Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Mar 13th 2010 8:45AM by Martine Paris
With Hannah Lew on vocals and bass, Raven Mahon on guitar and Lilian Maring on vocals and drums, their music has all the drama of the riptides at Ocean Beach-- a popular yet deadly surfer destination in San Francisco, the city which they call home.
As they ready for SXSW, Spinner had a chance to talk with Lew about the band, their values and the direction they see themselves heading.
How did your band form?
Raven and I were in a band called Shitstorm. We also played acoustic music together (guitar and upright bass) after Shitstorm and before Grass Widow. I had met Lilly while on tour in the northwest when our bands played together. Our drummer, Frankie Rose moved to New York and we recruited Lilly to join as a fill-in drummer. Then in Fall of 2007 the guitar player, Wu Li Leung moved to Mexico and the three of us ladies decided to keep playing together as Grass Widow.
When did you first know your life would be in music?
I didn't know. Shitstorm was the band where I learned to play a musical instrument. I had always been in bands but didn't know what my life would become. I didn't think anything would come of any of my musical projects. I decided to go to grad school two years ago for film. The program seemed so rigid and challenging and at around the same time we all started taking things more seriously with the band and wanted to take advantage of the opportunities coming our way. When we were approached by Kill Rock Stars, the timing seemed right, the momentum was there. Being in my late twenties, I felt it was important to make a go of it. At some point though, I'll need to finish my grad school thesis.
How did you come up with the band name?
We were tossing around names and a friend gave us Grass Widow. We really liked the name not so much for its antiquated meaning of a man or woman temporarily separated from a spouse, but rather for the interesting sound the two words make juxtaposed against each other. They're not necessarily congruous. People can find their own meaning in the name, make their own shapes beyond the literal definition.
Describe your sound in your own words.
Impulsive. Intuitive. We don't feel like we fit into any genres. We do try to create a visual landscape with our music in a non-literal way. We tend to write from personal experience and interests and then use metaphor to invent a non-didactic landscape where people can have their own experiences.
Beatles or Stones?
What are your musical influences?
We really draw from a lot of places and feed off each other, running on the sheer belief in what feels good. We're very influenced by each other. We never really set out to emulate any sound genre. We do love The Kinks, The Move, Wipers, Neo Boys, The Petticoats,etc. Not that much new music.
You didn't mention surf but your sound has so much of it.
There are definitely hints of it but we didn't try to emulate it. I love the strummin mental sound of Michigan in the 1960s. Here they were making this incredible instrumental surf music miles away from any ocean. I think it's really romantic to think of people making surf music and hanging out at the beach having bonfires. I wish that was my lifestyle.
Do you surf?
No, but I'd like to take it up one day.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
Black Sabbath at full blast.
What festivals have you played?
SXSW is our first major festival. We have played other large venues like the Great American Music Hall and the Brooklyn Museum.
What's in your festival survival kit?
I'm still getting used to looking out at a sea of 3,000. It's like being on a cliff not wanting to look down. So I guess I'd have to say go a week in advance and dig a tunnel that let's out at the beach.
Coffee and crosswords.
What is the craziest thing you've ever experienced on tour?
We have had surprises at shows and in those circumstances we always hope it will end well.
How do you stay in touch with your fans?
Email. Face to face.
What are you most looking forward to at SXSW?
Seeing everyone we know in the entire country all in one place.
After SXSW, we'll be recording the rest of our album that we started in January. We're looking forward to touring in early June and again at the end of summer when the record comes out.
How do you define success?
We work really hard at what we do and have a specific approach to business. We all like to be really involved in making decisions and negotiating with what can sometimes be a ruthless and self-serving industry. It's a success for us to be working with a label that operates with the same integrity like Kill Rock Stars which lets us repress our old records and be really involved in the distribution while they connect us with other communities and act as a resource. Recently we've become involved with SF All Ages Show Space Project which is an effort to raise money and awareness for the creation of a community supported all access venue dedicated to serve San Francisco's underground music and art culture. We want to help foster an environment that is inclusive for everyone regardless of race, gender or age. We also believe in shows where pay is disbursed in a fair way. There is this ridiculous hierarchy where the headliner makes thousands and the bands lower on the bill make only hundreds. If we play big shows, we share our pay.
Do you think you'll ever be able to quit your day job?
It would be amazing but I can't see it at least right now. To keep our heads above water, we need to keep our day jobs which we really like.
Martine Paris is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.
Photo Credit: Dillon Hough