Mother Mother has changed everything except band members for its latest album Very Good Bad Things.
The (former) indie band from tiny Quadra Island, tucked between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland, is now signed to one of the biggest labels on the planet: Island Records/Universal Music Canada. After mostly self-producing its first four records, the band tapped Canadian producer Gavin Brown, known for his work with Metric and the Tragically Hip. Mother Mother recorded in Toronto, not BC, where the band laid down all four previous albums—and eschewed its go-to acoustic instruments and wrote on synths.
“I think it was a purposeful reaction to a visceral sense of change needed,” says Ryan Guldemond, frontman and guitarist, over the phone from London, ON in the early stages of the band’s latest tour. “When you’re getting into your fifth record, you can easily fall into traps of repetition and patterns.”
Upon first listen, Very Good Bad Things seems to reflect all the newness that was thrown at it. Lead single “Get Out the Way” is a Pixies-meets-Muse synth rocker—quite a departure from the mischievous but sweet pop numbers that drove Mother Mother’s last three records. The whole record sounds much bigger than anything the group’s done before: big drums, big studio shine, bigger budget. It sounds like ambition, the next step up in a career that’s seen a steady but not meteoric rise.
Guldemond is doing his best to be the calm in the centre of the storm of performances, promotion and politics that is the modern music industry. His job—along with his sister Molly on vocals and keys, her partner Jeremy Page on bass, Ali Siadat on drums and Jasmin Parkin on keys and vocals—is to be special on stage, night after night.
“It’s very uncomfortable on the road: you wake up on a bus, it’s tight and stuffy and everyone is tired and tripping over one another. You don’t know where you are and it’s cold and you have to somehow make sense of five different pieces of luggage,” Guldemond says. “The challenge is to overcome that mundanity and get in that magical headspace—to let go of your needy thoughts.”
Staying in the moment is an important concept to Guldemond. If there’s one thread that connects the band’s early acoustic folk, the angular pop of its last three albums and the bombast of the latest record, it’s the exploration of the human condition. What does it mean to be a human being in 2014? What are the limitations of our species? It’s heady stuff to put down in a three-minute, radio-friendly package.
“I think human consciousness is a very young in terms of the units of time from outer space,” he says. “We’ve been here really just for the blink of an eye. It makes sense we’re running amok, scrambling around and botching things. I think it’s helpful that people are examining themselves and examining the worth and unworth of their own thoughts. I think it’s really helpful to disbelieve what we’ve been taught to believe.”
Thu, Dec 4 (7 pm)
Shaw Conference Centre, $46.50