I was lucky enough to get to chat with the guys of the new up-and-coming alternative rock band Widowmade, and they shared some great insights about what it’s like recording music on a tight schedule, reflections on their previous project, and even a brief look at some fun thematic Easter eggs hidden in their new music video. They also revealed some hilarious secrets, one of which will answer the burning question on everyone’s mind: “What exactly happened in Tampa?” Read to the end for all of that and more, as I kick back with the self-proclaimed DIY rock ‘n’ roll wizards who truly march to the beat of their own drums.
***Edited for clarity***
AS: Angelina Singer (Interviewer)
WS: William “Bill” Santana (Bass)
MP: Marc Polit (Drums + Vocals)
AS: I’m here with Marc and Bill of WidowMade – a really cool, angsty, energetic alternative-rock project based out of San Diego. I’ll start by talking about how I met you guys through The House on Cliff and that whole project, and I’d like to know – how did those experiences help you get what you needed to start something new like this?
WS: It’s the only reason [The House on Cliff] Marc and I met. We almost met before that, ‘cause [of] one of my good friends when I was at Berklee [College of Music] for only a semester. We were freshmen, we were trying to find everyone we could to play with. And she ran into a guy in the hallway one time, and he was a drummer, and he was a little too busy with everything he had going on to kind of do our freshman project thing that we were doing. So that didn’t work out. And then flash-forward six months, Marc and I are in a band together. Turns out that that guy, my friend, Ellie Cope – a gnarly songwriter and producer out of New York – that guy that she met was Marc. And we would have had a rehearsal, even before The House on Cliff, and we would have jammed together, had the schedules worked out, but it didn’t. But yeah, that’s what House on Cliff really did, that’s the main thing.
MP: It’s what made us meet, and it gave us four years of playing together.
WS: Which, it gets overlooked, like two great players that have never met each other can walk into a room, and rip something really nasty, and that can happen.
AS: “Nasty” as in good?
WS: Nasty as in good! But had they had four years of experience playing with each other, it was only gonna be four years better, you know what I mean? So it does get overlooked, but yeah, we met each other through House on Cliff, and it also gave us an opportunity to learn how each other play over the course of four years.
MP: So when we wanted to move on it was easier in that sense, ‘cause we already had all that experience behind us. And we were comfortable and we knew what we liked, and we knew how we wrote, and how we liked to travel – and what we liked to eat.
AS: That’s important!
MP: Things that aren’t related to music that can also help, but all those things made that starting a project kind of made sense to us. We were already on the same page on a lot of levels, and we both wanted to move to California, so it was kind of a buildup, but so far it’s been paying off.
AS: Yeah absolutely! I think that really shows in your music because you are so cohesive sonically as well. And I imagine a lot of The House on Cliff aesthetic sonically comes into play as well because that’s still you guys – you guys are the writers.
MP: Yeah, we kept a lot of aspects of it. We’re obviously different, but we had our say in the writing process in The House on Cliff. And even though it was 50% of the band combined, we still had our say, and there was two other people on top of us having their ideas and stuff, and that’s the mix that was The House on Cliff. But I think with just the two of us, it’s a little more focused, ‘cause there’s less people. And also because me and Bill, we don’t listen to the same stuff, but we kinda write in the same way, if that makes sense?
WS: I think at our core, there’s bands we listen to that we really are inspired by, like Death from Above, Queens of the Stone Age, are probably the two big ones, and Led Zeppelin, I think are the three big ones that we can say “yeah, we all love those bands.” And yeah Marc’s got bands he likes, I got bands I like, they’re a little different, they all come into play.
MP: But yeah, I’d definitely say our focus as songwriters has narrowed down – not “narrowed down” – but is more focused.
WS: Honed in, centralized.
MP: We have a better idea of what we want.
AS: Absolutely. And I love the unique blend of funk and jazz, like “Follow” – that is a really interesting amalgamation of like jazz and funk, but also the heavier rock that you guys are doing so well.
WS: That’s absolutely one of my favorite songs we do. It’s so wacky, it reminds me of one of my big influences, Incubus. It sounds wacky because Marc writes the guitar parts upside down, ‘cause he’s a lefty.
AS: I never knew that!
MP: Yeah, I wrote that one. Well we write all together but when I write riffs, it’s sometimes on acoustic [guitar] more than electric [guitar]. And I learned guitar on my dad’s guitar, and he’s right-handed, and I’m left-handed. So when I wanted to play guitar, he wasn’t gonna straight-up buy me a guitar ‘cause I wanted to play guitar, so I learned on his guitars, [and] I learned to play backwards. And it’s cool ‘cause when you write songs, the same ideas, the same chords, will sound totally different.
WS: It’s a huge part of our sound, just the construction of the chords coming from a left-handed player on a right-handed guitar.
AS: That is fascinating! I can barely play forwards. My goodness that is wild. So what would you say is your biggest limitation making music, personally or otherwise? What would you say limits you, that’s hard to work beyond? Because that sounds like a strength – it sounds like you pulled something kind of wacky, and made it a cool asset. So what would you say challenges you?
WS: There’s one just day-to-day thing, a handful of challenges. When we were in The House on Cliff, a good amount of time we lived in Charles’ basement. Charles Coleman, guitar player from The House on Cliff, great guitar player. And so when we woke up, we woke up in our rehearsal space, and it was there, and we were good to go. I’d wake up at nine, we’d be rehearsing by nine-thirty. In San Diego, we live in apartments now, so if we wanna rehearse with full drums, you gotta find the money to rent the place for an hour or two. And so that’s a little different, and a little trickier now, than it was then.
MP: Yeah, it’s a different process. ‘Cause before, in our experience that we were talking about earlier kinda helps this, but it’s still a challenge. Before, yeah, we could just try ideas out and play them, and see how they sound. And now we can still do that, but the time we have to do that is significantly limited compared to what we had before. So it’s not like we have to know that it’s gonna work, but now when we write, for me, my biggest challenge is that we have to do way more anticipating. Like if this is gonna sound good, if this idea’s gonna work, if it’s worth recording, ‘cause now if we wanna even rehearse, we’re spending money. So we need to know, we can’t just walk in in our shorts, in our pajamas and whatnot, and be like “hey what are we doing today”, now it’s way more meticulous and organized. And that’s kind of a blessing in disguise, but yeah, it’s kind of a challenge in the sense that there’s less freedom of just trying stuff and not worrying about time or whatever. But, for us it’s kind of worse because it makes us really focus on songwriting, choosing parts, and really knowing if it’s gonna work or not.
WS: It ends up in a way so Marc’s primarily a drummer, I’m primarily a bass player. And when the songs are getting written in our apartments, we both end up playing guitar, and writing the tunes on guitar, and figuring out what will work and setting up a rehearsal that’s efficient.
AS: Okay, so you have to schedule, like “I’m gonna walk in, I’m gonna try this riff we wrote, I’m gonna blend that with this”, you have to like [schedule it] down to the minute. That is really interesting, I didn’t even think of that.
WS: And we rarely get more than two hours, so whatever we wanna make happen has to happen in two hours.
MP: And we record ourselves in the same spaces, so same thing, when we record, we need to know exactly what we’re doing, because we have two hours and then everything needs to be out.
WS: At least drums, because bass, guitar, vocals, keyboards, that can all happen in the comfortability (sic) of our own apartments. But, if we have a recording day, and it’s gonna be drum recording, we gotta pay our money to go to the place for two hours, set up the drums, set up the mics, we can’t really dillydally.
MP: Yeah. We wrote a song with Sidney (Harte, guitarist of Widowmade) in this room, that was written before we got here but yeah, we have this space right now. And we’re not gonna get it again, especially with Sidney because she lives in Dallas. So, when we wanna do stuff with her, for now it’s intense because we’re not together that often. So when we’re together, we really need to make it efficient, so the first week we were here, we wrote a song and we finished it as we were recording it. I had to write the stuff while we were recording it ‘cause that’s the time we had.
WS: And out of that pressure, sometimes, comes really great results.
MP: Yeah, exactly, it’s not counter-productive. It kind of helps us.
AS: Yeah I mean, as you guys know, I’m a big fan of what you’re doing. I love the sound, I love the vibe, and I love the energy. And you’re such skilled musicians, like you’re not just a couple of hacks in your basement. You guys are just really tried-and-true, talented artists. And I love that.
WS: I mean we might be hacks, but we work hard.
AS: You do! And you know what you’re doing, you have chops. I mean I’m studying music too and I know what you’re doing, and it blows my mind. I mean I wanna start with “Boomerang”, your latest single. That is so interesting, that music video is hilarious. I need to know, what is that poetry slam about? I need to know the significance of that.
MP: That was William’s idea, he came up with that whole music video. And big props for that.
WS: I had also, in The House on Cliff days, my first real experience to doing music videos was our “Demon Days” music video. We had one of our best friends and videographers from Canada, Chris Evans – not Captain America.
MP: But same name, also from Canada. Not the actor.
WS: Still very important though. Chris Evans, he came down, we hadn’t see him. By the time we did Demon Days music video, we hadn’t seen him in about a year. So we had him for like two or three days, and the first night, everyone wanted to go out and party and get drinks. And the second day we were supposed to be shooting, and we didn’t have a music video; we had no concept. Luckily I was under twenty-one so I had to stay home. And it worked out, because then I wrote what would end up being the music video. And you watch it, and it’s messy. And I won’t deny that, but I’m still proud of what we’ve done. But you watch it and it’s messy and the concept is a little here-and-there and putting it together is a little tricky. But that was my first attempt.
MP: We were like tying the stories together as we were filming it.
WS: So by the time “Boomerang” comes around a year and a half, two years later, I knew that I did like screenplays and writing music videos. How do we make “Boomerang” interesting? It was my original idea – a poetry slam gone rock ‘n’ roll. And it ended up working out. I thought, with our time and everything, once we got to the location, and it’s like “shoot I don’t know if we’re gonna make my original idea work out”. But Gus and Ernie from Smash Cut Films were like “This is what you wanna do? We’re gonna make it happen.”
MP: They’re a really good team.
WS: That poem in the beginning…
AS: Yeah, tell me about that poem, I wanna know, did you write it just because you wanted something kind of sassy?
MP: It has some Easter eggs in there.
WS: There’s humor in it.
AS: There’s Easter eggs? For future Widowmade projects?
MP: Maybe, yeah. He put some sprinkles in there.
AS: Can you dig into that for the Boston Sports Desk audience?
WS: Yeah, there’s one thing that I did, and I dunno when it’s gonna come out or when we’re gonna do it, but we got a tune that we’ve been working on for a couple months now. And it’s very different from any Widowmade tune we’ve ever put out.
AS: Different genre-wise?
WS: I would say.
MP: Yeah, I mean we only have a demo for it but we played it in Memphis, in an acoustic session.
WS: The title is in the poem, somewhere.
AS: Ah, you’re gonna pull a Taylor Swift and make me dig for it.
WS: When the tune comes out you’ll know right away.
MP: He does make it obvious, but it’s something we like to do. It’s kind of like in House on Cliff there was a running joke where Olivia [Iafrate, their manager] was somehow in every single video.
AS: Was she really?
MP: And she is. She’s in every single video, [whether] it’s like as a main character, or just like as a snippet. In the “Wrong” video [a song by The House on Cliff], she’s like at the corner of a street, you can see her. So we like to do stuff like that.
WS: And I’ve always been inspired. One of my favorite videos is Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. It’s a twenty-minute video. He starts at the movie theaters and it’s this whole narrative.
AS: Yeah the graveyard, absolutely!
WS: Yeah and I love it! So I wanted to do something like that. And I mean, who are we? We’re just Widowmade, a small-time band from San Diego. I don’t know if anyone’s like “yeah dude I wanna see their frickin’ creative…” you know, the fruition of what they feel creatively. Here’s a five-minute music video for a three-minute song. I’m not sure if everyone’s gonna want to see that, but I wanted to do it.
MP: Yeah. Also we’ll have a shorter version, but we do like to add stuff.
WS: Yeah, the director’s cut is a full-length version, and then when we’re trying to get gigs or we’re sending out our EPK, and we’re showing ourselves to people, we’ll have a shorter version of the video without the whole poem in the beginning, just to get to the point.
AS: Right right, that makes sense. And I wanted to talk about your other songs that you have. So tell me about that weird sci-fi intro of “Jaywalking” – what was the idea behind that, because sonically, that was just really interesting.
MP: You mean the song itself? Or the subject?
AS: Ah, both!
WS: Marc had riffs, and the rhythm, is basically exactly the same as his riffs. They were his kinda left-handed, kinda jazzy chordy things. And then I kinda went in and doctored them up a little bit and did the William thing. Made ‘em just crunchy, and a little uglier. And then Marc went ahead and took the lyrics and the melody on his own.
MP: Yeah, we both wrote it. I wrote the lyrics, because for some reason right around the time we wrote it, a couple things happened. And we like to write about real stuff. But for some songs, what I like to do when I’m writing is I take a bunch of real stuff and make a semi-fictional story out of it. So I’ll take experiences that I’ve been through or that my friends have been through and I’ll just bundle it up to one person. So that way it kind of resonates with more people ‘cause it’s just a bunch of similar experiences all clumped up to one entity that’s singing. So that’s what I like to do and that’s what “Jaywalking” is. It’s a mix of a story of [when] my girlfriend and one of her best friends went to Mexico one time and they were jaywalking and this huge black Humvee tried to run them over, and stalked them. And so that inspired me, and I kind of mixed that with the anxiety of insomnia. I was without a job in San Diego and I was having trouble sleeping. So the song ended up being a mix of that – it’s a guy that wants to stay home but can’t sleep so he goes outside and gets stalked by a car, and tried to get run over. So it’s a mix of those two stories. And that’s kind of how we write usually. It’s just fortunate, or usually unfortunate experiences that I just clamp up, and I guess in that case, I guess it’s sci-fi, because that story in itself didn’t happen but those two kind of events that got brought together did happen for real.
AS: Yeah I see that because like that buzzy, sci-fi intro thing is just such a good hook.
MP: Yeah, we wanted to make it eerie. It’s the feeling of being watched, or having something behind you.
AS: I love when you can bring feelings into sound to make it tangible, that is such a smart thing. I wish more bands would do that.
MP: Yeah, that’s something Nine Inch Nails does a lot, and we’re huge fans of them.
WS: That drone in the beginning of “Jaywalking” is something that has become characteristic of Widowmade. I think moving forward, you’ll hear… “Boomerang” is the exception to the rule – it starts right on the drum lick. But if you listen to “Follow” there’s about five seconds of wackiness right before it kicks, and same with “War”, it’s just, I dunno.
AS: There’s a merch idea for ya.
WS: We’re just into weird stuff.
MP: Yeah, unfortunately we don’t have merch yet. We do have the songs – which I’m more happy about. We’re gonna do merch soon.
AS: Okay so when can listeners expect to hear more tunes from the Widowmade boys?
WS: What’s today? June 30th.
MP: By the end of the summer if not early Fall.
WS: Yeah. I was gonna say the next one will probably be turned around by the fall.
MP: ‘Cause we recorded the next one we wanna release, at least we’re probably thinking about it, very hardly but we just recorded it. Usually it takes about a month or two.
WS: With Sydney Harte.
AS: Yeah, she’s incredible!
MP: Yeah it’ll be with Sydney again. Yeah she’s in the band, since we don’t live in the same state, we still go on as a two-piece whenever she can’t make it. But she came out to Stanhope, and she’s in it, yeah. And we still write, and we’re gonna keep writing together. So hopefully every song we write from now on will have Sydney. I mean, that’s what we’re aiming for.
WS: The records are just better when she’s on it.
AS: Yeah, she really adds something.
MP: The idea was, as much as we have fun, the two of us, on stage, and I love the aesthetic of two people, realistically, we need another singer. Just ‘cause I can’t sing for more than 45 minutes and play drums at the same time and sustain that every night.
AS: Now are you a trained vocalist? I know drums are your main thing.
MP: Yes and no. I eased into it, I’ve always liked singing, but I never did it as a lead singer until Widowmade because, maybe it was insecurities. I was also not as proficient because I didn’t do it as much. But at first, it literally started as me not having a mic and humming along to singers all the time. I’d be like “oh, that’s cool, that’s fun”, but I wouldn’t have to think about it because I’d be playing at the same time. And then eventually, with further bands like The House on Cliff, they asked me to do background because I could sing all right and play drums. And like I said, easing into it was easy because it’s not like I went from not singing at all to playing a full set singing. Playing drums, I like hummed, and then I sang just background. And then doing this, this was our own songs, and I had all this experience built up. And I was getting better at singing because Chad and Charles [the vocalist and guitarist of The House on Cliff, respectively] helped me learn how to warm up and down my voice and know your range and stuff, and that obviously just makes you a way better singer.
WS: A lot of people don’t realize, that Charles actually got admitted into Berklee College of music on vocals.
AS: No! What?
MP: Yeah he got in on voice and guitar, and he chose guitar. Yeah, so him and Chad taught me so much about singing.
AS: I mean I knew he was harmonizing on the records, but I didn’t know, that’s wild.
MP: Yeah, but we took it really seriously, and they really taught me how to warm up and down, so by the time we were in Widowmade, I was like “damn, like I’m singing every other line, why not sing every line?”
AS: [Turns to William] Yeah ‘cause you’re not really into singing.
WS: I love writing lyrics.
MP: He’s actually singing more and more and he has a range that he’s really good in and he knows his range.
AS: But you’re [William] a little shy about that?
WS: It’s scary! When I put my finger on the bass and I put it on this fret and I hit this string, I know what note’s gonna come out. But when you open your mouth, that’s not always the case. And my first touring band, my first big-time band, the lead singer was Chad Michael Jervis.
MP: It’s very intimidating.
AS: It is! It is. I understand.
WS: How do you even think that you can sing after playing behind Chad every night? It’s almost impossible.
MP: With Sydney, I think it will just add a lot more longevity for our sets, and the band, and in general. And also, she’s awesome. And also we write all our songs on guitar so it was kind of weird to do that, and then just do drums and bass. And we play with tracks and there’s guitar in the tracks, so we were like, “why not just add a badass?” Like somebody that can just really sing.
AS: That she is.
MP: Yeah, exactly! Somebody that can really sing, and can sing with me, and we can just go all day with that. We’ve done it, and we’re only a couple shows in, but Stanhope was really special and I’m sure people that were there might [read] this and could agree. But that was a really special show, ‘cause we really let loose and it’s still very new, but we’re happy because we see that there’s room for growth. Our songs are coming along and we have a second one on the way. So yeah, that’s the reason behind it. It just makes sense for us as a band, I think.
WS: We all have different strengths too. I love to talk, I found my way into management after being inspired by Peggy Iafrate and Olivia Iafrate [of Strega Entertainment] and everything they do. Marc’s skill outside of drumming and singing is production – he produces our records. And then we have Sydney, who can play keys, guitar, and sing like a frickin’ banshee.
MP: And she’s a teacher [at School of Rock Dallas].
WS: But she also has a strength that we don’t have – which is, in this new day and age, essential – she knows how to work social media as well. So between the three of us, we’re all good players, two of us are good singers, we’re all good writers, and then we have an in-house producer, someone very focused on management. I basically book us, all of our gigs, yeah. With the exception of one or two, I book our gigs, and then Sydney, being as good as she is at social media, the band kind of brought itself together at that point.
MP: It made a lot of sense, it was very fast, but our big answer to that question would be how we bond together musically. And after “Boomerang”, we were like “hell yeah, we wanna keep going.”
AS: This is magic, I can feel it. And I love Widowmade, as an idea. You told me, it’s when something changes in an instant, really fast, and you just never know. Right?
AS: And that, I think it really mimics your music as well, because you don’t know what’s gonna happen next. The next single could be some cool, weird sound effect, it could be this, we don’t know. And I love that surprise factor.
MP: That’s something we tapped into with House on Cliff, but I think our songwriting, as a whole, focuses a lot on dealing with the uncomfortable. More so in a positive way than not – but it’s a matter of that and that’s more of a recurring theme.
WS: I don’t think any of our songs are about something good that happens.
AS: [Laughs] Well the songs are good!
MP: They’re not about something good but there’s always an element of dealing with it in a positive way.
WS: And coping.
MP: Exactly, Widowmade is a lot about coping, yeah. In the songwriting, yeah, because the band came from coping; it came from dealing with having a band being broken up and picking up the pieces and moving on. So right now, that’s very much the incentive behind writing songs, without any drama or bad thoughts.
AS: Oh yeah, I know it was very amicable.
WS: It was really, really chill.
MP: But it’s very much about that, and about dealing with your issues, and addressing them as well.
AS: Yeah! And that’s gonna help so many people. Also, as we’re finishing up, to lighten the mood a little, I need to hear a really obnoxious, embarrassing moment, on stage or off stage. Something really cringe-y.
WS: Well in Jersey, I couldn’t hear the monitor, so the intro to “Jaywalking” was all wacked.
MP: No, that’s not funny enough, dude.
AS: All right, give me something better. Come on, keep it PG, but something better.
MP: Okay, I’ll start if you want, but when I was like fifteen or sixteen, I played a show in my hometown, and it was like national music day which is a thing in France. And it was on the city plaza and there was a bunch of people, and I threw my [drum] stick out at the end, and it hit a light and bounced back and hit me in the forehead. And all my friends and family were there, and I just picked up the stick, and instead of throwing it again, I just gave it a little toss back in. Everyone thought it was funny, but I was very embarrassed. But I realized later that nobody cared.
WS: I think for me we have… whoever [reads] this is going to be in on the joke, I guess now. But we have this little inside joke here, within our community – our musical community – that’s like, “whatever you do, Bill, don’t go Tampa on me”.
AS: Care to elaborate?
WS: Yeah, because back in the day… So Widowmade’s so new, and we’re older now, that we don’t really have a lot of embarrassing Widowmade stories.
MP: Well it’s also very new.
WS: In House on Cliff, we did a gig back in the day, it was right around Celebration, we did it with blindspot and Will Jay, and it was in Tampa, Florida. And the venue wasn’t open yet, actually, it was the day before it opened, but they had a show there. And we had a handful of fans come. But in the greenroom, I was probably nineteen, they left just six packs and six packs of this Hootie and the Blowfish collaboration ale beer. The venue we were playing was a brewery venue, so [it was] their collaboration with Hootie and the Blowfish. Just, I blacked out. I just blacked out, I went on stage, Marc had to ask the sound guy to take me out of his monitors, because I was playing so belligerently.
MP: All I could hear was just [makes spastic bass noises].
AS: Now this was during The House on Cliff?
MP: And to be fair, this is the only time this has happened.
WS: It’s true.
AS: So you were just silent the whole night, pretty much?
WS: Well I was coming through the mains, but in Marc’s little speaker, right by him…
MP: No the audience could hear him, but we, right on stage… we don’t want any part of that.
WS: And I blacked out, it was crazy, I was on the ground at one point. So now we have this saying, whenever… and I’m older now, it’s been what, three years? It’s been about three years since that.
AS: [Laughs] You can handle your liquor now right?
MP: And on top of that, it adds to the whole Florida meme.
WS: Florida’s crazy dude. Every single time we go to Florida it’s crazy.
MP: That’s Florida Bill for you.
WS: If you ever hear Peggy say something like “all right, go have fun but no Tampa”, that’s what that means.
AS: Thank you for that insider look, and thank you for chatting with me!
WS: Dude, thank you. We love you man, rock and roll.
Watch the “Boomerang” music video HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etnXwYNsUWA
Check out Widowmade on YouTube HERE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq4xdpSxECbPmGyxKaMUW4Q
And follow them on social media!
Boston Sports Desk Correspondent
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