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September 25, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Dallas’ True Widow looks to the future, with a stoned gaze | Concert preview

True Widow

True Widow, from left: Nicole Estill, Dan Phillips and Timothy Starks. The Texas band plays Seattle Friday. Photo by Justin Wilson.

“Texas is a slow place,” True Widow singer-guitarist Dan Phillips says in a slow drawl over the phone. “Do I hear Texas in our music? I think so. There’s a lot of open space to do what you want to do.”

To say open space plays a critical role in the Dallas trio’s sound would be an understatement. It’s practically the fourth instrument, giving the deep, ominous tones that run through “Circumambulation” — the recent third LP from the band, which plays a sold-out show at Barboza Friday — room to breathe. (See Soundposts’ review of the album here.)

“You don’t always need a bunch of stuff in there,” says the guitarist, speaking from a tour stop in Morgantown, West Virginia. “It’s about the song, the rhythm, the feeling, the melody… not wanking on your instrument.”

Phillips, whose roots are in punk rock, conceived True Widow in 2007. Bored of standard tunings, he began writing and recording down-tuned riffs, played very, very slowly.

Once bassist-vocalist Nicole Estill and drummer Timothy Starks joined the fold, Phillips’ solo demos morphed into True Widow’s 2008 self-titled, full-band debut.

Early on, Starks coined the term “stonegaze” — referring not to a sound, but to “the stoned faces on the people in the crowd,” Phillips laughs, “just zonked out, looking at us with a stoned gaze.”

However tongue-in-cheek, it nicely articulates True Widow’s steady-handed style — the missing link between the burly stoner-doom of bands like Sleep, and the placid slowcore of Codeine and Low.

Phillips, 37, likes the latter comparison. “I was introduced to Low in high school,” he remembers. “I had their first album, ‘I Could Live in Hope.’ They came to town on tour, and they put everybody to sleep, man… people were sitting down… laying on the floor. I really liked that. We all love them.”

Like those stoic Minnesotans, who have been together two decades — growing more popular with each album — True Widow is building a legacy, at its own pace.

Phillips, a woodworker by day, says maintaining separate jobs allows the band to move forward organically. (Starks is a screenprinter; Estill, a makeup artist.)

“When we started,” he explains, “we weren’t even going to play shows. It was just an outlet for songs. But people liked it, and it snowballed. Now, we have three albums, and are able to record and travel when we want. There’s no pressure… just good times.

“We definitely take music seriously — it’s nothing to shrug your shoulders at — but it’s not our profession. It’s not what we want to do for a living. There are other things in life.”

True Widow, Chelsea Wolfe
7 p.m. Friday at Barboza, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; sold out (206-709-9467 or

Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: doom, slowcore, Texas


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