Interview: Grass Widow
Impulsivity, intuition and heavily influenced by The Kinks and Neo Boys, Hannah Lew and Raven Mahon, former members of Shitstorm, joined Lillian Maring and became Grass Widow. Their second album was recently released on Kill Rock Stars. The ladies were more than happy to answer a few of my questions.
Favorite/least favorite cheese? (for the cheese-enthusiast)
Hannah: Never met a cheese I didn’t like.
Lillian: Very enthusiastic.
Robots or Dinosaurs?
L: Dinobots. Robosaurs.
R: I pick dinosaurs. Or robots raising dinosaurs in incubators for humans.
Strangest venue or gig you’ve ever played?
R: Strangest?… Strangest….er….sometimes when we finish songs we
lure test subjects/friends into our subterranean meatlocker practice
space, which is about 12 cubic feet of raw, smelly noise.
Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?
H:We have a pretty wide range of influence as a band. For our song-writing-we’re generally influenced and inspired by each-other but, we listen to everything from Classical to Rank Xerox on tour. Some rock albums that have influenced me/made me want to just quit are …Wire:Pink Flag, Kinks:Village Green preservation Society, Neo Boys:Crumbling Myths, Nirvana:Nevermind, Alice Cooper:Pretties For You, Wipers: Is This Real, Kaliedescope(UK):Faintly Blowing ….to name a few.
R: Yeah, and I’d have to add a few classical dudes to the list like Chopin and Rachmaninoff and Liszt.
How did you begin your career as and who were your influences?
H: Fellini, Italo Calvino, Neo Boys, Laura Mulvey, My dad.
R: Unrelated to music, but as creative influences: David Foster Wallace, Louise Erdrich, my mom, and of course, Hannah and Lillian.
What is the most memorable concert you’ve ever attended?
R: Red Hot Chili Peppers, circa 1996, Auckland, NZ, doc martins, fence
jumping, alcohol, vomit.
What are a few items essential to your “tour survival kit”?
H: Stretch Pants, Corn Thins, Will Shortz Crossword book, Cold Press coffee
L: Playing cards, soda, lavender, bobby pins.
R: A picture of Bobby, a four-leaf clover, my grandmother’s necklace, a 22. Just kidding, I don’t own any of those things.
What are you listening to now?
H: Rank Xerox, Nose Dive, Broken Water, Caethua, Milk Music.
R: Rodriguez, Wetdog, Trash Kit, Yo Yo Ma’s cello sonatas.
Any stories from your excursions on the road?
R: Once we were late-night swimming in an Iowa City reservoir and some lights started twinkling in the distance. Someone yelled “WATER COPS! WATER FUCKING COPS!” and everyone flipped out, which led to a mad scramble up a cliff face and over each other and through poison oak and into the car…etc. “WATER COPS!”
H: If you heard a rumor that we are known to fall asleep with food in our mouths on tour-that is not true!
L: Yes, it is.
What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
H: A lot of people like to give us advice, like when we get shitty show
offers and the booker says he’s “been in the biz for a while and that we
should be glad to get the exposure.” Recently a guy that was touring with a
band we were playing with offered me “rock and roll advice”. We recently
wrote a song called “Advice” based on some of these experiences. There’s a
lot of condescending douches out there, but the bottom line is that if you’re in a band-you have the opportunity to use your celebrity to set standards . You have to make your own decisions about what you care about, and not settle .
If you were to communicate using one word what would it be?
Can you dance? What is your day job?
H: Yeah, when? Don’t you live in Chicago? We could Skype Dance. I work at an independent Video store in San Francisco called Lost Weekend.
L: I love to dance. Right now I’m working on a move called the “Moon Age Day Dream”, it involves appearing to float. I’ll post a video once I nail it. I work at a cafe.
R: I like to dance. I am a woodworker/fabricator/furniture-maker.
What can we expect from the band in the future?
H: We are working on a new album right now and are touring a bunch this year
You have mentioned in an interview your aversion to the “angry Chick Band” so many female artist’s’ are labeled. Can you elaborate more on what Grass Widow is all about- and if you do get angry- do you get even? (pretty sure that is a standard interview question for potential grocers)
H: Sometimes I get angry/depressed and then I get down on myself for getting angry/depressed, but then I think-The world is totally fucked. Any intelligent person who cares about anything is bound to get angry and depressed from time to time. Feminism and the riot grrrl movement have set the stage and created a context for women playing music today, but these labels are redundant and have lost their potency in a modern context. There is plenty that female musicians are up against these days-with internet voyeurism and a youth culture largely based in some blog’s validation of a band. This stuff is new-and female musicians have never had to deal with this shit before, so in a sense we are responding with our merit and intuition alone-using our own tools. I don’t think there is a limit to the ways that femininity can be expressed, and I would hope that we could be part of a system that enabled other women to be confident with their individuality-have the balls to display strength and integrity. Forging new ground and creating ways to include women in the audience is an ongoing challenge,so I guess we just have to maintain a modern outlook and be ready for the future.
Some one posted a “Missed Connections” ad on craigslist about you, what does it say?
R: “I saw you eating cheese.”