Published Aug 19, 2008When metallic hardcore juggernauts Breather Resist parted ways with singer Steve Sidoni in late 2005, guitarist and songwriter Evan Patterson took up the mic and the band became Young Widows one week later. Ditching the boundaries of aggressive hardcore, and with Evan on vocals, Young Widows were more of a noisy indie rock band on debut Settle Down City. Their sophomore effort, Old Wounds, however, takes their evolution even further. Still built on slowed down, Jesus Lizard-inspired riffs and murky dynamics, Pattersons vocals are front-and-centre, leading the songs through their sludgy depths. Uniquely produced by Converges Kurt Ballou, the record mixes studio and live recording for a textured sound that matches studio fullness with live spontaneity. From the driving plod of "Took a Turn through to the heavy fuzz of "Lucky and Hardheaded, Nick Thienemans grubby, distorted bass works with Jeremy McMonigles hypnotic drumming to form the records backbone, leaving plenty of room for Pattersons commanding vocals and thoughtful guitar. The diversity between tracks is astounding, where songs like "21st Century Invention and "The Heat Is Here use melodies comparable to early Fugazi, while tracks like "Delay Your Pressure stay pissed off. Truly post-punk in its innovative approach to songwriting and production, Old Wounds is the sound of a band pressing forward without ignoring where they came from.
Did you change the way you write songs for Old Wounds?
Evan Patterson: With the new album, I wanted to use more of an organic approach to songwriting. I used verse-chorus-verse-chorus but I tried to do something really memorable. Ten or 30 years from now, I want to listen to it and it wont be dated. Thats one of the main goals of mine; I want someone to be able to listen to it and enjoy it for the rest of their lives, rather than, "Oh yeah, remember this hardcore record I used to like? There are very few punk records that come out today that I think will hold up to the test of the time, because I feel like its unexciting to hear the same drum parts, the same chords, the same vocal patterns, the same vocal style, the same melodies. Its always been important to me to not do stereotypical melodies.
Why did you decide to record some of the record live?
Im a huge fan of live recordings. A good live recording, in my opinion, always has more energy than a studio recording. Ive never heard a live record and said, "You know, I really wish they hadnt played that part as heavy as they did live. I love all the fuck-ups and all the characteristics of a live recording way more than this modern day, precise bullshit that were all listening to now. Its just lifeless to me. Its just really important to me to put something real on the record thats not slaved over, and have the live energy mixed together with the studio sound. People have asked me if its cohesive and the answer is yeah because we wanted it to be that way. Its not like it accidentally happened. It was a cool idea and we set out to do it and did. I think its the best recording Ive ever done. It has the most personality. There are fuck-ups on there and there are vocal bits I dont like but it has character and I really think that comes through.
Are you currently in any other bands?
Im actually in another band called Black Cross with my brother [Ryan Patterson]. We havent played in over a year and a friend in town asked if we wanted to play a show with them, so my brother, whos in Coliseum, just got back from Europe yesterday, and were practicing every day this week to play a Black Cross show on Saturday. Its a pretty hectic week.
Did you come up in punk and hardcore?
Yeah, it was through my brother and skateboarding. I was 11 years old when I first started skateboarding, and with the help of Thrasher magazine and xeroxed skate rock tapes to seeing all the bands ads and T-shirts. The whole culture of skateboarding back then was based around punk rock and its changed a lot but thats where all my roots are, with classic punk like Minor Threat, Misfits, Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr., Lemonheads and Wire.
Did things naturally evolve towards the shift away from punk with Young Widows?
Honestly, I feel like Ive been playing the same music for my entire life. Breather Resist were a little bit heavier but I feel like thats because I was writing based on everyones interests in the band. With the singing, one of the guys wanted to scream, and the other guys were in metal bands before. Now Nick, who used to play bass in Breather, is in Young Widows. He has more of a Nirvana and Melvins background, thats how he got into music. But hes also into a lot of the progressive post-punk that Im into.
Still, a lot of people would think the sound has changed. Have you had to deal with any backlash?
I wouldnt say "backlash but people have said, "Oh, this isnt heavy; its not metal anymore. Its boring. I dont really care what people think about my music though. Thats been my attitude from day one. I just want to write music that I dont think is boring and that I find stimulating, and hopefully itll relate to someone else. If I wasnt playing music Id be creating some other kind of art, sculpting or painting or something like that. Thats kind of what I mean when I say Ive been playing the same music for my whole life. If you go back and listen to every song and break it down to drum, bass and guitar parts, all of the ideas been pretty simple. I guess its just in the way its executed. Its pretty simple. Breather Resist were obviously way, way heavier than Young Widows are, and at this point I dont think it makes any sense to write heavy music the same way I did three years ago because Ive already done it. There always has to be progression. Otherwise its just going to get boring.
How exactly did Young Widows form?
It kind of just happened through our frustrations with the singer of Breather Resist. When you do a band with someone for three years, its not that you grow to hate someone, its just that when youre on tour for almost 200 days year, and the next 150 and it keeps slowing down, it gets to the point where youre like, "why do we keep slowing down? And you realize its because we dont want to be around each other. That was the start of it. And we were always trying to get our singer to go in different directions and progress with the band and he just did his thing and screamed. He never really changed a lot. Breather played our last show in December of 2005 and from there we started practicing the next week and it took off. We didnt know what we were going to call the band or if we were going to keep the same name or any of that. So now its almost three years later and I feel like the band have progressed and come into their own. I still feel like Im playing the same songs but with a different progression.
Do you find that you have to fight to make sure you keep progressing and dont get stagnant?
Not really. I hear other guitarists and musicians say that they have to do different tunings or do something weird. Granted, I love guitar pedals and weird amps and all that but Ive never felt like I needed to jump into a new tuning or get a drummer to play a different way. I feel like thats naturally going to happen with songwriting. Every time I write a song, I have a really hard time using a drumbeat if weve already used it before, even though bands use the same 4/4 drumbeats. Its almost ignored in the music world how generic so many things are so many records have the same exact songs, the same drum parts. With that, I really want every song to have its own life. If the next song comes on and you dont know its the next song, I dont think its a well-written song or a well-written record.
Have you always lived in Louisville? Whats it like to play music there?
I actually grew up in Elizabethtown, you know that movie Cameron Crowe did? Thats where I was raised for 16 years, and then when I got out of high school I moved to Louisville. But it was always a second home. When I was skateboarding and going to shows I would always go to Louisville. Louisville doesnt have a ton of people. The biggest indie rock or punk bands would attract 300 or 400 people, and thats a huge show. And then the major label bands can draw 700 or 800, maybe a thousand. Its such a small, tight scene that bands like Slint, Shipping News, Rodan and Evergreen, all of those old bands work together and know each other. I feel like were not too far away from whats going on. Our approach is a little more unique and melodic. I dont know where we would live and the kind of music would be the same. I feel like it fits in the best here.
So you feel that its more tightly knit community?
Yeah, because its such a small scene. Of the active bands in town, the number that have gone out of town and are still touring is very small. There are maybe six or seven bands in Louisville that tour the States at all. Thats not very many bands. But then when you think about how many people are here, its pretty good.
Do you look forward to coming back to Louisville after tour?
Im always really excited to be home. The summers a little brutal because I work in a screen-printing shop and its 115 degrees, so Im mentally and physically exhausted every day, but beyond that I love coming home. Its super laidback and you just know everyone. That can also be a bad thing because you get dependant on the few people you know that have similar interests. Its so small that they cant all always come to your shows. But then you are pushed to figure things out on your own. In a bigger city there are so many people. I put on a Russian Circles show yesterday and they played here to 65 people, and that was a really good show. But they can play Chicago, which is their hometown, and draw 600. Thats a really good example of how small Louisville is. We can play some weird city Ive never been to on tour and play to 300 or 400 people. Louisville has a great reputation for being a great music city, and it is, there are just not very many people.
Ive read quotes from Fucked Up about how Jade Tree is sort of falling apart. Is that why you went with Temporary Residence?
I dont want to talk badly about those guys because theyre nice guys. They just went from being almost a semi-major label with a few bands that got too big for their britches to having huge offices and making it their only job. It just kind of seemed like they were going to keep putting out all these records that would sell 50,000 or 100,000 copies. They were always talking about the digital record industry, you know, that thing that everyone always talks about. It seemed like they were prepared for it but then when it actually happened everything just fell apart when it came to getting a hold of them or trying to see what the money was being spent on. Its hard when you run your record label like too much of a business. Its cool to run it as a business and have it be financially secure but not when you lose track of the passion behind putting out good records or something that means a lot to you but might not sell tons of copies. That seems like that has always been the goal for punk or indie labels: just put out good records. I feel like they stopped thinking about putting out good records and started thinking about whats going to sell and all that bullshit. I think theyll be a back catalog label. Theyll exist, maybe in a basement. I think they have some classic records.
How did you end up working with Temporary Residence?
Jeremy, who owns the label, is from Louisville. His mom is from Sheldonville, which is 20 minutes east of here. While Breather Resist were still a band, I read an interview with him in a local paper and it was really inspiring. He talked about going to shows in Louisville as a young kid and being involved, seeing all these bands that I saw. I met him when I was 13, and then he went away for school. I read this interview and it was really inspiring so I wrote an email saying, "Hey, Jeremy, I met you when I was 13. I read this interview and I just wanted to say its really fucking inspiring to meet someone in the music business who isnt too cool for their history. He wrote me back and he was really positive and from there we started a relationship. When we wanted to leave Jade Tree, he was the first person I asked. It took him a while because he said hes very weird about signing bands. He didnt do a contract for us. He talked to me for a long time and he was like, "I really want everyone at the label to be like family. Its more important to me that the relationship is good than the record sales. It was exactly what I was looking for.
Did you write the album as a whole or as individual songs?
We wrote them as individual songs. We recorded 15 songs. Temporary Residence is going to put out four split seven-inches at the beginning of next year with the other songs. Ones with Bonny Prince Billy, ones with Melt Banana and ones with Pelican. Were still working on deciding whos going to do the fourth one. It was really an honour to find out that Bonnie Prince Billy wanted to do a split. Hes from Louisville and he has so much music history here. I think hes an amazing musician.
Is there a particular track on the record thats important to you?
The whole record is probably the most important thing Ive ever done. I invested so much time lyrically and got really involved with the songwriting. This is only the second time Ive ever sang on a record, so it was a really big step for me to get comfortable as a singer and as a lyricist. The first song is a stepping stone song for me because I had to really push myself to get confident with the minimalist style of our new songs and embrace that theres not a ton of shit going on with our songs anymore. Its more based around the vocals now.
What is the song "The Heat is Here about?
That song is about how everyone you know is constantly thinking that theres somewhere else or something else thats going to make them happy. Its a really unique situation. I was in the car with my wife singing "California Dreaming by Tupac because it was on the radio. I pulled up at a stoplight and there was a license pate that said "CADRMR. I was like, "what does that mean? Then it clicked: "California dreamer. Thats a really strange situation. I incorporated that into the lyrics. People think they can go to California because everything will be so nice and they think everything where they are sucks. The bands we meet on tour, the people we talk to, everyones always trying to get away from a problem. But the problems are always going to be there no matter where they go.
I can see "The Guitar being about growing up in Louisville
Actually, "The Guitar is about my father, because hes the one who got my brother and I into music when we were kids. Hes a suit-and-tie kind of guy. He got out of being a hippie when he was a kid right when he graduated high school and went into college. He got his shit together so he could make money and have a family. You know, the same thing were all scared of so were still playing punk music. He had such an impact on our life. He had an acoustic guitar that he was always playing around the house but he literally did not know how to play it in anyway. Even today, hes still not a musician, but he probably goes to more concerts than I do. So its kind of like, no matter how you try to escape the things youre passionate about and move on, youre always going to be passionate about certain things.
You recorded the album live and in the studio with Kurt Ballou?
Yeah. Kurt met us in Northern Indiana at our friends house. We demoed a few songs there, recorded five drum tracks and then we played Chicago, Cleveland, Brooklyn and Cambridge, and he recorded all four of those shows. The best thing about it was demoing the songs. We got to hear the songs every night, so we got to nitpick them. By the time we got into the studio, we had a better vision of what the songs were going to sound like. And then along the way we captured some amazing live moments that are better than anything we could have ever done in the studio. (Temporary Residence)