Widowspeak Move Upstate and Find Their ‘Frasier’ Moment on ‘All Yours’
They signed the lease on a "hobbit hole" near the woods in the middle of a blizzard
Molly Hamilton wrote “Girls” — a lazy tire-swing sing-along off of All Yours, the upcoming third album from dreamy country-folk duo Widowspeak — while huddled around a space heater in the middle of winter. It was cold in the drafty upstate New York house that she shares with bandmate Robert Earl Thomas, and she was all alone, whisper-singing as she usually does. The former city slicker doesn’t remember if she had a few Bud Light Limes; she does remember the thrilling possibility of being able to scream, if she wanted to, without anyone to hear her. “That’s the weirdest thing about having moved upstate: how much time I actually get now, and how much space,” the onetime Bushwick resident tells SPIN of their new semi-rural home in the Hudson River Valley. “I remember [in Brooklyn] waiting for all my roommates to leave so I could play music, because I was afraid of them hearing me through the walls.”
Hamilton and Thomas originally started thinking about moving to, ahem, greener pastures while working on their last full-length — 2013’s vintage-tinted Almanac — and last year’s conceptual foray into back porch blues, The Swamps EP. “We were spending steadily more time up there,” says Hamilton. “Then it got to the point where I’d look at Craigslist and I was like, ‘I want a little cabin in the woods.'” Three hours of driving in the middle of a snowstorm later, they had arrived at a “weird, quirky, kind of hobbit-hole type of cottage house.” They signed a lease immediately.
All Yours, Widowspeak’s most relaxed and consistent album, is the product of that move: Hamilton and Thomas smelling the pine needles and hearing the crickets, kicking off their shoes, and settling into the town of Saugerties’ languid afternoons and chilly evenings. They no longer had to cope with the stress of writing songs around past bandmates’ whims and random practice hours. Even though they invited city friends over to carry out some percussion and rhythm duties — and trekked back to the city to record vocals in Brooklyn studios — the majority of All Yours was written by just the two of them after relocating, and it truly reflects their new surroundings. That dusty tumbleweed of a harmonica that blows through “Girls” right after the vaguely “Just Dropped In” guitar riff? “We went through every instrument in the house being like, ‘What can we add to the song… How about a harmonica?'” says Thomas.
Contrary to the laissez faire recording style implied by that anecdote, All Yours is Widowspeak’s most deliberate effort. Hamilton — who writes lyrics on all the songs but one — wanted to say something a little more true to herself and their situation this time around. “With Almanac and [The] Swamps, we were taking an idea and then taking things from my life and saying, ‘This fits here. I already wrote these lyrics, but I can add different instruments or change it a little bit,'” she says. “This is more writing songs about what we’re thinking.”
Many of those thoughts revolve around what they left behind. Though both she and Thomas are quick to acknowledge love for their friends in the city, and venues like Bushwick burrito joint Don Pedro — from which they moved on to headline 600-capacity venues — they admit just as readily that they don’t miss life in Brooklyn. The title track, with its almost jarringly close-mic’d snare counteracted by Hamilton’s gentle coo, acknowledges these feelings. “The things that you think are important when you live in the city are all yours,” she explains to SPIN. Continuing in almost lyrical cadence, she adds, “We don’t care, but we’re not angry about it either. You take what you want, I’ll take what I want.”
Thomas sums it up more succinctly: “It’s kind of like when Frasier moves to Seattle and then he tries to hang out with Woody Harrelson and he’s like, ‘We don’t have anything in common anymore.'”