like Geoff has always been a huge supporter of the underground.
Of course man. He's got his head in the right place. Every time I've ever talked to him [pause] I actually first met him when I was in an old band The National Acrobat, and we played this festival together. There was probably about 30 people there. It was real early on for Thursday. Since then, those guys have always been extremely supportive of everything I've been behind. It's been nice.
I do want to talk about Old Wounds. Though there is this cohesiveness behind it, I think the pull is this old [pause] what's the best way to describe it [pause] punk...
I was hoping you were going to say that - punk.
Yeah, but it also has this throwback rock and roll to it as well. I don't want to say it's punk, because I feel like there's an influence much more across the board with it.
I'm a really big fan of post-punk music. The old Wire and Gang of Four. Even Devo. I appreciate classic rock, but more groove oriented music across the board. That's the music I've always identified with. That's what I kind of wanted to do, was to incorporate heavy rock with punk music and not have it be cheesy. At times, I wish I could stray from how dark it is, but I guess it comes out that way.
I don't think it's that dark and atonal. I think there's a lot of build to the record. There's "Took a Turn" which builds into "Old Skin." Then there's kind of the simple "The Guitar." So that groove was something you were going for coming off Settle Down City?
Of course man. "Guitar" was something I wanted to do on my own that was super minimal. Just guitar. I was working on the lyrics in the studio and I decided this was a song that was astray from everything we were doing. I'm into the whole minimal idea. I feel like a lot of bands get ahead of themselves. At times, when you keep things simple and just focus on certain ideas, it comes across bigger and more direct. [Some of the bands] we tour with, they just try to play themselves. They try to play these parts and these guitar riffs and try to hold on to these songs. The whole point is to play the song right. Most of our songs are based off of a mood when we're writing. That was a big, interesting aspect of "Guitar." It's kind of actually the way we're going more with our new songs.
As much as it's a throwback musically, but also a throwback lyrically. I'm not sure if that ties into the album title of Old Wounds.
Actually, my original idea [pause] when we start writing records, I always think of these concepts and then we get like six or seven songs, the concept seems boring to me. Originally, I was like, "This is a coming of age record." I was married and I recently got divorced. All of these things were just hitting me really hard. I just saw this progression in my life and my relationship with my family and friends just changing rapidly. The whole idea was to dwell on that concept. I'm still very into that idea that things should be very simple and direct. The idea of drilling something into someone's head. I think a lot of people don't do that. They'll have all these lyrics and have this song and have no idea and just hooks.
Do you think there's anything wrong with being catchy?
Not at all. To me, being catchy doesn't necessarily mean poppy. I think pop has a lot of melody. You can be catchy without all the melody. You can have a song without any of the elements of pop music and hear it one time and [still come back to it] with all the sounds and lyrics and whatever.
I also want to talk a bit about the live show. The first time I saw Young Widows, I was blown away by the rig set-up. My first question to that is what was the original idea behind the set-up? Secondly, why switch them up with the smaller set-up now?
When we first started, we had eight cabinets., six heads, and it was a bit much to tour with. We're just trying to downsize. The whole idea was mono recordings when it went to stereo. Everything was still mono, they were just panning it out with multi-tracks. It's like, if we put mono on the left and mono on the right, then we have stereo. I'm still into that whole idea. The new cabs are basically the same as the six cabinets. We just sort of downsized the speakers. I think sometimes we came across a little loud.
I was thinking that was kind of the point of it.
It was. Even still now, people are like, "That was the loudest thing I've ever heard." It's kind of rewarding because I wonder if it's putting out enough sound. They definitely are.
What was the idea behind recording the four 7" records?
We recorded fifteen songs, and there was four left over. We never really write a record in sequence. We just write a bunch of songs. We always like to have 11 songs on our records. It's a weird obsessive thing. The four extra songs, we tried to decide what to do with them after recording. We decided on the split series. We asked Pelican who are good friends of ours. Bonnie "Prince" Billy was into doing it. Then Melt-Banana, who is playing tonight, which I haven't seen in about five years. Then My Disco, who's probably my favorite band right now.
What do you think of the post-punk genre right now? The whole post-hardcore thing and where it stands?
That's something I struggle with, the ideals of that. At times I'm like, "Man, am I still with something that's been going on for 30 years now plus?" It's what I want to do artistically. I just write it. It's not something I'm really concerned about. If people don't like us in a year, that's fine. If more people like us in a year, that's fine too.