Mother Mother: When catchy and weird collide
The indie rock group will open for AWOLNATION in Columbia this April.
When: 8 p.m. Monday, April 1
Where: The Blue Note
Even if you don’t know much about touring the country with a rock band, you have to admit the idea of sharing a marquee with AWOLNATION sounds pretty exciting. (Or ridiculously intimidating, but whatever.) Yet somehow, Canadian five-piece indie group, Mother Mother, is keeping its cool as it does just that.
Guitarist and lead vocalist Ryan Guldemond talks with MOVE about touring with AWOL and walking the fine line between indie and mainstream.
[MOVE]: You guys just recently started a huge U.S. tour. How does it feel to be opening for AWOLNATION?
[Ryan Guldemond]: It’s great. It’s the first of its kind for us. We’ve always kind of slopped it out on our own reputation down here (in the States). To be in front of a built-in audience — AWOL’s crowd — is the greatest gift a band can receive.
[M]: Before the start of this tour, you headlined shows in L.A. and Phoenix. What’s it like making that quick switch between being a headliner and being a supporting act?
[RG]: Oh, it’s easy. We’ve been doing it for a long time, so we’re pretty malleable. It’s way easier being a supporting act. We’re playing for 30 minutes a night and, coming from four records of material, you can make a very cunning set in 30 minutes. I think it’s really working for us in this context because we’re pulling all our best songs. And not even our best songs, per se, but just the most visceral and immediate songs.
[M]: What's your favorite song to play live?
[RG]: “The Sticks.” It just has a visceral, forward motion that feels like you’re kind of jumping along for the ride on, as opposed to pushing it forward. Some songs are like that, whereas others you kind of have to work for their purpose, for their stride.
[M]: You recently released your latest album, The Sticks, in the U.S. How would you describe it?
[RG]: It’s definitely the most conceptual record we’ve done, lyrically speaking. And musically, I think, you know, our m.o. is to not worry so much about musical cohesion but just pick songs that we like the best and put them together.
[M]: You write the majority of the songs for the band, and you co-produced The Sticks. Tell me a bit about the recording process behind the new album.
[RG]: We rented a big studio for the duration, which is new. Other times we’re more transient and economical — do the drums in a big room and then scale down to a smaller space where it’s cheaper and just do the vocals. This time, we really wanted to feel one essence throughout the duration of the recording and then use that as a tool for spontaneity and gear-changing. We were in a position where we could record drums and then do the most nonsensical thing like a glockenspiel part right after, whereas that’s the very last thing you do on a record traditionally. We kind of wanted to flip those traditions on the head a bit and chase the essence around, as opposed to the most logical, economical way to make a record.
[M]: Your band has been commended for striking the balance between indie and mainstream. How do you do it?
[RG]: An element of catchiness is a priority in songwriting. It’s not even because you want it to be catchy for catchy’s sake, but because, I mean, that’s just what I’m drawn to. I guess that covers the accessible side, or the mainstream. Where the indie comes into play is that we just kind of sound weird naturally. Our voices are different, and the lyrics are different. They’re kind of perverse or cynical or dark — not your typical approach.
Sometimes you get the elite hipsters feeling like there should never be a cross-pollination between the mainstream and the indie worlds, but I don’t even think about it. If you think about that stuff, you lose anyway. In your head, you’re like, “OK, what balance do I want to strike with art and commerce?” Even if you want to strike a lopsided balance with art in favor — I find that a bit of a loss, as well, because you’re still having that dialogue as opposed to just channeling something and letting it come out how it comes out and being happy with it because it was born out of authenticity.
[M]: If you had to choose one word to describe a Mother Mother show, what would it be?
[RG]: A girl once described the band — based on the live presentation — as the word “white.” I don’t think she meant square or Caucasian. I think she meant the shape to it, like a bright white. I would never like to describe the live show in one word — or in any series of words — because I just can’t do it in any real sense of honesty, but I did like her answer, and I think I will regurgitate it now.