True Widow: Visual-Artist Trio Turns up the Drone in Dallas

True Widow: True WidowTrue Widow: True Widow (End Sounds, 11/11/08)

True Widow: “Corpse Master”

[audio:|titles=True Widow: “Corpse Master”]

When Dan Phillips left the metropolitan confines of Dallas as well as his band, the esteemed underground indie trio Slowride, for the ice of Boston and two years of woodworking school, he knew that he’d return, but he didn’t know under what circumstances. Something about his day-to-day work soon enlightened him.

“When I’m working [on the wood], I definitely had the headphones on,” Phillips says. “You’re listening to longer music to just sort of slow yourself down a little bit and be able to concentrate and drone out.”

In retrospect, it is ironic that Phillips’ previous band would have a name that embodies theses very characteristics despite its driving punk sound, because it is Phillips’ latest band, True Widow, formed upon his return to Dallas, that expands on these themes. With True Widow, droning, melting guitar tones hover over sparse vocals, recalling the darker moments of Low or Bedhead mingling with the heavy gain of experimental groups like Sunn O))).

Like Slowride, True Widow is a trio, made up of Phillips, drummer/screen-printer Timothy Starks, and bass player / make-up artist Nicole Estill. After returning from his apprenticeship in Boston, Phillips took a while to find a lineup that suited him; he auditioned a few members who didn’t end up working out. Then he remembered his friend Timothy, with whom he had played when the two felt like goofing off. “I didn’t think of Tim right away,” Phillips says. “I tried out another guy. It just wasn’t working, and I decided that Tim should play the drums. He’s a real simple drummer; it’s perfect for the music.”

Grim songs such as “Corpse Master” and “Mesh Mask” from the band’s self-titled debut on End Sounds certainly don’t sound like something carved from the hand of a specialist in 18th Century American colonial cabinetry. But there’s something dusty, careworn, and very American in the lonely caverns of True Widow’s music. On songs such as “Duelist” and the epic “All You Need,” Estill’s voice mixes with Phillips’ to create an ethereal penumbra over the sluggish march of warbling bass and an oddly tuned guitar.

True Widow has emerged in Dallas during a time when many of the city’s musicians, such as indie-pop band The Crash That Took Me and post-rock outfit The Boom Boom Box, are regrouping and revising the city’s underground music community. While their latest project is coalescing, the band members will have plenty on their hands between the group and their day jobs.

“It would be nice to make enough money making music to not have to hustle furniture!” Phillips laughs. “I’ll always do [woodworking]. It’s just what I do; I couldn’t imagine not doing it.”

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