Bay Area Bedroom Rockers, Sour Widows, Get Heavy and Intimate on New Single “Pilot Light”

Photo by: Lynn Torres

Photo by: Lynn Torres

While their name may suggest the opposite, Sour Widows bring a hell of a lot of heart and passion to their craft. Maybe that’s because members Maia Sinaiko, Susanna Thomson, and Max Edelman have been friends since they were kids. Or maybe it’s because their live show resonates so deeply with their Bay Area-fanbase and they can’t help but give that same energy right back.

After just over a year as a band and five-and-a-half tours across the US, Sour Widows is gearing up to release their self-titled EP.. Phluff is delighted to give you a first listen of their second single from the record, a heartfelt bedroom-rock ripper called “Pilot Light.”

The track is one of the heaviest, fastest songs on the EP, due out later this year. It starts out slow with a groovy bassline, steady drums, and a solemn conundrum: “My pilot light glows blue / every time I think a stranger looks like you / I don’t know what to do.” The song ramps up as it moves into the chorus; the cymbals crashing, the chord progressions turning dark and grungy, and the vocal intensity rising to a near-howl. “I wonder how the light gets all its color from you.”

True to Sour Widows’ collaborative songwriting process, the bones of the song—lyrics, melody, and lead guitar—were written by Maia, who teamed up with Susanna to write the second guitar part and vocal harmonies. Max improvised the addition of the drums in the studio despite never having rehearsed the track before. 

“There’s a good quality to writing parts of a song in a short amount of time, because you can’t overthink it,” said Max. “It’s a little more spontaneous, and you go off your first instinct.”

“And you destroyed it! It sounds sick,” added Maia. “There are a few big, climactic moments on the album, and ‘Pilot Light’ is one of them.”

Check out the track below, and keep reading for an exclusive interview with the band.

 -Erin Bensinger

Phluff: How would you describe the music scene in the Bay Area?
Susanna: The scene in the Bay is really diverse and cool. There’s a ton of different genres, and you can see any kind of music most nights. There’s a really strong metal scene, a really strong funk scene. As far as the circle that we run in, there’s a lot of really talented, kind, and sweet people who are really supportive of each other. 

Maia: It doesn’t feel super competitive, which is cool. By now we’ve played out so much in the city and the East Bay, but we kind of started out as outsiders to the scene. Having grown up outside of the city, I was never that involved in going to shows when I was younger, so it’s been a learning process coming to understand how people make music here. I feel like we’re still getting our footing in it a little bit, but so far it’s been great. It’s been really positive, but it is a shame that there aren’t more all ages spaces to play.

Phluff: How did the name “Sour Widows” come about?
Susanna: “Sour Widow” is a strain of weed.

Phluff: Oh my god, I had no idea. I can’t believe I just outed myself as a narc…

Susanna: Haha! Well, we like the imagery that is has, even if you don’t know what it’s from. 

Maia: It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, too.

Max: Yeah, and it has a spider reference.

Maia: It’s a little bitter!

Photo by: Scott Sweeney

Photo by: Scott Sweeney

Phluff: What have you been listening to lately?
Maia: Pile.
Susanna: Pile!
Max: Pile.

Phluff: Alright, fine. You and everybody.
Susanna: I’ve been listening to a lot of King Gizzard this past week and a half. They’re like the most insane, all-over-the-board band that’s ever existed. I really appreciate that about them. It inspires me to go as far as we want with it and not worry about, “oh, does it sound like our sound?” Like, we develop it together and it comes out the way it should.

Maia: I’ve been listening to Sasami’s album. I don’t know what it is, but the songs just crush me. Something about them is really speaking to me. And Pile’s latest album — we already said that, but the album Green and Gray has been a huge part of my listening intake since they dropped it.
Max: I will always say Duster, because that’s my favorite band of all time. But I’ve been listening to a lot of True Widow, another widow-named band, and I’ve been getting into The Black Angels. A lot of that Austin, Texas-gothy-doomy-dusty rock sound. It’s slow and heavy and just, really really good.

Phluff: Your songwriting process is very collaborative. Given that sharing your art in its early stages can be terrifying and very vulnerable, how do each of you approach that?
Susanna: We’ve just been friends for so long that I don’t really think any of us are afraid of anyone else thinking it’s bad, or afraid of suggestions or anything like that. We all trust each other a lot and are excited to hear each other’s ideas. With “Pilot Light,” it was really fun to think of what a second guitar might add, and write a harmony. It’s really exciting when all of us are in a space together figuring out what a song is going to become. That’s one of our favorite parts of working together, I think.

Maia: Yeah!
Susanna: And luckily, we all kind of have a desire for the same sound, and we’re interested in going in the same direction so it all flows. It’s really exciting when we get to work on new stuff together.

Photo by: Samira Shobeiri

Photo by: Samira Shobeiri

Phluff: How would you describe that sound?
Susanna: We’re building from a rock-n-roll foundation. We call ourselves “bedroom rock,” for a variety of reasons. I think we all want it to get a little more intense, heavier, sleepier — go a little further into the bed, maybe.
Max: I think our songs are very adventurous. There’s a lot that happens in each one, and each one is an open slate that we can fill with whatever we want to do — a crazy chorus, crazy time changes, big breakdowns. Or super quiet, heartfelt, deep moments.
Maia: I feel like we’re moving more and more into this place of capturing all of our diverse influences. Max has this very strong metal and shoegaze influence, me and Susanna both come from folk, acoustic backgrounds. There’s some classic rock, there’s a lot of 90’s alternative and grunge. The list is very long, but I feel like all of those flavors are becoming fully realized in the new work that we’re getting into.

Phluff: You did a few DIY tours across the country last year, but are there any cities you haven’t played yet that are on your list?

Max: New York!
Maia: Yeah, we haven’t gotten to play New York City as a full band. That’s at the top of my list.

Susanna: Montreal.
Max: Berlin.
Susanna: We definitely want to go to Europe. 
Maia: I would love to go to Austin, Texas as a full band. SXSW is definitely a goal of ours.

Delaney Motter