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Check it out: Dylan's interview w/ Mother Mother frontman Ryan Guldmond
The Vancouver-based powerpop quintet Mother Mother will be opening up for the Sam Roberts Band with Portland favorites Dominic and The Lucid at SPACE Gallery, Tuesday night (2/17) starting at 9pm. It was only last week that I first heard of them, but when I listened to a few songs on their Myspace page, their great harmonies and pop song structures immediately appealed to me. It was love at first sight.
I’ve always been highly appreciative of bands like Electric Light Orchestra and The New Pornographers, and this band brings more pop goodness to the table. But it’s not just all fun and games. This band has a certain dark/emotional aesthetic that is greatly incorporated into all of their music. Out of that, their songs are no longer just fun pop songs but something deeper and more meaningful. While it’s easy to compare them to the two bands mentioned above, they really stand on their own ground, as they should.
Their latest album, O My Heart, demonstrates a high level of production (same producer who worked with The New Pornographers and Tegan & Sara), mixing male and female vocals in wonderful harmonies, rocking arena-sized guitars, pop synthesizers, stringed instruments and more. The result is an album that is enjoyable to listen to from beginning to end. Songs like “O My Heart”, “Burning Pile”, “Ghosting” and “Hayloft” immediately get stuck in your head. From a deeper listening, you can hear genre-hints of dance, alt-country, bluegrass and more. Mother Mother is just a really fun band that begs to be reckoned with in their sophomore effort.
I was lucky enough to have some time with leadman Ryan Guldmond for an interview on Sunday afternoon.
So Loud: When did your band start playing out?
Ryan Guldmond of Mother Mother: We signed our deal in 2006. At that point we started to play out more.
SL: Have you played in the US before?
RG:Yeah, we’ve done a bunch of stuff in the US–
(Ryan hit a dead spot on the road. Two or three minutes later…)
SL: How did you end up touring with the Sam Roberts Band?
RG: It was a combination [with] our people getting creative with his people and started approaching that from different angles. I guess the band (Sam Roberts Bands) at the end of it all made the final decision to take us on the road with them. We didn’t know them personally so we’ll make our formal introductions in a couple of days.
SL: Has your band ever had any weird or interesting experiences while on tour?
RG: Not really…to be totally honest. Kind of gone without a hitch for the most part. I mean, yeah probably the little things but I can’t recall.
SL: I just heard about you guys last week but when I started listening to you, you sounded great. I listened through your latest album, O My Heart. You guys have a very tight sound that is primarily powerpop and then you have some other cool genre variations. Who were your influences for the songwriting of this album?
RG: No people in particular. There never really has been a product of direct influence. I guess you could find those if you kinda dig, but it’s not necessarily “OK, lets emulate these five bands.” We’re going for this thing whether it be emotional or you know, aesthetic, and then we try to achieve that, but it’s not really an homage paid to a person, a band, or an artist.
SL: When I first heard the song “O My Heart”, it made me think of The New Pornographers who are also from Vancouver…
RG: Yeah, we get that one a lot.
SL: You get that a lot, the comparisons?
RG: We have. We do. Part of me feels like it’s a convenient comparison to make, but that’s probably the side of me that is in disagreement with the person who thinks that I like that. But if more people are saying it than fewer then I suppose there’s gotta be some truth in that.
SL: That’s what I first thought when I listened to that song, but then I was listening to other songs like “Ghosting” and what is it? “Body of Years”?
SL: Yeah, it’s definitely a lot different. I think on the surface you can make that comparison.
RG: Yeah, it’s those unisex harmonies, and it’s got a powerpop overall aesthetic, so I think it’s kind easy to make that comparison—geographically from the same place so…I think if you really look into the music, it’s differences are way more than similarities.
SL: Is the songwriting process mainly just you or is it collaborative?
RG: Yeah, it’s mainly me. I mean, we start out with laying a foundation and sort of building a framework to a house, and then as a band, you decorate it, put the paintings on that wall, that sort of thing.
SL: PopMatters did a review of your album last year, and at the end, they compared your songwriting style to They Might Be Giants…
RG: Oh yeah, I know a little bit about them.
SL: Because you both seem to sing about sad, darker subjects in a cheery and upbeat way.
RG: I really like that band. I think they’re a little more clever than us. But yeah, that’s something that isn’t intentional necessarily.
SL: It’s just something that come natural.
RG: Yeah, it just happens. It’s funny how quite often subject matter and the tone of the music can be very separated. It’s not so often that I think people write poetry, or write lyrics, or write the instrumental portion of music and then try and necessarily match it with a similar tinge, a counterpart. I think you just take what you get and then if something is working, it fits together, even if it’s sort of contradictory or paradoxical, then it’s good, you gotta go with it.
SL: That’s really cool. I always like it when songwriting is dynamic like that and doesn’t evoke just one emotion, but many, even if they are contradictory.
RG: I often think something dire in an optimistic tone is, in itself, cynical, which is a very effective way to portray a matter. Because if you’re so serious about something that’s dire, then it becomes sort of a sob story.
SL: When I first visited your band’s Myspace, the picture at the top made me think of a new wave band from the 80s. Is there any story behind that or that just like “lets do this”..?
RG: Well yeah, we just like the picture. It’s dark and sexy in a different way which I think the music is kind of like that. It’s hard to try and synchronize all the images…
SL: After listening to your music, it made more sense. It had an overall aesthetic after that for me. I’m a big new wave fan so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and then I listened and I was like “oh man, this is awesome powerpop music.”
RG: What are the good new wave bands?
SL: One of my favorites from the 80s if Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman’s band. What else? Talking Heads.
RG: I’m not so familiar with that stuff. I just watched a documentary on Ian Curtis. Joy Division? That’s considered new wave, yeah?
SL: Yeah, I’m thinking about the song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and that would definitely fit in new wave.
RG: As far as like a major predecessor.
RG: Yeah, I liked it. Just got me piqued into that genre.
SL: While your album came out last September, have you been writing any new material?
RG: Yeah, that’s the constant process. You just kind of live and breathe it. That’s what you do.
SL: You can’t just be like “well, I made all of these new songs and now I have to wait.”
RG: No. Quite often for me as soon as you record a bulk of material or an album, there’s a very unbridled sense of new creativity that’s just eager to get out, because you’ve become sick of the things you’ve meticulously crafted. It’s nice to rid yourself of that stuff, call it stamped and delivered, and then move onto new things. You really have to be open to new inspiration for new songs. That’s not to be without a doubt, especially when you’re working in the confines of album cycles—every moment is very precious in fostering new material. Because the more you have going into the studio, the better your album will be because you can weed out the mediocre.
SL: Do you have any future releases planned? Or is that far away?
RG: It’s kind of hard to say. We’re sorting of getting started on this album and depending on how its received, a third album could happen relatively soon or it could be another year or two.
SL: What bands have you been listening to lately? Who have been your favorite?
RG: Lately…good question. I don’t listen to a lot of new bands. I’m not really a seeker of new music. I kind of wish I was more, but I listen to a lot of the same things I always have. It’s like if I find something that works or strikes a chord, it stays in my stereo for years. It becomes nostalgic and kind of comforting, like an anchor. I like the Beatles, I like Pixies, I like sort of more obscure singer/songwriter people…you know, the obvious ones like Radiohead and…just played a show with a cool band called The Racoons. I like them now. They have a good CD. Think About Life. We just listened to that the other day. They’re a cool band from Canada.
You can stream Mother Mother’s albums from their website right here. Be sure to give them a listen and I’ll hopefully see you at SPACE Gallery tonight!