It’s pissing down rain outside the Earl, and Young Widows is an hour late for sound check. The band was scuttled not only by the weather, but the general parking lot quality of Atlanta traffic in the evening, and a borrowed trailer described as “gargantuan” in a snowy cell phone conversation. It would be understandable if Evan Patterson were in a bad mood when he hit the venue. Nothing could be further from the truth. He shows up wearing an Indiana Jones fedora. Patterson then waves off the sound engineer with an action hero-y gesture, saying there’s no time for a sound check, and that the band will figure things out on stage. He grabs a drink from the bar and zeroes in on me observing the scene. “Are you Mike Burr?” he says, pointing with his drink. I nod. “Then let’s get this thing done.”
Do you read your reviews?
If someone tells me I should, but I don’t normally seek them out.
Well, you got a good review from us, but the writer said that In and Out of Youth and Lightness could be your first album. How would you respond to that?
I’m more proud of this record than I have been of anything I’ve ever done, and from that aspect I completely respect that and see where he’s coming from. Most of the time when you’re doing a record, whether you’re in the studio or recording live, you get to a point where you say, “I could have done that better.” This is the first record where I can say that I love every single part of it. We worked our asses off on it. You know, I’m one of those guys who only wants to play new songs, so if this were our first record, it would be fine by me. We could just stop playing all our other stuff.
This is a very different sound for your band, and also a different way of recording. How did you come to these decisions?
We had a lot of issues last time with recording the album live, and whenever we have been in the studio we haven’t had a lot of time. And honestly, the last couple of years I’ve been obsessed with all these classic rock documentaries. I wanted to use all the studio tricks. Watching the Dark Side of the Moon one and Fleetwood Mac Rumours, I kind of wanted to do more of a studio record.
You’ve mentioned that Captain Beefheart and Leonard Cohen were also among the influences. What did each guy bring to the table?
The rhythm section of Captain Beefheart, especially on The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot, was such a huge inspiration. It’s kind of minimal, but so disjointed and angular. And lyrically, Captain Beefheart is still above and beyond anything that’s going on. And Cohen, the way he sings and the way he plays, and kind of the way he prides himself on not being a musician, but more being a good poet, I’m in to that. The guy has lyrics and songs that he wants to put out, but he doesn’t this his songs are very good. He’s just interested in making new art.
Is there any other artist that was particularly inspiring?
Actually, Pink Floyd was also a big influence on this record- Animals in particular. I listened to them a lot when I was younger, and this past year I just started listening to Animals on repeat. I just love the dynamics on the record and the length. It was kind of a big step for us to write songs as long as they are on this record. Before we were always around two to five minutes, and this time we were pushing ourselves to write more large bodies of work.
How did you decide to use “Future Heart” as the single?
We actually didn’t. Our label decided to use it, because it was more of a rocker and like our last album. If we could pick a single, it would have been “Muted Man.” That’s a song that opened a door to what the future of our band will be based around. We’re extremely happy with that song, but it would be kind of long for a single. From the label’s perspective, it would turn away fans. We thought that it could open some doors for us.
Why would that song turn away fans?
I don’t really know. Originally, the label didn’t even want it to be on the record. It wasn’t an argument, but they said the song was too long and drone-y. We just stood firm and told them we loved the song and it had to be on the record.
What’s up with the video for “Future Heart?” They weren’t worried about you getting all bloodied up turning off fans?
Honestly, that was the director’s vision.
So you go in to make a video. That’s exciting. And the director says he wants you to play…
A beaten up individual that’s close to death or something. He had this whole concept. We went with it. Actually, it would have been fine, there are a lot of cool shots, but the editing was a little too speedy for me. The cuts were too short. I could have seen the video as Nick [Thieneman], our bassist, running the whole time. I thought those shots were the best. There were a lot of shots we didn’t use, like the still shot of me that appears for a second at the end. I thought the video could have been more based around that. It’s one of those things. If was more involved in film, I could have had more say, but I kind of went with what he had. We shot in like a weekend, and it was a lot of work. I’m not a hundred percent happy with it, but I’m not unhappy either. It’s a little bit dark, a little bit goth for me.
Are you worried about who might show up to the show on the basis of the video?
No, I don’t give a shit who comes to our shows. We’re going to be doing the same thing regardless. It’s not like we’re going to be dressing up.
Are you sure?
Yeah. Very sure.
Are you worried about how some of your fans will take the continued evolution of your band?
No. Not at all. I don’t worry about those kinds of things. This is to please myself. Music and art is a very self-indulgent thing. If someone likes the record, that’s great. If someone doesn’t like it, that’s great too.
Do you think about building a following and a career?
I probably should more, but if you think too much about the business end of things you’re going to be doomed to failure. That’s why bands put out records that sound the same. They want every record to sound like their hit record.
Do you make your living with music?
I make more money at this then I do staying home screen-printing. But I’ve seen too many friends tour too much, burn themselves out, burn their audiences out, and then they can’t even write songs anymore. I don’t have any plans to make this a career. I want to do it the right way, and play music the way that seems right to me.
And you’re happy with that?
I’ll go anywhere and play for between fifty and two hundred people and be really content. If there’s more, it’s not going to cause me to reassess my life goals; if it’s less it’s not like I’m going to be disheartened. The way it works out, either way, is fine. I’m completely content. I could keep doing this for the rest of my life with absolutely no problem.