Black Widows

The Black Widows are a new band the features Former By the Grace of God members Rob Pennington and Thommy Browne. They've teamed up with former National Acrobat Members, and siblings, Ryan and Evan Patterson, after the demise of the two bands and became Black Widows. Ryan tells us about working with engineer Brenden Gamble, their new record which will be out in spring 2003 on Equal Vision Records, and much more. Special note: The band is now called BLACK CROSS.

Various members of the Black Widows are ashes from The National Acrobat and Automatic. How did The Black Widows come together?

Hey, don't forget By The Grace Of God! Well, to abbreviate the story, Rob (vocals) and Thommy (drums) have been playing together for years (in Ousia, By The Grace Of God, Amaroq). Evan (bass) and myself (Ryan, guitar) are brothers and have been in nearly every band together (most notably and recently The National Acrobat), and Thommy and I have played together in a few bands before as well (Automatic, The Enkindels). We've got a lot of Louisville's hardcore history contained within our ranks, haha. By The Grace Of God broke up, Rob moved to Colorado. The National Acrobat broke up, Evan and I planned on starting a project band with Thommy. When Rob moved back to Louisville, Thommy suggested he be the singer. After a while, we finally came together in my basement and started writing songs and felt like we'd lucked into something really special.

You recorded your new album in Urbana, Illinois with famed engineer Brenden Gamble (American Football, Planes Mistaken For Stars, Braid). What exactly did he do for the band in terms of recording? Did you think he had a lot to do with the way your new album sounds? How did you pick him?

Actually, it was Planes Mistaken For Stars that referred us to recording at Private Studios with Brendan. We were looking for a studio that was reasonably priced and under five hours from Louisville. After thinking and looking for a few months, I remembered that Planes had recorded everything they'd done with Brendan in Urbana. I'm friends with those guys, so I called their singer Gared and got the info.

I really liked how raw and urgent the Planes album Fuck With Fire turned out, and wanted something similar for BW. Clear and crisp, and capturing the urgency of our songs. Brendan had some cool ideas, but essentially, we just went in and tried our best to capture some energy in the studio - and he did just that, I think. It was the most enjoyable and comfortable recording experience I've ever had.

I'm actually not too big of a fan of the stuff that Braid recorded with Brendan, but I really liked their last album, Frame And Canvas, which was recorded by J. Robbins from Jawbox/Burning Airlines. Coincidentally, we're recording our upcoming album for Equal Vision Records with J. Robbins! We're not following Braid's footsteps, it's much more a matter of coincidence (and maybe similar tastes). J. recorded records by Bluetip, Kerosene 454, Sweetbelly Freakdown and Burning Airlines that we really love and think that he'll do a great job for us.

What other Champaign/Urbana bands did you like?

Hmm... I really liked Sarge, and their singer's new band The Reputation is actually on the label I work for, Initial Records. I also liked Back Of Dave. I'm not sure of too many other bands from the area. I really loved Cap N' Jazz, Compound Red, and a few other bands from near there that ran in those circles in the mid 90's.

The band is currently based from Louisville. Whats currently going on the city in terms of music? Any bands worth mentioning?

There's always a lot happening musically in Louisville. Closest to us, is Christiasen (Revelation Records) who are doing a ton of touring and just put out an amazing EP. There's also Irina (a band with two of the other guys from The National Acrobat), who play awesome indie rock similar to Shellac & Regulator Watts, they're my favorite local band. Second Story Man is a great local band who have an album coming out on their own label. They play indie rock stuff with really cool four part vocal harmonies. Other bands that have been around for a while that are doing great are Elliott, My Morning Jacket, VHS or BETA, Glasspack...Lots of good stuff.

Much of your music is drawn from early 80s DC hardcore. What bands influenced you the most from that legendary scene?

Just about every single band... I'll just run down the highlights: Swiz, Fugazi, Kerosene 454, Hoover, Ignition, Soulside, Dag Nasty, Gray Matter, Rites Of Spring, Monorchid, Jawbox, The Nation Of Ulysses, Regulator Watts... And that's just what pops into my head... Every single one of those bands changed my life in one way or another.

I was intrigued by Stops A Beating Heart and its artwork. Who exactly is to credit for this great artwork?
Well, flattery will get you everywhere! I did all the artwork and layout for the CD. I'm really glad you liked it. I do the graphic design here at Initial and have done layouts for Christiansen, Blood Red, The National Acrobat and a bunch of other bands... With the Black Widows layout I tried to go for a more free-form, cerebral approach than I have before. Anyway, I'm really glad you liked it!

In the next year, what will be your touring plans?

Well, right now we're mainly concentrating on writing our full length, which we will be recording in early December, and it will be released Spring 2003 on EVR. At that time, our drummer Thommy will be leaving the band. He had a 3 year old daughter and now has another baby due in March, so fatherhood is going to have to take over for him. We're going to be looking for a new drummer and hopefully touring relentlessly all next Summer!

Any final comments?

Thanks for the interview and support, we really appreciate it! Check out


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