Manchester’s underground rock scene has altered dramatically over the past six years or so. Where you once found angular Albinisms, Marshall stacks turned to 11 and blacker-than-black attire adorning pretty much every stage in the city, now you’ll find plaid shirts, lolloping Pavementisms and Fender combos. Not that one qualitatively supersedes the other - it’s nice that eras are punctuated by distinct styles - but it’s wonderful to see some of Manchester’s shall we say ‘more seasoned’ musicians capturing the attention of the city’s young pups.
Enter Warm Widow, a brooding monster of a rock band that recalls the glory of early ’90s Sub Pop and Touch & Go. Fronted by former Tsuji Giri singer Martin Greenwood, the band also features heavy-fisted drummer Lianne Steinberg, formerly of Breaking Colts and Jackie O along with ex-Sonar Yen bass player Zak Hane. There are elements of Flying Saucer Attack to their sound. Pop songs that shouldn’t be pop songs. Seriousness crushes smiles just as rock breaks scissors. Nick Mitchell talked to the band about their eschewing of the current hipness.
CREPUSCULE: It’s a bit of a Manc ‘supergroup’ isn’t it, Warm Widow? Wanna expand on that and tell us how this line-up came about?
LIANNE: It’s only a supergroup to the people who bothered to notice the bands that constantly polluted the local music scene over the last decade. Had we really become successful we may have crashed and burned a lot sooner but instead, we’ve probably spent longer making music simply because we’ve always thrived on critical acclaim, very modest sales and a healthy dose of anonymity.
MARTIN: It’s a long while since we were in the groups that we are ‘super’ from, but I think we all checked each other out when we played in them, and eventually we got to have a go of each other and liked it.
CREPUSCULE: The name. It’s clearly a very nice name that conjures-up the kind of imagery we all love to go to sleep to. But what inspired it?
MARTIN: The name was given to us by a friend. None of us came up with it. It’s certainly better than anything I could have come up with deliberately, so they really did us a favour. A few other ‘___ Widow’ bands have become quite well known since we adopted the name, but ours is the most dirty.
ZAK: Does that make us Emo?
CREPUSCULE: What drives you to make music?
LIANNE: For me it’s those moments when you’re all just playing around with ideas and it suddenly clicks into a potentially brilliant chorus or verse of a song. It’s not planned or worked out, it’s just instinctive and that’s quite a nice feeling – giving birth to a new sequence of notes and beats that make sense and then take on a personality. It’s essentially musical parenthood.
CREPUSCULE: That obviously makes complete sense, but can’t you give us a stupid answer?
MARTIN: If you imagine Tetris and parenthood combined - then double it: that’s what drives me to make music. I am the mother and the father and the falling, rotating shape. I don’t try, I ‘I’.
CREPUSCULE: Thanks. Your debut album, Widower, received some extremely high praise, in spite of the fact that your music doesn’t seem to give a hoot about what’s ‘hip’. Discuss.
MARTIN: I’m very proud of Widower and glad that it held its own. White Box who released it did a very good job for us in getting it out to people they were convinced would enjoy it, and happily we got some really good reviews. We’re as parochial as you get bandwise - it think we’d played one gig outside Manchester before Widower came out - so it was nice to get some radio play and be written about by people in far-flung places like Tulsa and Leeds. I’m actually quite upset that I’m not considered hip, and have a sort of wounded, uninvited resentment about it. I’d like it to be more apparent to people that I’m great in a sort of hazy and timeless way. But I’m not, and I think that works its way into the music.
CREPUSCULE: I think you’re getting me wrong there. I’m not calling you square, I’m just asking, ‘is it really that cool or important to be part of the zeitgeist?’
LIANNE: I am relieved to say I have no time for hipness. I pretty much play what I instinctively feel is right for the bass lines that Zak randomly invents and the guitar riffs Martin works so hard to perfect. Widower was written over a few years so to worry about it sounding in step with other stuff would have caused me to want to slam my head into my kick drum. Repeatedly.
ZAK: The ‘hip’ don’t give a hoot about us. That’s hip.
CREPUSCULE: Yeah, that’s the answer I was kinda driving at. Anyway, with that in mind, your newer songs are much more ‘populist’, structurally speaking (without being zeitgeisty). Is there a master plan?
MARTIN: With Warm Widow there’s very little planning. I consider us to be being pretty forward-thinking if we have a gig lined up in the next two weeks. The only real plan there has been since Widower has been to make another collection of recordings at some point, and we’ve been working towards that ever since it was released. We’ve always been pretty melodic and 62% of the songs on Widower have a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-mental bit-end bit sort of structure. We haven’t strayed too far from that with the latest songs, but there is something just more obviously ‘straight’ about some of them. It’s just the way they’ve come out though - they’re all things that have just happened to splurt out of us when improvising - rather than us trying to look song smart for a pop job interview. In the most recent rehearsals we seem to be turning back the other way though, already rebelling against the time we went mainstream.
Warm Widow play at Night & Day on Tuesday 26th June. Door price is £5.