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Band You Should Know: Sour Widows

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Sour Widows is, from left, Maia Sinaiko, Susanna Thomson, and Max Edelman. (Photo courtesy Kelly Taylor)

Was your Spotify Wrapped less than flattering this year? 

I suggest you add a new band to the rotation. 

Sour Widows is Bay Area-based bedroom rock, enriched by elements of folk, shoegaze, and grunge. Composed of childhood friends Maia Sinaiko, Susanna Thomson, and Max Edelman, the group’s longstanding history proves to be an asset to their sound. 

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Sinaiko and Thomson achieve hypnotic harmonies on guitar and vocals, calling forth introspective lyrics with ethereal ease. Edelman provides grounding with subtle, focused drums.

The result is wistful, warming transport. These are tracks that insist on a window and a landscape in motion. 

Since the band formed in 2017, Sour Widows has made a steady ascent, sharing bills with the likes of Pile and Warpaint. Their most recent album, Crossing Over, was released in April. Last year’s pandemia allowed the band to turn inward, inspiring an album rich with self-reflection and cutting clarity. 

Earlier this month, I spoke to the band about their latest album, Bay Area influences, and their upcoming show for Noise Pop Fest. 

What was the driving force behind Crossing Over? How does it differ from your earlier work?

Sour Widows: Crossing Over was basically a direct result of the 2020 COVID shutdown. We had plans to record a full-length album last year in a studio, but as our March tour to SXSW fell apart and things started shutting down, we realized that wasn’t going to work out in the way we’d hoped. So we pivoted to recording stripped-down material, thinking it would be easier to approach on our own without a professional studio setup. 

Funnily enough, the material we chose proved very difficult to get right from our various bedrooms and home setups. (Susanna and Maia recorded together in Mendocino, Max recorded his drums from his home studio, and Timmy [Stabler] recorded bass at home on the East Coast.) But this has a lot to do with our perfectionism, as well as about a hundred unforeseen technical difficulties. 

It feels different than our first EP in the maturity of the songwriting and production. We had a much better feel and more experience playing together than when we recorded the self-titled EP. It’s also less rocking, and showcases a folkier side of our sonic influence that you get a bit from the first EP, but not as much as on Crossing Over.

How has the Bay Area informed your sound or songwriting, if at all? 

Susanna Thomson: It’s hard to say. We started the project very much on the outside of the music scene here, not really knowing anyone else playing music or being involved in DIY before that point. Since the band began with the express purpose of going on tour as much as we could at the beginning, I would say we’ve been influenced by peers on a wider scale from scenes throughout the country, rather than specifically locally. 

From a more historical standpoint, the guitar music coming out of the DIY scene in the Bay Area during the 90’s from bands like Green Day and Jawbreaker is certainly a touchstone for us, and over time we’ve come to feel more connected to that particular local rock legacy in our own music. 

Susanna and Maia, I’ve been told that you two will soon live together. How do you think this will influence your output as a band? (I read that you worked on Crossing Over while quarantining together, so it seems auspicious.)

Maia Sinaiko: It is quite auspicious. It’s sure to yield some intricate material, since Susanna and I sharing space means us sitting with our guitars plunking around, finding the most deranged and detailed riffs of all time. 

What is it like to perform, harmonize, and create with some of your closest, oldest friends?

MS: It rules. I think everyone should do it, even if you don’t play music. It’s seriously one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life. 

ST: This is the only band I’ve ever been in. We’ve been through so much together. We’re family. I can’t imagine it any other way. 

What do you think makes Sour Widows an interesting addition to the Noise Pop Fest lineup?

MS: I think as a band we represent a wide variety of influences, from shoegaze to Americana, folk, math rock, psych rock, grunge..The list goes on. We aren’t easily categorized, which means we’re a versatile and exciting act to bring various elements of the Bay Area music together.   

Sour Widows played Noise Pop Fest in February, 2020. This year, they’ll share the bill with Titus Andronicus. (Photo courtesy Kelly Taylor)

What can audience members expect from your performances? 

MS: Lots of smiling, intensity and focus, and intimate moments punctuated by weird jokes. 

What’s your relationship to Titus Andronicus

ST: The Monitor was one of Maia’s favorite records in high school, and the rest of us always knew them to be legends when we were growing up as teens. We’re honored to get to share the stage with them at Noise Pop! 

Any artists you’re especially excited or honored to share the Noise Pop bill with? 

SW: The lineup is so incredible this year! Obviously Titus Andronicus. Alex G, Ian Sweet, BNNY, Hand Habits, and Moor Mother are all big ones for us. We also love local acts Fake Fruit, Boy Scouts (Taylor is playing what will surely be a gorgeous solo set), Provoker, and Lara Sarkissian. There are a ton more!

Favorite track to perform?

SW: Right now it would have to be our newest song called “Witness,” which you can hear live at the Great American Music Hall on February 21st, opening for Titus Andronicus! 

Favorite Bay Area venue to perform at?

SW: Bottom Of The Hill! And soon the Great American.

What’s your ultimate goal as a band?

SW: To keep growing and improving, not limiting ourselves in what we produce, continuing to learn from each other, to achieve our idea of success, and to keep having fun. 

What’s next for you, creatively? Any projects in the works?

SW:  We are currently in the process of completing our first full-length album. You may or may not get a taste of it sometime in the near future. 

Buy tickets to Sour Widows’ upcoming show at the Great American Music Hall HERE.

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Lydia Sviatoslavsky

Lydia Sviatoslavsky

Lydia Sviatoslavsky covers culture and curiosities for Bay City News and Broke-Ass Stuart. She publishes artist interviews and experimental writing at thought-rot.net. You can find her on Instagram at @rot_thought.

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