Starting out as Kristine Leschper’s solo project, Mothers quickly became a solid and strong band with Matthew, Drew and Patrick. A self-taught songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Kristine developed a love for experimental music and math rock, and with the help of her bandmates, they created their beautiful debut album, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired. Matthew was the one we talked to about this fascinating album and the beginnings of the band.
Mothers were formed by Kristine and later on you joined the band. How did you meet her and how was it like to be part of the band?
Kristine was solo for a while and I attended to a lot of her shows. I really liked going to see her play. I didn’t see any of her first shows, but I caught a lot of them for a year or two. We played in a band together and that’s actually how we met. It wasn’t a very serious thing and we never recorded anything, but we were both just supporting members. We realized very quickly that we had a strong musical connection. We just kind of started working on stuff. The first time we worked together on Mothers’ stuff I was kind of producing some of her songs in a variety of different ways and some of that early stuff is available on our Soundcloud. For a little while we were just recording things in my house and our guitarist Drew Kirby also lives there, so he started working with us too. He was a big fan as well and he had been in a lot of her shows. Me and Drew also played in another project together and so it made a lot of sense for Drew to start working with us. We started writing some stuff together. The record that came out most of it is material that we added as full band arrangements. We kind of home recorded the demos for about a month and then we went to the studio and made the full-length.
Having a full band gave balance and dynamics to the songs, and the first song you wrote together as a band was “Copper Mines”. Can you tell us how was your approach on that song?
It started as a guitar part… Kristine had the guitar part and pretty much all the lyrics written, so we worked out the rest of it together just by playing a lot. We just practiced a lot and tried in different ways. That’s kind of always been the main thing with, Mothers, especially in the beginning, but still even now when it comes to locking down songwriting to see how a song actually works, it ends up being a process of drafts and revisions really. A song will go through a lot of different stages and a lot of different identities before it finally reaches its own final form. We all just kind of worked on it together, played it a lot, talked about it a lot and that was it. Our songwriting process varies a lot from song to song. It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes Kristine has a much better idea before we even go into it and tell it’s going to work. Sometimes she has even less idea and ends up being much different.
Your debut album When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired is a deep and mesmerizing introduction into Mothers’ world. It’s emotionally complex and musically detailed. The majority of the songs of the album was written while Kristine was finishing art school in early 2014. What were your main inspirations while working those songs?
The inspirations for the record kind of came from a lot of different places… Half of this record is like softer stuff, it’s not as knowing what you’re doing as much with like the rock bands vibe, I guess. Some of it is much calmer and pretty. Angel Olsen name gets around a lot, so that’s kind of an obvious thing with the early stuff we did, but also there’s this group called Amen Dunes and it’s a big inspiration for us. As far as the full band esthetics, it really comes from a lot of different places, especially me and Kristine have a deep love for like very technical music, and what would you call math-rock bands like Hella and a lot of Zach Hill projects. We’re into things like that and also this band called Women, we all draw a lot of inspiration from them. I wouldn’t say that we went into making that record thinking like we wanted to sound like this band or this record… We were really trying to figure out what we sounded like, and for better and for worse, that’s kind of how we did it. I think it was better that way and I prefer to operate that way, not trying to replicate something that you like, but to try to create something new that you like.
What was the concept behind your album?
Kristine wrote a lot of this music for the LP. When she was finishing up with college, she was going through some rough things and I think coming to terms with some rough things… It has a lot to do with what you would call “human condition”. It’s a big commentary on human relationships in general… I would describe it as a big commentary on human relationships and I think one of the main things is knowing in relationships we humans hurt each other even without meaning to. It’s not even active all the time, but it’s impossible not to surround at least in some capacity and that’s the big theme of it. But also an equally huge part of the record theme is trying to find triumph in sadness or in getting over like a relationship or other specific things that you’re facing. Facing it with a little more grit and as opposed of devastation and finding a way and finding empowerment over your hurts.
“I would describe it [the album] as a big commentary on human relationships and I think one of the main things is knowing in relationships we humans hurt each other even without meaning to.”
When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired is a title that can be interpreted in many ways. How did you come up with this title?
Kristine came up with it. The way I interpret it is “when you walk a long distance” refers to relationships and lights in the human condition. When you go through a lot of different things and difficult experiences in your life it wears you out, but you’re still alright even if you go through a million terrible things and deal with a lot of awful relationships. At the end of it, you’re still alive, breathing and walking around, maybe exhausted, but you keep going. A big theme of the record is in spite of everything that it’s difficult in life you just keep moving and you do your best to get past it. It’s a sad record, but it’s not meant to be like a crushing sadness – it’s suppose to be a more uplifting one.
You worked with producer Drew Vandenberg (Of Montreal, Deerhunter and Porcelain Raft), so how was it like to record the album with him?
We worked with Drew Vandenberg and he does a lot of great work in Athens. He works in one of the best studios, so it’s a place where a lot of great records have been made and it’s called Chase Park Transduction. We talked about a lot of different ways to make the record. For a little while we were home recording like I said, but we decided we wanted something a little more professional than that. We talked with Drew because he is really great. He has been doing it for a long time.
The album also features collaborations with Josh McKay of Deerhunter (on vibraphone) as well as McKendrick Bearden of Grand Vapids (who played bass and provided string arrangements throughout).
As far as McKendrick Bearden contribution, he played bass on the record, but he also wrote all of the string arrangements for the songs like “Too Small For Eyes” and “Burden Of Proof”. He did all of that because he has a degree in composition, so he really knows the right way to go and do all that. We just got him involved because we all really love the projects that he’s in and he’s also just a great musician. And then Josh McKay… He came in to play vibraphone on “Burden Of Proof”, that was how he got connected because Drew sent the song to him before we had vibraphoneon it and asked him if he would come up with anything. So he came in and did that and it was really cool. That’s pretty much all Josh did, though. It was cool because he left his vibraphone at the studio for me to use and so I got to record vibraphone on a couple more songs as well.
What can you tell us more about recording your first full-length?
I guess the recording process took about a month, but we weren’t working on it everyday. It was kind of an on/off thing and we didn’t even work on music together as a group for about a month and a half. We only played one show out as a group. When we initially went into the studio, we didn’t have a whole lot of experience with being a band and so that was interesting. We were just practicing and writing everyday for about a month and a half. We were very well prepared to go in, but we didn’t spend a long time being Mothers yet. One important thing to understand about that record is that it was before we did any touring or shows. I think it brings the pros and cons to the table, but I wouldn’t change the process or anything about it. It was a great experience.