Interview – Mother Mother

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Mother Mother band

Montreal Rocks had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Guldemond, singer/songwriter and guitarist for Vancouver based Indie band, Mother Mother. We discussed his source of inspiration for their newest record “Dance and Cry,” the process of recording, and their relationship with Montreal and their fanbase. 

For past records, you had found inspiration in different cities, such as Toronto, and your hometown in Vancouver. This time, it was a solo trip to Costa Rica. Could you tell me a little bit about your trip? What were some of the things that helped jog your creative process?

Yeah, so I went to Costa Rica by myself. I rented a car, went to the jungle, visited various beach towns. I just wanted to be uncomfortable. Traveling is very uncomfortable for me. The shy child in me really comes out and it’s an experience I don’t necessarily enjoy.

But I find it helps in terms of reaching into the deepest parts of yourself. To discover new things, and hopefully write new songs, come up with new ideas. So that was the motivation. And you know, it was successful. There were two very important songs on the record that were unearthed in Costa Rica, and more than anything, there was just some sort of a confidence that was discovered there, that fueled the rest of the writing process for Dance and Cry.

Yeah for sure, I completely agree with that. Traveling can bring out different feelings. It’s a completely different area, you can have no idea where you are, especially when you’re somewhere so far from where you’re from.

I mean it was an easy place to get around, but you can’t lean on your pillars of familiarity like you can at home. And if what you’re trying to do is create something that’s unfamiliar to you, break your grounds, then that’s a great way to do it.

Certainly. You can even hear it on the album that traveling has brought out a completely different side of you.

Even before the trip and going through the writing process, I was in a completely different place. Just the most emotionally raw, and sensitive place I have ever been. Which I think really helped with creating songs that were really real, and authentic. So the whole thing was just really different for myself and the band.

Yes, I completely agree. So, Biting on a Rose is a very beautifully intimate interlude found on Dance and Cry. You and Jasmin Parkin had explained on your YouTube channel that it was recorded in one take. Had you expected it to be such a quick recording? Or did you start the process and think; “Yup, that’s it.”

Well, recording can really go one of two ways. It can be quick, and magical, or it could be long and painful. And Biting on a Rose was delicate. There isn’t a lot to it, there’s two mics, one on the piano and one on Jasmin’s vocals. So in a technical sense it’s easy, but in an emotional sense it’s hard because there’s nothing to mask that intimacy. The recording has to carry itself on the power of the emotion and conviction.

Maybe we thought it was going to be hard, and that’s why it ended up being easy. We expected to go into a really long day, so we didn’t overthink the first take. It sort of just rolled off of us, you know? It was the byproduct of feeling, instead of thinking so much.

With all of that said, which song on the record was the hardest to record?

Ouf… Dance and Cry was hard. I mean there’s so many elements to bringing a song to its final stage. You know, there’s the recording of the basic instruments, but then there’s the mixing, and adding background vocals, children’s choirs, making sure the chorus pops right. Like, I remember when we were mixing that song, it took weeks to finally get it to feel right, even after everything was recorded. So yeah, Dance and Cry was a bit of a beast.

Of course, it’s an intense song. One of my favourites on the record actually.

(Chuckles) Awesome.

So, fun fact, your last show in Montreal was two years ago today (March 4).

Oh is it?

Yeah, it is. It was my first time seeing you guys live, and you had mentioned something I still think about today. You had said that Montreal is “an excellent place to refuel” and that it’s the perfect city to visit in the middle of tour. I’ve been wondering ever since, what is it about performing in Montreal that makes you feel that way?

Really just how artistic and culturally alive it is, even in the winter time. When you’re out on the road while touring, especially in Canada during winter, much of your day consists of elements which challenge artistry. It’s grey, it’s cold, it’s barren, magistical. And all of those things work against unearthing the creative dragon on stage. So it’s sort of like a battle everyday. Against mondanity, versus that magic you’re trying to strike while on stage.

Yet, when you find yourself in a city like Montreal, that is just, brimming with magic, it sort of fuels what you’re trying to achieve naturally. It’s a healthy place to be when you’re creating or performing. MR: Yeah, when you had said that, it honestly changed my perspective of artists live performances. You watch videos online of some shows, and in certain cities you can tell the difference in the level of connection between crowd and artist. The artist will sometimes feel more in tune with their surroundings, the cities culture, and even the entire venue. It’s amazing to see.

Oh yeah, and it’s amazing to feel right? Like, New York, that’s a city that has art just flowing in its DNA. And there’s some sort of electric charge there that’s been created over these hundreds of years. So when you play there, you definitely feed off that electricity and it shows in your performance.

But I think the task at hand for a good performer is to try and create that wherever they are. Cause if you’re in a lame place, you cannot let that bum out your performance. Otherwise you’re gonna be inconsistent. Some people are gonna get a mediocre show while others are gonna get a transcendental experience. And that’s not fair.

Yes, you wanna make sure you give each show your best, make it enjoyable for everyone.

Of course.

You guys had really interacted with your fans over Instagram. The scream contest, and creating hashtags for fans to post their own lyrics over a set of chords. You called them “song mashes.” You had even asked what fans would want to hear on the setlist for this tour. Could you describe some of the feelings you experienced while going through all this content? Did you find inspiration from what was posted?

Certainly yeah! Inspiration, awe, gratitude, humility. I think gratitude was probably the deepest emotion. Seeing all these people that you don’t know invest physically, emotionally, and creativity into something that you’re doing.

Cause that stuff is tiring. It’s tiring to invest in something or a person. And the fact that there are so many people doing that for themselves, using the thing that you’ve created, you end up feeling really good about the arrangement and the dynamic. It fills you with a bit of a sense of duty too right? To nurture that relationship with love, care, consistency, and attentiveness. Because they deserve it.

Mhmm. You guys do an excellent job at keeping up with your fan base.

Thanks very much. They mean everything to us. They’re the boss! (laughs) They employ us. 

Yup, it’s really all up to them, whether they like what you have to offer or not.

Yeah, it doesn’t matter what the media says or if you win an award, if your fanbase disconnects from you then it’s over.

Oh yeah, and you’ve all kept it up for such a long time. There are so many dedicated fans that have been with you since the beginning, it’s so impressive.

Yeah we’re really so lucky. And we feel like we’re just getting started, you know? We went down to The States a bunch on this tour and there are so many young kids that came out to see these shows. Seriously from around nine years old to seventeen years old. Just hundreds of kids in that demographic, which fills the whole Mother Mother experience.

Young energy, a new feeling, like it’s just beginning. Which is really good for our souls because we’ve been doing this for like fourteen years, but it doesn’t feel like it when you see that new glimmer of “finding something” in these young kids eyes. It’s as if the project was reborn again.

I can only imagine how amazing it is to see all these new faces while on tour.

When you’re imagining someone listening to your music, is there a specific scene you picture? Like an emotion or a setting?

I guess I like to picture a person sinking in deeper with themselves. It doesn’t really matter where they are or what they’re doing, I just sort of hope for the music to be some sort of a guide or a flashlight back down the dark trail of confusion life creates. It’s a guide back to yourself hopefully. At least, that’s what it’s like for me. Like whenever I get lost in writing a song, I feel way more in touch with myself. Like I’ve found myself again. “Oh there you are! Thought I lost ya for a second, but I found you inside of this song and I remember you, I remember who I am.” So I sort of hope that there’s a similar experience for people listening.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And speaking from personal experience, it feels a lot similar to what you just explained. Especially when listening to an artist that can grasp emotion as much as you guys can.

Yeah it’s sort of like when you listen to something that you love, or really connect with, you kinda forget about the artist. The song feels like yourself. It becomes your song. It’s like laying eyes on a work of art, or a painting, or anything you connect to. It becomes you in that moment. It’s a beautiful reunion with presence.

It becomes extremely personal.

Yeah! And I hope I can create that sort of opportunity for people. Sometimes you don’t always win. If you’re too disconnected from yourself as you’re putting together an album them it doesn’t do as well. People listen to it and go “Ehhh I’m not having that devine moment, that time stopping still experience when listening to this.” And it probably has something to do with where the artist was at when they wrote it. Whether or not they connected to themselves.

And for sure that’s something that can be heard when listening to an album like that. When an artist isn’t completely invested in what they’re trying to compose, it becomes obvious when listening to it.

Yeah! It’s heard, it’s felt, and I think on a deep, metaphysical level, our cells even react to authenticity more than our brains do. And then that probably triggers our brain to have an automatic thought about it. Our entire bodies react to it.

Yeah, you have a point there.

So yeah, it’s a question of staying true to yourself. Success is being honest to the people around you. If you’re honest I think you’ll have a good life. Whether or not that involves large quantities of money.

So would you say that your goal with your music is to just be completely honest? Whether it be about yourself or others around you?

One hundred percent. Absolutely. This album has sort of redefined what my relationship is with this gig, songwriting, and my career. Like, I care so little about things that don’t matter now. I just care about writing good, honest music that could help someone reconnect with themselves and what they care about. That’s all I wanna do. And I know that if I do that, I’ll be a happy kid on this planet.

You’re completely right. And that mind set comes with time too. Like you said, you’ve been writing for around fourteen years now. The mindset that you’ve developed is one that needs time to grow and build.

Yeah, and you need to get a little lost as well. To be able to find your way back. Doing it wrong is beautiful. It’ll remind you of how you wanna do it right.

Yeah, hence the trip to Costa Rica?

Yeah! Hence the full process. This whole album is all about a return to self in a way. Or maybe the discovery of a new part of myself. A more vulnerable part. It was definitely a love affair with writing. Even if I was going through a hard time or I was in pain, the creative process that accompanied my emotional journey was joyful.

Beautifully said. Thank you so much, Ryan.

Of course! Thank you! Was a lovely chat. Will you be coming to the show?

Oh yeah, wouldn’t miss it.

Sweet, see you there.

Mother Mother band interview 2019

Jamie Siddall

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