Mother Mother’s sound is distinctive—three voices, two female and one male, sing beautifully structured harmonies over rock beats and intricate instrumental parts. Once the vocals kick in, it would be difficult to confuse the west coast band with any other. They’ve been described as “art-pop,” a description that, while it can be useful in a pinch, is largely inadequate to convey the eclectic and shifting nature of the band’s sound.
“It’s fine. It’s a label. It’s words,” shrugs Ryan Guldemond, Mother Mother frontman, writer and producer. “I’ve been describing [the sound] as ‘a snake-orgy’ recently, just because that means about as much to me as art-pop.”
And if description is inadequate, Ottawa residents will get a chance to find out for themselves this Friday when the band plays the Bronson Centre, a show that Guldemond says the band is looking forward to. One of the first stops on their cross-Canada tour, Ottawa has been kind to them in the past. “It’s always a good time,” says Guldemond. “We’re really excited about the tour and where we’re at musically. We feel like the show is really the best it’s been.”
Guldemond speaks with the confidence and experience of a veteran stage musician. He should—he’s been doing this for a while. Mother Mother has been steadily increasing in notoriety since the release of their first album, Touch Up, in early 2007. It wasn’t until their third album, Eureka, that the band found themselves receiving a Juno nomination… for Best New Artist.
“It’s kind of funny,” reflects Guldemond. “You get a panel of people that decide you’re a new band when you’ve been slogging it out for seven years.”
Guldemond isn’t too enthusiastic about award ceremonies, either: “I’m not a firm believer in organized sports and competition and blue ribbons and stars—it all kind of feels like that,” he says. “Art is too benign and subjective to deem it ‘the best’ in one way or another.
The vocalist and guitarist was recently in the studio recording and producing the band’s fourth studio album, The Sticks. The record is solid, exhibiting the band’s range from the contemplatively dark (“Waiting for the World to End”) to the upbeat and catchy (“Bit by Bit”). It’s something of a concept album, an invocation of simpler time that the world has abandoned and a call to return to “the sticks.”
“Whether it’s literally a natural retreat or metaphorically a retreat of the soul and the mind to a simpler place, a less distracted place,” explains Guldemond. The idea for a concept album started when Guldemond, frustrated by the prototypical chorus for “Bit by Bit,” decided to remove it and used it to create a new song, “The Sticks.” From there it was a natural process, Guldemond says. “At that point the ‘sticks’ reference was in two songs, and so the idea of a concept record kind of gave birth to itself.”
And Guldemond feels personally connected to this theme, though for him it’s less about getting back to nature and more about peace of mind. “I concentrate on becoming a more neutral human,” he says. “Less extreme—less happy and less sad. I want to be riddled less with ideas of right and wrong and victory and failure. To me that is the sticks. The retreat of the soul.”
Mother Mother plays the Bronson Centre together with Hannah Georgas tomorrow, Friday the 23rd at 7pm. Tickets are available through Vertigo Records or Ticketmaster.