Widowspeak on “Plum” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Widowspeak on “Plum”

Returning to What Matters Most

Sep 08, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

There’s a deep sense of self-realization on Widowspeak’s fifth album, Plum, and it’s a sense that singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton intentionally explored during the album’s early stages.

“This record represents us trying to get back to the core of why we ever did this,” Hamilton explains, “which is to write songs and hopefully get at something that other people may also respond to.”

After the band’s Expect the Best tour wrapped in 2017, Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas needed a break. The album’s heavy, autobiographical themes were taking a toll on Hamilton as she performed the songs every night.

“I just really hit a wall and kind of lost the reason for why I was doing any of this,” says Hamilton. “I think that record was dealing with a lot of darker feelings that I had been having. There was so much that I was trying to grapple with.”

The band relocated to upstate New York in 2018 and Hamilton took up a day job and took a break from music. In the year and a half since, she began writing the songs that would become Plum, the band’s sharpest album to date. Its nine songs evoke emotions, rather than tell stories, and they deal with some of the ideas that Hamilton had been confronting at the time. “I think a lot of [the songs] helped summarize the ideas that were helpful for me in coming to terms with things that I couldn’t have control over—the existential angst that I was sitting with a lot,” she says.

Plum’s tracks deal with those ideas with candid aplomb. From songs such as the title track, which illustrates the passing of time through the metaphor of bruised fruit, it’s clear that Hamilton spent a lot of time thinking about that very existential angst. The tracks “Money” and “Breadwinner” discuss earning a living even when we might not want to.

“The songs reference life cycles of plants and fruit decay—these really simple symbols that are everywhere, that everybody understands,” Hamilton says. “I’ve been more drawn to simpler things in the last couple of years. Maybe it’s because everything feels really chaotic.”

The artistic process for Hamilton also reflected a personal change, a more fatalistic approach to her craft. “I tend to be kind of a perfectionist,” she says, ”and there are so many things in the music industry and in creative work that can make you doubt yourself.” But with Plum, Hamilton and Thomas took a more laid back approach. “We were just like, ‘you know what: fuck it.’”

The guitars on Plum are crisp, the rhythms reliable, and the basslines conversational. It’s clear that the time spent away from the spotlight was integral to Widowspeak’s creative progression—that Hamilton needed to retreat in order to take stock of what matters most. “With music sometimes, especially when building this canon of your own work, you can feel like you’re supposed to be making records that are in service to that canon, instead of just doing whatever feels right.”

Hamilton shares that the album’s themes have taken on new meanings, given the circumstances of 2020. There are certainly moments, such as on “Money” where Hamilton sings that “money doesn’t grow on trees,” where the world we now find ourselves in is somehow being narrated by Molly Hamilton of 2018/2019. “Some of it is little too close for comfort,” she says. “The lyrics have completely different meanings now. Like, in a world where job security is not even a thing anymore, a song about jobs is gonna be a different song now.”

“In this bizarre way,” Hamilton adds, “with everything kind of falling apart in 2020, Plum the album kind of became true. That at least has felt climactic, even though we’re in a world right now where nothing is going the way we planned. It feels like it makes sense to me. I mean, it’s all very vague but vagueness is all we have right now.”

To add to that vagueness is the prospect of promoting the album. Of course, every band is now in the same boat: unable to tour records (which is a significant source of revenue for artists), and turning to live streams to connect with audiences.

“All of these artists are coming at this with different resources,” says Hamilton. “Some artists are actually able to do these big productions that are a little bit more engaging, rather than watching someone in a dimly lit room on an iPhone.”

For Hamilton, the dive into live streaming comes with some hesitations. “If the whole point of this was to write music that we’re proud of, music that in some ways connects with people, I don’t necessarily think there’s like a one size fits all way to do that.”

The band plans to stream some shows to promote the album. And Hamilton mentions the possibility of a 10-year anniversary show of the band’s formation, on September 9, “but we’re still figuring that out too.”



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