Dream pop duo pays homage to the ’70s with pastoral imagery and matching jackets
On TLC’s ’90s anthem “Waterfalls” the fearless lady trio preaches, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.”
But when it came to Widowspeak’s sophomore LP, Almanac, release in January, the Brooklyn, N.Y. dream pop duo made the bold decision to ignore that advice.
The band chose to feature a photograph of a waterfall on the cover, not solely for its beauty, but because it provides thematic and geographical context to the album, which was recorded in a 100-year-old barn in the Hudson River Valley in New York State.
“That waterfall flows from Lake Minnewaska,” explains guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Robert Earl Thomas. “It’s called the Awosting Falls, and it’s 15 minutes from where we recorded the record.”
Thomas continues, “Molly and I actually visited the state park when we visited the studio, like two months before we made the record. We knew we wanted to do some sort of outdoor, pastoral, us-in-nature kind of setting for the cover—inspired by a lot of ’70s folk records—and then we came across the waterfall.”
He recalls his first impressions of Awosting: “When we originally saw it, it was just a little trickle … and when we came back to shoot the cover, it was totally full because it had rained so much the week before, so it had worked out perfectly. I guess we wanted to aesthetically reference the things we were talking about, [plus] the record is about the whole experience of making it and being there—that’s a huge part of the record—so to have the artwork correspond geographically to where we made the record was important.”
Regardless of where Widowspeak fans live, they’ll feel connected to Minnewaska State Park after listening to Almanac, which is brimming with first-hand field recordings—sounds of dogs, coyotes, crickets, rain and footsteps, etc.—built in throughout the well-organized 12 tracks.
“That’s authentic,” reveals vocalist/guitarist Molly Hamilton. “A lot of that was just stuff we were recording on our phones … we just kind of chose moments on the record where we thought [the recordings] fit the narrative and the story arc.”
Thomas adds, “When we made the record, we knew that ‘Perennials’ was going to be the opening track, we kind of knew that ‘Ballad of the Golden Hour’ was going to be like a centerpiece, and we knew that ‘Storm King’ would be [at] the end. I think the yelping and the coyotes just sort of thematically went with the ending; ‘Storm King’ is kind of about the end of the world, or the end of an era, or the end of something.”
Santa Cruzans will have the opportunity to hear all those tracks and more when the band hits The Crepe Place on April 1. Donning white satin jackets with their names embroidered on the front and “Widowspeak Tour 2013” on the back, the duo and their backing “Almanac Band”—Kyle Clairmont Jacques (drums), Willy Muse (bass) and Dylan Treleven (Wurlitzer/guitar)—will be hard to miss.
It’s a straightforward and sentimental fashion statement, according to Hamilton: “We were thinking about how this is our first big U.S. tour, and the way that it’s sandwiched, it’s right before a Europe tour. It just felt kind of like a big event, so we wanted to make commemorative jackets, just like ’70s rock bands had … even though it’s dramatic, it’s just kind of a really cool idea to have this gang roving the roads of America with matching jackets.”
“Yeah, but it also plays into the band too,” adds Thomas. “We had to do the record just the two of us [with co-producer Kevin McMahon], and now we’re finally able to settle into having the whole band play whole songs now … I think we’re all excited to play all these dates and come out a super tight live band [that] can read each other’s thoughts.”
Widowspeak performs at 9 p.m. Monday, April 1 at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 429-6994.