Molly Hamilton has had a year. The type of year “up-and-coming” musicians emerge from and their less dedicated peers wither under. It's what turns a talented "somebody" into a notable "someone."
Widowspeak's early 2013 release "Almanac" was bathed in overwhelming attention from the indie press and reset the motion on a sound left fallow by forebearers Mazzy Star and Ennio Morricone. Hamilton, along with writing partner Robert Earl Thomas, spent the better part of 2013 criss-crossing the US and Europe touring and writing their follow up EP "The Swamps" while collecting inspiration, perspective, and notoriety.
Mirroring their trip that held its most memorable moments in the kudzu-choked brush cities of Tennessee to the agave-carpeted deserts of Marfa TX. Molly's laconic vocals evoke the feelings of fighting sleep while Rob's Spaghetti Western arrangements pace at a cantering stroll – with epiphanous dust devil hooks throughout.
Meeting her at the Lower East Side bar One Mile House before soundcheck for that nights' homecoming Bowery Ballroom show (where Molly once worked) was interesting considering that the last time we spoke, she was at SXSW about to embark on this five-month tour.
Where did this road start for you?
Well, originally, in Tacoma Washington, before we moved the band to Brooklyn. Tacoma is between Olympia and Seattle. We have Neko Case and the Supersonics... I think that's it.
What type of perspective has this trip given you? Has anything changed? Are you famous now?
Haha, funny we've done interviews where the journalist assumes this fame we're supposed to have but, minus getting recognized a couple times by fans that were just at a show, there's been no real change there. There's a few more people at the venues I guess and we did have someone approach us in Germany that had seen us in Italy a couple weeks earlier - all excited. I give that to Rob though, he’s just got a memorable look. I tend to fly under the radar.
Ha, I call Bullshit. You're playing the Bowery Ballroom tonight. You were playing bars before you left. The press has been really nice to you guys in the interim.
Yeah, Almanac got a lot of love and that internet blog exposure has been really good. Still though, I get to do this full time and that's great but I still have roommates in Brooklyn. It's interesting sometimes I see friends that play a few shows and then all the sudden they've been signed to a major label. I like the speed we've grown at. It's less pressure and we're at a place where we can be sustainable as a band without having to compromise anything. I mean, we don't have a manager. We answer our own emails.
Tell me about "The Swamps".
We wrote the EP on tour, sometimes recording parts on an iPad in hotel rooms and then finishing those tracks in Kingston NY at a friends house. The pieces we put down on tour formed the base layer melodies and vocals Rob would work his instrumental arrangements from there.
Now that we're back after five months on the road Rob is looking into a solo project and I'm curious about starting something on the side. We're definitely going to do more Widowspeak but sometimes you have to take a step back and look at what you're doing with some perspective. You know, stop editing something for a second and enjoy it, examine it.
We've always seen the band as something with a linear thread of thematic influences. Each release feels like an installation in a series, not a brand new animal. There's an overall story to be told that follows from album to album.
You have a very strong visual component to the band. Where does that come from?
The cover art for The Swamps is actually a scene I made myself in a pie tin out of twigs, moss and dirt. I placed it on the hood of our touring van during the super moon this past Summer and just took a picture of it. Almanac was a hinting reference to Neil Young's "Harvest" and I contributed to getting the lettering right on that. I have a visual arts background actually.
So what are you looking forward to?
I want to uproot from NYC for a bit and maybe live a couple months here and there. I loved Nashville and there's so much non-city life I want to experience. You know? Just go stay in one place for a couple weeks or months and then move to the next spot. Just check out different types of scenarios. I love NY and Widowspeak wouldn't exist without it but I also like being able to see my environment, not just the building across the street. I love being able to see the mountains when I'm in LA.
As we realize that the equipment is arriving and Rob is ready to get the soundcheck underway I smile thinking about the inexorable pull of wanderlust and the amazing gift of being able to turn that restlessness into a sound, into a melody, into art. Molly, still in the overcoat she walked into the bar in, wild brown curls framing her insouciant smile gives me a hug and runs out to make the next crowd cheer.
I hope she never realizes she's famous.
"Rock Dreams" is an ongoing series of interviews with amazing female musicians we love, and is sponsored by Sock Dreams.