We’ve been following the San Francisco-based rock band Grass Widow since their early releases, fuzzed-out vinyl platters of angular rock and gorgeous, harmonious vocals.
Next week, the trio will release on their own label Internal Logic, a strong, nuanced collection of songs that are among some of the best the group has ever released. (You can stream the album here.)
We caught up with guitarist Raven Mahon to find out how the record came together and where the band is going from here.
The new Grass Widow album, Internal Logic, is out May 29. What can fans expect?
You can expect to hear a musically varied and conceptually lighter album than our most recent. We started writing these songs about a year and a half ago, so they cross a spectrum of experiences and ideas we’ve wanted to metamorphose into music, but all of them are sort of mantras for the present. Each one is coming from a unique place, but in general, we’ve been writing songs we enjoy playing, with lyrics and content that is open ended and meaningful in way that leaves room for possibility.
You’re releasing this latest record on your own label. What has that process been like?
Putting out our own records has been extremely gratifying. In a way, setting up HLR feels like we’ve finally put a name to all of the work we’ve already been doing as a band. From the beginning, we were involved in local distribution (by bicycle in SF) and mail orders. When our first record came out on Make A Mess I volunteered to deliver a record by bike to anyone who ordered it in San Francisco and the first pressing of mail orders that went out Hannah hand-painted the addresses for. The three of us have always worked together on all aspects business-related. It is a bit challenging to come up with the money, but even going into debt for a while is worth it, when it comes to having creative and financial control over every part of the process.
How does writing a Grass Widow song work? What comes first and how do you hash out who does what?
Every song is different, and it’s difficult to describe an organic process like song writing, but here it is: Usually the genesis involves someone’s idea worked into a melody with some minimal instrumentation like a guitar or bass line. The three of us talk extensively about the subject matter and then build the lyrics and instrumentation out until we’ve established some parts. Then we arrange and rearrange them. The ideas come from every direction and we fine tune them together. There have been times when one person writes a whole, nearly-complete song, but it’s rare that we aren’t all involved.
Someone once told me that a Grass Widow was a lady whose beau is a stoner and can never go out with her because he’s always baked. What are the wildest stories about the band’s name you’ve ever heard?
Pretty early on someone guessed that Grass Widow referred to a person who had lost their partner to pot. That was probably the funniest interpretation we’ve heard. Usually people misinterpret the name itself and we’ll arrive at a show on tour with and see our name listed as Glass Window or Grass Window, or Ass Widow (thank the fools we opened up for in Billings, Montana on our first tour for that one)… Maybe the name secretly inspires people to smoke weed when they listen to our music. Someone called us Stoner Sisters once in an article. Must have been the six-foot bong we brought on stage. Just kidding. None of us smokes the pot.
Releasing an album in May is a surefire way to get to use a tour as summer vacation. What spots are you most excited to hit and why?
We haven’t been on a nationwide tour in a long time. Usually we fly into New York and oscillate around the North East for short stints, but this time around we’re going all the way down to Chattanooga. I’m looking forward to being in the South, playing places we’ve never been, like Atlanta and Nashville. We camped outside of Nashville once, on our first tour, because we couldn’t find a show. We had a camper van and discreetly rolled through a gate and into the campground in the middle of the night. It was beautiful when we woke up. We all jumped in the water and were chased by a water snake.