With their hard rocking stoner grooves and big dirty riffs, Nottingham four-piece Widows have been building quite a reputation over the past 4 years. M3 asked the band about what makes a good album, the benefits of equipment endorsements and the myth of making money on the road….
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Widows – Well, we’re WIDOWS and we’ve been doing this for almost exactly four years.
Adam Jolliffe – Vocals // James Kidd – Guitars // Steve Mellor – Drums // Rob Stringer – Bass
We’re based in Nottingham with the exception of Rob, our bassist who is from Leeds. We play dirty, fast, heavy, stoner rock and although we don’t count ourselves as metal, we seem to get lumped in with the metal crowd quite a lot but there’s definitely no shredding or double kick pedals here.
What inspired you to form Widows? What are your own musical backgrounds?
We’ve all been into music since we were very young and have been playing in different bands since we were teenagers in garages annoying the neighbours every weekend. We’ve all been playing since we were at least 11 or 12 years old, growing up on a steady diet of metal and classic rock which was of course the inspiration for us to start playing in the first place.
James and Adam have known each other since they were kids growing up in the same boring ass village, there wasn’t a whole lot to do there except get hammered and listen to music so that’s what we did….a lot. After playing in a bunch of bands in the Hull and Nottingham scenes we both got tired of playing metal and decided to take a new direction. The two of us started recording riffs at home, just playing whatever came naturally and pretty quickly we’d written 4 songs. People were digging the demos so we thought it was worth a pop and decided to get a drummer and a bassist together and see where it went. Steve has been playing drums in Notts bands for ever and we knew him from drinking in the Old Angel together. We told him what we were going for (heavy, groovy, and loud as fuck) and he was on board before we’d even played him the tunes.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Well I reckon we can rule out tape now that we have so many other/better mediums to choose from. CDs usually sound better than most MP3s but you can’t beat good quality vinyl played through a high end system on some sweet speakers.
For the most part though, iPods and USB sticks get the most use from us as they’re the most convenient for on the road. Between us we must have at least 3 months worth of music in our collections and you just physically can’t take that much music with you on audio CDs.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
The digital age has certainly put a strain on the bricks and mortar record stores as we know them but you have to adapt to survive and there’s literally thousands of independent stores online now. It’s certainly a shame to see all the amazing independent record stores like Nottingham’s Selectadisc slowly disappearing as they were always great places to discover new stuff that you’d never find in HMV or Virgin, in fact Adam used to come to Nottingham specifically to shop at Selectadisc. It’s a bit sad that we’ll not get our music on the shelves of the places we grew up buying our music from, however, now there are way more outlets for our music and we’re able to reach more people than ever before thanks to social networking and digital music sites. That’s definitely a plus but you can’t have progress without casualties.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
Record sales aren’t the money spinner they were in the past, but getting rich off touring? Bollocks. Yeah, if you’re a big band, got all that stuff planned out for you by some ruthless business types, and have enough backing to cover ALL your costs then you can definitely make a ton of cash. For lower level bands like us though touring is more like an investment in the next set of gigs. If you smash the shows, impress the crowd etc people will come back next time and bring others with them. Selling merch at shows combined with the payment for the gig often barely covers travel, food and accommodation. If you want to get rich, you’ll have to sell your soul to Simon Cowell.
That said, we’re looking for a tour manager/booking agent at the moment who can help us on this so we can play the right shows so we make the numbers add up.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
I think it’s subtracted from the significance of the product that you can just download it rather than having to have a tangible item you can hold in your hand. They kind of become anonymous among the millions of other tracks piled up on our computers. There will always be people who appreciate an album as a piece of art (both musically and in terms of design), who will dismantle the case and read everything in the booklet cover to cover whilst they listen to the music, and for that reason there will always be a market for beautiful packaging for amazing music. It always used to piss me off when I’d waxed a tenner on a CD only to open the case and see a booklet with the track names in there and some real minimal info about the band, no photos, no lyrics, nothing.
Although we’re aware that some bands use minimal artwork/album design deliberately either as an aesthetic choice to suit the music, perpetuate the mystique of the artist, or even simply for financial reasons, we personally feel that an album shouldn’t just be about the music but the artwork should give the listener something to engage with as well, after all if they’ve parted with their hard earned cash to buy your stuff then the least you can do is give them something that’s worth making a physical purchase rather than just downloading it. Prime examples of present day bands who make buying a physical copy worthwhile would be Tool, Neurosis, and Mastodon who all have fantastic, well thought out and engaging artwork that compliments the music and takes you on a journey as you listen to it, much like the classic bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Yes, and Iron Maiden did with their artwork.
Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of the problem of illegal downloading, it’s just like people copying tapes for each other 20-30 years ago but done with today’s tech instead, but inevitably on a wider scale. Bandcamp is a great idea and we’ve had a fair few sales of our EP from our Bandcamp page so it definitely shows that you can reach people who’d never hear you otherwise. The site looks a bit weak though, it could do with a spruce up.
Widows are currently being endorsed by True Honor MMA clothing and Dovetail Strings. Would you say that clothing and equipment endorsements are helpful for getting a new band off the ground?
Well the Dovetail thing kind of petered out a while ago but True Honor came about through some friends of ours selling the brand in the UK and trying to make a name for it. We play to a lot of folks who are into MMA so it was kind of two mates helping each one promote the other there. Plus we got some nice shirts for free.
Having endorsements from equipment manufacturers, especially string, pick, and drumstick companies is immensely useful as you won’t necessarily get the stuff for free but you’ll get a meaty discount which really helps with costs when you’re touring and getting through them like no one’s business.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Haha, where to start? If you want to get noticed doing it rather than just something for a laugh you do once in a while then you all have to be serious about it, you don’t get good by not being committed and well rehearsed. But assuming you have the band together, songs written etc, and you’re ready to go out performing, the main challenge is building up a network. Once you have some good contacts you need to exploit those contacts to your advantage, keep going to gigs, playing shows, talking to people, and just generally getting your name about. Money is always going to be an issue especially as everything is getting much more DIY now as the industry has changed over the last decade. Without backing from a label it obviously falls to the bands to cover the cost of studio, CD printing, and promo which are never cheap. Everybody’s also skint at the moment so it can be hard to get people to shell out for a gig, can we have some more money now please Mr Cameron?
Finally, what does the future hold for Widows?
We have our album Death Valley Duchess coming out on April the 27th through Bad News Records, going out worldwide on CD and digital formats, it’s being promoted by the chaps at Quite Great Music PR and the press seem to have some love for it going on the responses to our promo CDs.
The video for Green Tsunami is already out on YouTube but should be hitting TV screens in the very near future. A concept video for Goat Lab, the second track on the album, is also being planned for the near future. It’s all planned out, we just need to get down to it really.
We’ve got a few shows in the pipeline for Leeds, London, and Birmingham with some shit hot bands and we’re lining up some European dates too, all will be revealed soon. The Nottingham Waterfront Festival is also coming up on the 23rd June, it’s been the best showcase in the area for bands since it started and is always a great day with shed loads of awesome music. Beers, BBQs and good vibes.
We’re also sorting a bunch of shows for the coming months so if you want us to come and play your town then give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org or come and find us on Facebook or Reverb Nation.
…And finally, we’re working on some new merch, especially a couple of new shirt designs to go with the album. There’s going to be some girly-tee ones as well as we’ve had a high demand for those so look out for them, ladies.
Cheers for reading, buy the CD or come and check us out live!