Published May 08, 2014Easy Pain, the fourth album by Louisville, KY heavy atmospheric rockers Young Widows might give a jolt to those expecting something a little more mellow, based on 2011's In and Out of Youth and Lightness. But, as guitarist/vocalist Evan Patterson explains, the band consciously decided to create an album that's almost the opposite of their last offering and more in line with their first two albums. However, it's still a different beast altogether.
"The whole idea was to make the most destructive, heavy record we could make, without being, you know, a metal band, or not being pegged with a certain sound or genre like post-punk or post-hardcore, or whatever you want to peg it," Patterson tells Exclaim! "So the idea was to create the heaviest thing we could while still being content with songwriting and the craft of creating a record."
The nine-song album, out May 13 on Temporary Residence, is a dirty, angular, emotionally tangled slab of heavy that's the result of the scathing the band got on their last album, which, by all accounts, wasn't a very enjoyable experience.
"Our last record was pretty tolling to create, and to write… and perform, and the recording… the whole thing," recalls Patterson. "It was one of those records that was such a concept of mood and direction. We pushed ourselves to create a different record than what we had ever done, or set out to do, as a band. And after doing that we were all pretty worn out and not really looking forward to writing new material."
Recording again at Louisville recording studio La La Land with Kevin Ratterman (Coliseum, Rodan, Andrew Bird) at the helm, the three members of Young Widows decided to use "destruction" as their operational theme.
"When we went to write the first new song for Easy Pain, we decided right then that we were just going to go for it and push ourselves to be in this relaxed state of destruction, if that makes any sense," says Patterson. "On the last record we'd play a part of a song for, like, 15 rehearsals, just working on little particulars that are probably not even fun to listen to. Sometimes it wasn't even an enjoyable thing, and when it comes down to it, we're doing this because it's enjoyable."
The goal was to be heavy, but not in a conventional way. This started with the Ratterman getting the right sound for the band and Patterson, bass player Nick Theineman and drummer Jeremy McMonigle pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones yet again.
"We were psyched to make a new heavy record that interests us, and have ideas and songs and lyrical concepts that still interest us within heavy music," says Patterson. "I don't want to say it's a boring genre, but the metal/noise rock genre, like any genre, it seems a little exhausted. I mean, guitar music has been going on for fucking ever, there's just not much left to explore. And in creating these songs we just set out to destroy that world."
There's that word "destroy" again, and it's a musical concept that plays out on the whole album, each track pulsing and throbbing harder and darker than anything Patterson has done, and completely different than what he did in his early days in the Louisville hardcore scene with bands such as Black Cross and Breather Resist.
"The theme of destruction and being destructive is more a concept about totally exploiting songwriting and the heavy genre without being too technical. It's almost like this whole metal/hardcore guitar players shredding thing, and all of the funny things that people think about a good musician, a talented musician. My idea is not to be an amazing musician, but to make a sound rather than be a great player. And even when we were recording with Kevin, I talked to him about the concepts of recording. He really pushed himself to make the record sound the way it does based on this concept of having a destructive record."
Patterson says a couple of key albums inspired the band's new album, namely Australian rock band Crime & the City Solution's Shine, as well as a less obscure album: Iggy Pop's The Idiot. But it was his newfound interest in record collecting that opened Patterson up to current bands and some oldies from the past that he had missed the first time around.
"As far as contemporary artists, Helms Alee are a band that I can still relate to what they are doing musically," he says. "As far as influences, for the past couple of years I've invested myself heavily into record collecting. For example, the idea for the drumbeat on 'Kerosene Girl' came from an old soul song called 'Dance Your Ass Off' by Hamilton Bohannon, and it was such a good drum beat. There's this wide variety of music that I've gotten into and tried to incorporate into my music."
With their fourth album now complete, Patterson says he and his two bandmates are content with where they are. As for the concept of success, he waves it off with the resignation that playing the music he loves is enough.
"Success isn't really important, but it kind of keeps everything going, you know?" he says. "Especially now that we're getting older, Nick's a father and Jeremy's going to be a father in August. I don't really want to do anything else but play music, but at the same time I really love where we are right now. I could coast in this direction with this amount of success forever and be content and happy."
As previously reported, Young Widows are out on a North American tour in support of the new record, and you can see all the dates here.
Read our full interview with Patterson here.