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an interview: Evan Patterson [Young Widows]

Interview: Tyler Hanan [2/18/11]

Evan Patterson, guitarist and vocalist of Young Widows, was kind enough to take the time to talk with me concerning their new album, In and Out of Youth and Lightness (out April 12th on Temporary Residence), the recording process, their upcoming tour, and many other things. After the jump, you can read the whole of the lengthy, informative talk.

Tyler Hanan: You and your band, Young Widows, have a new album coming out on April 12th, In and Out of Youth and Lightness. Why don’t you tell us about what direction you’ve taken with this album, because in the past you guys have made a point to try to expand beyond the bands you’re compared with. What approaches have you taken?

Evan Patterson: This record honestly is even a little bit more further so out onto our own. For the past couple years I’ve listened to less heavier music and to more classic rock, and more things beyond what I have been influenced by in the past. With this new record, it’s kind of more of an idea about setting a mood and writing a more cohesive piece than just making a bunch of songs that hold up on their own, if that makes any sense. Instead of like… each song has its own place on the record, even though we didn’t write it as a record… it came out great. It’s the most excited I’ve been about anything I’ve ever done.

TH: Last time, with Old Wounds, you had a recording process with Kurt from Converge where you mixed live recordings with studio ones. You decided to go a different route this time, getting Kevin Ratterman as your producer and going to The Funeral Home in Louisville. What can you tell us about that recording process? How was it compared to Old Wounds?

EP: Yeah, the recording… sorry, every time we record I generally have had issues with the recording or the process. Doing all the live stuff with Kurt, it was fun, but the process of getting to the studio… We did four live shows on the way to his studio, then picked out our favorite parts, we went through that. You know, it was an awesome process to do, but it was… you know, I’ve never heard of someone doing that for a proper album.

But, in the long run, it was extremely stressful. Now we’re at home, we haven’t been touring much, and Kevin is a guy I’ve known. One of my first band recorded with him when I was fifteen. I just knew our working relationship would be relaxed, we’d get some more time with the recording. His setup is great. He has a second floor of a funeral home, and there’s a huge porch outside. It almost felt more like of a vacation than it did working. When we were doing Old Wounds it was highly stressful, we were spending money ever day just being there. Here, we actually got to work our jobs and go there afterward, it was great. We actually took a long break in the middle of it.

Working with Kevin is really great because we got to experiment more with doing things in the studio. Like, there’s a lot of parts. Most of the record, I did two parts for almost every song. There’s a lower track, and a more regular track. I would normally sing a lot of doubles, for some parts I did even four or five vocal parts. We did acoustic overdubs for almost every song, and lots of drum doubling. We pretty much did everything we though we could do without completely having our studio album be completely different from the live show. But it was a great time, honestly I feel like just because we had such a good time, and what came out as the final outcome was so great, we’ll probably work with him again next time.

TH: You guys recorded seventeen songs?

EP: Yeah, we actually recorded seventeen, but two of them didn’t even get vocals, we only mixed thirteen. We had a really hard time figuring out the sequence, just because you almost get an attachment to a song you’ve had for so long. Three of the songs that didn’t end up being on the record we’ve been playing live for almost two years. But the newer stuff we’ve been writing, even the month beforehand, has been coming out better. I guess I wouldn’t say better, but just more in the direction we wanted to go. A lot of the newer songs were just coming out more our own.

That was the things, like I can sit and list an influence of a guitar part or an idea of a song that I was not necessarily ripping off another song, but I was more like, ‘Oh, I want to go this direction, I want to have like a Gang of Four mixed with a Joy Division song,’ or something like that. With the newer stuff, it was more natural. We would sit around our rehearsal space and just jam parts for a really long time, until they just kind of eventually made songs. Those were the ones we were more happy with.

TH: You have the nine songs on the record. Another one has been released with “Future Heart” as a single with Temporary Residence. Are there any plans to release the others as b-sides or singles?

EP: We keep toying around with the idea of doing a split series again, like we did with the last record. But I don’t know. We kind of felt like last time, Pelican, Melt Banana, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, was a huge highlight for me. My Disco, it was kind of their introduction to the label, and now Temporary Residence is working with them. But I have a couple long-shots that I want to ask, a couple artist.If we can get these favorite artists of mine to work with, then we’ll probably do the split series. But if we don’t, we’ll probably just hold onto them and do some random single probably in the future, or even just put out a collection somewhere down the line.

TH: Now you mentioned Temporary Residence, your label; they released Old Wounds as well. How has that experience been? I know you used to be on Jade Tree, and then with Breather Resist you were on Deathwish. How has your experience been on Temporary Residence compared to past experiences?

EP: Great. I mean, Jeremy [deVine], who runs the label, is from Louisville, where we’re from. It’s a very specific personality. Everyone’s kinda laid back, and a lot of the drama and business that goes along with music and doing bands… it doesn’t exist as much here. Everyone just kind of does their own thing, and it’s more based around the artistic side other than where you fit into things. And working with him has been great. Jade Tree is kind of losing their steam, and Deathwish was always more of a hardcore-specific label. Which was fine, at the time. But as you get older and as your song-writing expands, it’s been a pleasure to work with Jeremy, who puts out a wide variety of music, and not just focusing on one genre. He’s great, he’s actually in town right now. I’m working on some turnback submissions with him right now at my screen-printing shop. I have nothing but good things to say about him.

And working with Jade Tree was great as well, they just kind of… It hit them really hard when the digital revolution of music hit and record sales dropped. They couldn’t really handle that. The label was based around pop bands, more or less, like The Promise Ring, David Bazan, Pedro the Lion, Denali, all those bands that were selling probably 50-100 thousand records. When everything went digital, all those bands broke up. The label just kind of lost steam.

TH: After the record, your site says North American dates coming soon. Could you give us any hints or teasers as to when exactly it will be, dates, bands…?

EP: The end of April, we’re going to do a record release show here in town, then two weeks east coast. We’re taking out My Disco again. Then we’re taking a two week break and doing the west coast after that for about two weeks. It’s going to be My Disco and us, they’re going to be supporting us, and trying to get local bands. That’s kind of more of an issue for us, getting good local bands in every town, and not just having a promoter put on this band it thinks is going draw people because.. I don’t know. Because we want to bring out people we want to play with. You know, current musicians that are valid and making good music.

TH: What kind of setlist can we expect? I imagine it’s pretty heavy on the new stuff.

EP: That’s something we haven’t even talked about lately. The past couple shows we’ve played, we’ve just kind of been improv-ing the set, not writing a setlist and winging it, and it’s kind of gone all over the place. I really enjoyed that. We have a nice catalog of songs right now We’ve just been calling out the song after the song ends, so it’s kind of all up in the air. So far it’s pretty heavy on the new stuff, but we’ve actually gone back and tried to relearn a couple songs off Settle Down City. But our drummer [Jeremy McMonigle] he wasn’t on that record, so it’s kind of a weird process learning those songs.

I still look at that record as being a demo, ‘cause we recorded that before we even played a show, and that was my first attempt at even singing in a band. I’ve been playing guitar since I was thirteen, and I’d never sang in a band. I kind of just jumped into it. I feel now, finally, I’m much more confident and have a firmer grip on writing lyrics and putting vocals to music rather than when we first started, I had no clue. I was just winging it.

TH: You’ve said only good things about Louisville so far. Are you active in the scene there?

EP: Louisville’s such a small city that there’s not really much of a scene. I mean it’s so small. The group of people that care about independent music and our music scene is just… A really big show here is two hundred or three hundred people; that’s like everyone in town that gives a shit about anything we’re doing. At one point I was way more involved in shows and doing things like that.

At one point I was more involved than I am now with helping out with the scene and getting more people to come out to shows and that type of thing, but I reached a point. I feel like age, to a degree, it kind of gets out of your hands. You can only do so much. But we still play here often, and old friends, when they want to come through, I’ll do my best to set up a show for them. You know I work at the local screen-printing shop here, and we print for tons of bands, and we pretty much do every local band’s shirt. So that’s probably the most I can be involved anymore.

TH: That leads into my next question. Obviously, very few bands can live off of just being in a band. What are your lives like outside of the band, like jobs?

EP: Yeah, I screen-print, and it kind of funds me playing music because it’s an extremely laid-back job. And I’ve been lucky enough to have been doing this for almost eleven years, and I’ll just go on tour and come back and I’ll have a job. Nick’s a pharmacy tech, and he’s been doing that almost as long as I’ve been screen-printing. Our drummer actually, he works at Target. (laughs) He’s into the corporate thing. He hates the job, but somehow they’ve let him off for all his tours, and he just kinda sticks with it.

TH: Speaking of screen-printing, for the singles there were three different covers. Didn’t you do the work for that?

EP: Yeah, I screen-printed the covers. Actually, it’s just some of the art for the cover of the record we kinda took and modified, and I made three different covers. It was actually really convenient because I printed the sheets three up, so there were three different covers on each sheet. So I guess there were three different cover options. And then I printed them all, and we cut them individually. I had to individually score them and fold them. Actually, they’re sitting here right next to me, I gotta ship them out to be printer assembled. It’s one of those things. I always love when bands do any kind of limited art run. I’m not as much into colored vinyl as I once was, but I still love a limited cover.

TH: I was wondering as I looked at your records, the last ones, the covers are all weird faces. Is there a reason for that?

EP: It’s just kind of one of those things. I did art, you know I painted and sculpted and all that kind of thing throughout my entire childhood. I’ve always been into something very iconic, like a face. It’s traditional, like having a skull with the band art. I’ve always been into that concept of having something extremely bold that you can identify with and see anywhere. I’m kind of just riding that idea.

I have this vision of years down the line, looking at a collection of records and having them all look extremely cohesive, as part of a collection, other than just having every record be something different, a new idea. As a collector (I’m a huge vinyl collector) I love when bands have some sort of reflection of their last album or something that makes you connect with it more. You’re excited to see something that still along the same lines. You don’t see it and be like, ‘what is this new cover, it’s something completely unattractive, it doesn’t appeal to me.” So this way we can just have this idea and set the format for our entire history, which I think is exciting.

TH: I have just one more question. I like to ask bands what kind of music they themselves listen to, it’s something that is interesting to me. You mentioned earlier that you’re getting back into classic rock. What would you say appeals to you? What have you always been attracted to? What new music lately have you been listening to?

EP: It’s funny, in the past two years I’ve gotten way into Pink Floyd’s Animals, more than I have been. I listened to it years ago, when I was younger, but that was before I really could get a grip on musically what was going on because there was so much going on; the longer songs, and that whole style of guitar playing. I really have gotten way more into David Gilmore’s style of playing. I don’t think of him as a ‘rock guitar player,’ he’s just kind of a guy who knows when to play and how to set a mood. I listen to a lot of that era of 70’s rock. I just went to a guy’s house yesterday and bought the first Bee Gee’s record on vinyl, the second Judas Priest record. I’m way into rock and roll, like the first Judas Priest record.

And even when it comes to metal now-a-days, modern metal to me isn’t super-appealing. I haven’t heard a band in years that is doing something. Early Slayer, early Metallica, early Judas Priest, Black Sabbath records, those bands I feel just did it so well. At this point, unless you’re playing some new kind of metal… They just took it to this level that I don’t think anyone else has been able to take it to since then. So I listen to a lot of that.

I’m a huge Nick Cave fan. I’ve seen Grinderman on their past two tours. They’re great. You know, he’s a guy who just constantly puts out new music, regardless of what you expect him to do. You know, he starts a noisy rock band in between Bad Seeds records, they tour in between Bad Seeds tours. I think that’s great. Swans got back together in the past year, they put out a great record. Michael Deare, the last Angelo White records was one of my favorite records ever. There’s Bill Callahan, he did Smog, he put out a newer solo record last year, it was great. There’s a lot of newer music, but I guess a lot of the newer music I like is guys who’ve been playing music for a decade already.

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