Motherhood: The Band, Definitely not the State of Mind

interview by Carey Rutherford, article by Ivy Miller

Listen to an excerpt of this interview on Apple Podcasts

Motherhood, a band out of New Brunswick formed in 2010, makes music that ranges from cool cheery Beach-Boys vibes to what Penny, bass and keyboard player, calls “a shrodell”—that is, a cross between shrieking and yodelling…all in a single song. Penny, along with her bandmates Adam, who plays *drums*, and Brydon, who does guitar, bass and keys, stood outside The Palomino with MUSICAlive to discuss their musical range.

Young man, woman and man sitting at picnic table laughing.
Their music may be undefinable, but they’re not: guitarist/vocalist Brydon Crain, bassist/keyboards Penelope Stevens, and drummer *Adam Sipkema* (drummers get *stars*!). Image by Emulsion Lab.

“Why so much variety? Is that a distinct idea or is that the way it goes or how does that work?” we ask.

“We just kind of write collaboratively,” Penny says, but quickly corrects herself. “Well, ENTIRELY collaboratively.” She goes on to explain how their songs are often made. Sometimes one of the trio will bring a riff or some lyrics to the table, but often, Penny says, “We go into the studio with nothing and just kind of bash our heads against the wall until something comes out, so it can be quite diverse depending on what we’re listening to at the time, the mood, whatever.”

The method seems to work. When on the subject of a particular song, we can’t help but to tell the band, “If you don’t do that song, I will start crying. Cause it sounds awesome.”

We mean, do the song live, which Penny assures us they will play. But that brings up another uniqueness to Motherhood. “I was surprised when I looked at the Sled Island info and it mentioned you’re a trio because you have so much going on on the CD. It sounds like there’s eight of you.

Brydon can’t deny it. “Yeah, the records we do [have] a lot of layers. Especially this one,” he says, referring to the band’s latest album, Dear Bongo.

When asked how they translate many-layered songs to live music, Brydon explains, “We like to think of them as different things. One rule we made for this record was: Don’t think about the live show. Just write the songs, make them however we want to make them, however big we want to make them, and we’ll figure it out. So we did.”

And it definitely shows. If we were to play the music without knowing the band, it would be easy to think this album was a compilation. Sometimes, a single song might even sound like it’s being played by different bands at different times. So when it comes to converting such layered and varied music, how do they do it?

“I guess we just try to keep the things that your ear will latch on to,” says *Adam* (*drummers get *stars*). “When we transpose new music into the live setting, we just have to think of: What are the important bullet points that we want to hit? What do we absolutely need to reproduce and what can we cut without people noticing?”

At the same time, not all the songs from the album get played live often. *Adam* adds, “We always have to keep in mind which songs are the strongest performance wise, and the vibe of the bars that we play.”

Seems fair enough. But with all the complexities of Dear Bongo, we have to ask, “How long have you spent on that album?”

“A long time,” Penny answers. “A long time.”
She and Brydon go back and forth a bit until they have a solid timeframe: three years. But not all of that was spent making music.

“We sat on it a long time,” *Adam* says. “We were just trying to do the release properly and we were looking for labels in the States to help us with distribution.”

Penny adds, “We went back into the studio and recorded another song as well. We finished this recording in May of [2017] and then we were sitting on it for a long time, listening to the mixes. We ended up deciding it wasn’t finished and then went back into the studio in December [2017].”

Seeing as how Dear Bongo’s released in early 2019, that means they sat on it for over a full year before it came out. But they didn’t deprive their fans too much. They’d played songs from the album live before the release.

“I think it paid off because people were already familiar with the music when it was released and they knew what to expect a little bit,” Penny explains. “To put out our album release and have people singing the words already was nice.”

Before we finish our interview, we have one last burning question to ask Motherhood.

“One of the instrumentals has a number for a title,” we start.

“224,” Penny pipes up.

“That one. So what’s with the number?”

“It’s just a track,” *Adam* explains. “Like, an automatic track listening on your phone. I think we were just listening to it on a phone.”

We have to laugh at that. “It was track 224? What?” We say. “I’m looking for an inner meaning here.”

Brydon, probably hoping to add some significance to the song, says, “That one actually was done mostly live. […] We wrote it in the studio, like we had all the parts for it but we just didn’t have it together. So we just took an hour and put it together, which is…that’s a little weird for us.”

A song done in an hour for a band that sat on their album over a year before releasing it? Maybe a little weird. But it seems weird is what Motherhood’s all about, and we love them for it.

Posted by Ivy Miller

Author: Ivy Miller

Ivy has a degree in Creative Writing which she uses on a daily basis in Facebook posts and tweets. Her hobbies include writing novels, making films, and blogging. She hopes to someday be a stay-at-home dog owner. The proudest achievement of her life was running away to Paris without telling anyone. She’s back now, unfortunately.