Words by Cat Jones
Despite largely appealing to fans of metal and other ultra-heavy varieties of music, True Widow is a dark beast of an entirely different variety. Rather than rooting itself in guttural vocals and blast beats, True Widow’s sultry and somehow sinister riffs land somewhere between stoner rock, old-school country, and shoegaze — which was lovingly dubbed “stonegaze” early on in their career. Like the musical embodiment of a dark and beautiful stranger staring at you from the corner of a dimly lit biker bar, their records feel both dangerous and sensual — a very difficult combination of things to pull off properly in any band, regardless of genre.
True Widow’s guitarist and main vocalist, D.H. Phillips doesn’t often do interviews, despite being the main songwriter, saying he “doesn’t want to reveal a bunch of things.” However, being a family man who makes a living building handmade custom furniture, plays occasional solo shows, makes paintings for fun, and is about to take off on tour in support of True Widow’s latest effort, Avvolgere (out now on Relapse), it’s probably safe to say he also just simply doesn’t have much free time.
Either way, True Widow is a great lesson in the “less is more” train of thought: Nearly all of their song titles are long, complicated acronyms, and even the article paired with their recent album stream, which promised to “tell the stories behind the songs” didn’t reveal one single tale. The same can be said for the sound of Phillips’s guitar, too: He still uses the same Gibson L6S he found in his attic when he was 10 years old, and doesn’t use a single effects pedal because “I just want to close my eyes and play a song and not worry about having to do anything with my feet.”
Phillips joins us today by phone to discuss the roots of his artistic sensibilities — and the sensual nature of True Widow that has so many people hooked.
The Bay Bridged: The overarching thing I hear from a lot of people is that, with the sensual nature of the chord progression, and the very occasional lyrics like ‘All I want is you alone, all tied down,’ True Widow is ‘sex music for metal heads.’ Is that something you hear often? How does that make you feel?
D.H. Phillips: A definite fair share of people have confessed that it’s ‘fuck music.’ And we’re just like, ‘Alright! Thank you!’ Or a couple will be standing there being like, ‘Yeah, we fuck to your music.’ And we’re like, ‘Cool, man…’ looking around at them like, ‘Well, here we all are…’ I mean, I love that compliment, and I get it.
TBB: That’s a tough thing to pull of in music. A lot of times it turns out hokey or straight-up creepy.
DHP: Right. I love sexy music. There’s a lot of it out there, and maybe on a subconscious level I’m trying to participate myself. I’m never like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna write a super-sexy song right now.’ It’s just how they come out. I have a tendency where if I like something, I want to do it too. So it happens in painting and drawing and furniture or everyday life.
TBB: When you’re not playing guitar and singing in True Widow, you’re making handmade furniture in Dallas. What attracts you to such personal ways of creating art?
DHP: I basically still do all the same things I did when I was a little kid. Drawing, building with blocks, playing guitar. It’s as if I’ve never done anything else, really. And now I’m 40 years old and I’m still doing all the same shit. Both my parents are artists, and I just kind of grew up in a creative environment. My parents always encouraged us to do whatever and never said no to anything, hardly. So I’ve just been doing the same thing. It’s just part of what I’ve always done. I don’t know if that’s a good answer.
TBB: If you do something simply because it’s what you eat, sleep, and breathe, that’s the most genuine way to live.
DHP: I mean, really, I love doing it all, so it’s just what I’ve made my life. This is what I really like to do, so I just do it. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
TBB: When people look back at your life’s work one day, which type of art do you want them to remember you for?
DHP: I think what I’m trying to do every day is make the world a more beautiful place. So if one day it’s a painting that beautifies the world, then that’s what it is. I’d want to be remembered as someone who improved upon the aesthetics of the planet in my various ways of doing that, or attempting to do that. I mean, music is so weird and fickle. It always seems sort of temporary to me. So I don’t really count on being remembered for that. But paintings will be in galleries or people’s homes, and furniture will be around. But