Taking its name from a term for an abandoned wife, the all-woman San Francisco trio Grass Widow has been steadily gaining attention and critical acclaim for its distinctive music—stirring, energetic, taut, left-of-center sonic pop blossoms with a hint of post-punk—and its unique lyrics, which are enigmatic and expressive, if sometimes cryptic. Bassist Hannah Lew took the time to answer some questions for The Pulse in advance of Grass Widow’s June 7 show in Chattanooga, supporting the group’s new album Internal Logic.
The Pulse: Grass Widow’s lyrics can be oblique at times. Is the title Internal Logic a reference to this?
Hannah Lew: We named this record Internal Logic based on something Tobi Vail wrote about us a while back. She really nailed it. It was one of the few times someone wrote about us and we totally agreed with all of their observations. We each have our own internal logic amongst us within our songs. Although we definitely have our own idioglossia as a band, we are three individuals who sometimes have our own method within our songs for interpreting the parts or concepts. This multiplicity is very much part of who we are and how we operate.
The Pulse: I’ve read that “Fried Egg” (from the album Past Time) is about death and the subconscious, written during a time of coping. To what degree are the songs on Internal Logic personal?
Hannah Lew: Yes, “Fried Egg” and many other songs on Past Time were written during a time of grief for us. My father had passed away while we were writing that album and most of the songs were attempts at understanding death. Those songs are all very emotional for us and very difficult to perform. We intentionally wrote songs that were empowering and fun to play while writing Internal Logic. All of these songs are equally personal and emotional, but they are less about grief and more about hope. There is a light at the end of a tunnel that we were pining for in “Fried Egg,” and I feel that we are on the other side of that tunnel now. I am still experiencing grief, but in a more accepting way.
The Pulse: Your videos seem to be a perfect fit for Grass Widow’s music. How would you describe your filmmaking aesthetic and how it fits with Grass Widow’s musical aesthetic?
Hannah Lew: I have been making a lot of videos, but “Fried Egg” was really the first music video that I made. I wanted to make something that visually represented our band and described something about our character. I wanted to offer another example of femininity that wasn’t solely based in a sexy super identity but rather an expression of individuality as the women we are. Through all the videos I’ve done, I always strive to really represent an artist and their style. I sometimes feel like I’m a portrait artist more than anything. I’m always trying to challenge the boring ways women have been portrayed and offer some new images in the hopes that this can someday lead to a larger vocabulary for women’s identities.
The Pulse: After being on the Kill Rock Stars label, your new album is self-released. What have you learned doing it this way?
Hannah Lew: When a band is attached to a label, people lump them in with that label’s aesthetic and politics. It has become increasingly important to us that people relate to our music solely based on their love of our music. We had a good experience putting out Past Time with Kill Rock Stars, and we learned a lot about the business aspects. But we started our own label, HLR, last year because we really wanted to have every aspect of our business be very specific. We were willing to be totally broke for a few months while paying for recording, production and PR, etc., because we knew that we would have total control and reap 100 percent of the profits for the rest of our lives. There are a lot of people making money off of musicians. It’s kind of insane.
Grass Widow with Big Kitty & Future Virgins
Thursday, June 7 at Sluggo’s North
501 Cherokee Blvd. (423) 752-5224