Texas three-piece True Widow’s loud and heavy drawl
True Widow might be the least Texas-sounding band to come out of Texas. The three-piece’s glacial aesthetic, along with echoed vocals that sound like they’d leave frozen molecules in the air, recall the gray haze of Manchester rather than the humid climes of Dallas.
“A lot of the heaviness people associate with our shows and the newer albums wasn’t conscious,” says True Widow drummer Timothy “Slim” Starks in a slight Southern drawl. Although he does admit that his Big D upbringing was a little more traditional, “For me personally, it was a lot of classic rock and country.”
For Starks and his band mates—guitarist-vocalist Dan Phillips and bassist-vocalist Nicole Estill—it has been about pleasing themselves first, which has led to them even coining their own genre: “stonegaze.” It just so happens that over the course of two full-lengths, True Widow has also taken a lot of listeners captive. The band’s sophomore LP, the equally heavy titled As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth, contains guitars that are down-tuned to unfathomable, almost uncomfortable, depths.
True Widow didn’t happen overnight. In fact, much of the band’s sound could be attributed to Phillips’ two-year stint in Massachusetts after the break up of his previous band, Slowride. It was there that he began writing new material, most of which was evolving into slower compositions. Phillips moved back to Texas and hooked up with Starks and Estill, and the three continued to painstakingly work on the songs in an old warehouse outside of Dallas. The humor in the band’s gradual evolution is not lost on Starks.
“It might be slow paced, and people do make jokes about that,” he says, “but it works for us. It was basically a lot of rainy Sundays smoking weed and tuning guitars weird.”
Those rocket-engine guitars are met with fragile dual vocal harmonies from Phillips and Estill. But the concoction doesn’t spell doom. There are also melodies throughout the record that are sure to keep songs embedded in ears and nervous systems off balance. True Widow’s years of holing up in that space are captured perfectly on the first single from As High, “Skull Eyes,” a song that could be likened to making love on a bed of basalt.
Things get even louder and heavier live (I imagine True Widow is not advised for those with heart conditions)—and it sounds like the experience is just as mind-congealing for the members as it is for audiences. It’s all about creating mood—albeit a dark and occasionally menacing one.
“There are nights where I feel closer to Nicole and Dan when a song connects,” Starks explains, saying the effect on listeners is an unintentional byproduct. “We’ve unexpectedly connected with so many people around the country and all over the world.”
True Widow already has a European tour under its belt, and the band continues to play across the U.S., most recently opening for Kurt Vile. Touring has put off recording new material, although there are songs in the works, and a few are already getting some live play. Who knows, maybe by the time this tour wraps up, the newer songs will sound completely different. Starks says the band is currently toying around with four or five different tunings, although a sixth is not completely out of the question.
“You want [the music] to be something you’re proud of and shit, but if you’re not having fun then what’s the point, you know?”