Rich Smith via Warner Records Press CA

Mother Mother – “Everyday We Pinch Ourselves”

Mother Mother has a lot going for them. In actuality, they always have, but in 2022, there is an almost mythical rock and roll force surrounding them and their music, which is just one reason we wanted to talk to them.

This band has a brand new set of fans lined up to experience them live, so there is a massive tour underway. Streams across all platforms total a whopping 1.3 billion, even though they’ve been an active musical force since iPods were still the cool media device to have. We also have to recognize the deluxe edition of their critically acclaimed album Inside, which is out today and only elongates the length of this evidently adored era of the band’s career.

You also can’t help but note that Mother Mother is not a new group. The Canadian quintet isn’t doing anything quite out of the ordinary, either. They are, simply put, an ordinarily extraordinary rock band for the modern times doing justice to their own story and the stories they tell through alternative song. However, now more than ever, people are tuning into that and are slowly, but surely getting clued in to just why this year is going to be one of their most unforgettable to date. 

This is a band that is genuinely enamored with all they are creating. Their musicianship is honed and real – practically palpable – and their songs are vivid, alternative escapes. It was such a joy to sit down, even over the phone, with Mother Mother’s lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Ryan Guldemond. The Aquarian learned so much about a band we will probably always want to hear more about – and now it is your turn.

I am so stoked to talk about the delue of Inside. Why did you guys want to put out this record within this era of the band and maybe not save some of these songs and renditions for something else? Because as much as “Life” is a superb single to lead the deluxe with, it also could have a really great life of its own – no pun intended.

[Laughs] When the music is flowing and when the channel is open, I think it’s healthy to not hoard material and just release it. Not in a rushed fashion, of course, I think the world needs music more than ever, and if you’re writing it, it feels extra good to get it out there and move on to the next thing. That’s kind of where we’re at right now.

Absolutely – artistic momentum is great for the artist and also for the audience.

Yeah, and I think things just move faster now, too. You can put out a record in the summer and then come the new year… I wouldn’t say it’s forgotten, but people get hungry for the next thing quickly.

Mother Mother is still doing well within that kind of environment. Dare I say, even doing the best you’ve ever been. What has that been like for you to watch this growth on the Internet and through streaming services, even though you have, in fact, been around for a while and really honing that as of late?

It’s been amazing and bizarre and unexpected and a magical kind of mystical. No one saw that coming. You really couldn’t even point to a patient zero or a genesis that brought this out of nowhere, so we’ve been floored. We are just trying to honor the new energy with our own energy and our own hard work and even more music, you know? It’s like this thing feels as if it’s been gifted to us by the universe. We want to make good by that and work harder than we ever have to make the best music that we can make, make a lot of it, and get it out there by traveling and connecting with this new audience. It has certainly lit a fire under the band.

I love that, especially as this career blossoming is so deserved. You also co-directed a video with Rich surrounding the kind of culmination of growth and of this development. I feel like that really pays homage to this new audience, but also the ones that have been sticking by you for so long.

Yeah, 100%. I think that the older Mother Mother fans are similar to newer Mother Mother fans. They’re typically just such sweet, thoughtful, creative people. That has always been a through-line with our fans, so now that there’s more of them, it’s really beautiful to connect with this community. Making that mini-doc was a great way to celebrate them, celebrate the friendships, and celebrate the bond with the fans, because they do run things. A band is only so good as those who wish to spend their time with them.

It’s also clear you listen to them. I know my favorite song off Inside was “Like a Child” and now the deluxe has a piano version of it. That just shows how the fans are getting all that they could ask out of loving this band.

We take our cues very mindfully from the audience. I think they’re just very hungry for music and for art and for creative energy that they can sink their teeth into – and that is such a good thing. It pushes a band to work harder and to dig deeper within themselves. It just makes more music in the world, too, and that’s not a bad thing either.

Speaking of your grateful fans, Mother Mother has done the festival circuit, but also torn up intimate stages. You’ve played Mother Mother songs to audiences of all shapes and sizes. With a New York show right around the corner, I would love to know what sort of on-stage experiences you love the most.

I think regardless of the size, it always feels very special when there’s some form of intimacy that can be achieved. That job is harder when there’s 20,000 people, but if you can succeed in creating an intimate connection with that many people, then it’s truly an otherworldly feeling. The energy to circulate with them and to build that unity – it’s very powerful. I do like the big crowds but I mean, intimacy is right there, served up on a silver platter with the smaller crowds. It’s lovely to indulge in that connection.

As much as I like it all, the bigger crowds are the bigger job, but the harder jobs means that payoffs can be bigger. It’s kind of easier to have like your secret handshake with all your friends at your private party – and d when we’re playing these shows on the road right now, it kind of feels like that! But when you get out those festivals, there’s a lot of people that you need to convert, or you hope to convert, that are kind of watching with a sense of incredulousness. That’s a good hearty task to try to bring that many people together, but I like it.

Photo by Rich Smith

That definitely feels like a welcomed challenge, but you’re still doing what you love at the end of the day.

The whole thing – doing this whole thing – a gift. It’s a rare job and we’re very lucky, so I don’t think we ever lose sight of that. It’s fortunate that we’ve had so many years to kind of grind upwards because it’s really taught us a lot. Humility has taught us that nothing comes too easily. You gotta work hard. This has allowed us to work out the interpersonal kinks in the band, because everybody knows that bands fight, and it’s an emotional complex and enterprise. We now 15 years later how to get along and have positive energy. We are really just in a great place to accept this new success from the channel of humility and gratitude and hard work. I’m really grateful that things kind of happened slow and over a long period of time.

As a band that is gelling so well, I’m curious – are you all on the same page when it comes to what songs make it onto a set list now that you have so many to choose from? Especially now that you have this deluxe of Inside.

The thing about a set list is you have got to write it for the crowd. You can’t write it for yourself. As soon as you figure that out, then it’s easy to get over those disappointments.

I think about when I saw the Pixies for the first time and it was like, “Please, please just play all those old favorites! Please, for the love of God,” and they did. It was a transcendental experience. I kind of apply that early memory to when I write set lists now, thinking like, “What do they want to hear? What are the songs that carried this band to where it is today and is connected most widely?” You almost have to honor of those songs by playing them. I think it’s a bit self-indulgent when a band ignores the songs that have given them the opportunity in the first place to carry on, so when we put a set list together, it’s definitely like a legacy set. We pull from every chapter and every record. It’s not as much a promotion of the new record, as much as it is a Mother Mother mix tape, so to speak. We definitely go out and play the songs that people want to hear.

That is the perfect mindset and so exciting to hear. To have a Mother Mother journey to go on in a live setting means it will please just about every person at a show, including yourselves.

Yeah! I mean, it it pleases the crowd, it pleases us, because it’s all about the crowd, the fans, and all of them. We need to be authentic when we make the art, when we write the songs, and when we record record them, so that we can play them again and again. That’s a crucial aspect to our being best selves – being honest when we make this stuff. Then after that, it all needs to be for the service of the consumer and the fans can tell me their take on it.

Before we let you go, I do want to talk about how this moment of Mother Mother, shows and fans and all, feels to you. Watching this tour sell out so far in advance with so many dates must have been such a riveting moment in itself. You’ve had quite a few of those, though, like late night performances and Rolling Stone spots. In the last decade plus of this band’s life, what has been the biggest, most memorable, whirlwind moment that you can share?

The whole last year, was basically just us saying, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this. This is happening.” That started in August of 2020 and is just lasting out until today. It’s been over a year of getting that sensation, whether that’s through the sold out tour getting the Rolling Stone nod or a late night thing or just connecting with teenagers around the world via TikTok. It’s all been moments of, “Wow, this is is crazy,” so it’s hard to point to one thing.

I guess the tours is probably the most exciting right now because that does translate to real, good ‘ol fashioned human connection, people in a room bonding through the frequency of music, and to us, that’s the most important thing beyond big press spots. Getting the chance to really connect with our fans in the open there is where it’s at. The fact that we get to do that on this whole new level in America, which is a market that we’ve always struggled in… wow. It is a classic and cliche tale that the Canadian band does well in Canada, but just can’t get a foothold in America. That was certainly the case for many years, so it’s very special and appreciated that we’re able to come down here and connect with all the more people.