Sound and Vision with Motherhood

Motherhood are a band of extremes. The New Brunswick-based trio, often referred to as ‘avant-rock’, veer from pole to pole of the rock spectrum. Folk passages judder into psych rock-outs, while gorgeous harmonies give way to guttural howls. On their new album, Winded, instead of reining themselves in, they further loosen any shackles that may be constraining them and let their freak flag fly. It is a joyous voyage of a record, and, ahead of its release, we were lucky to catch up with the band to get a glimpse into the music, movies and books that make them tick. 

Three favourite albums:

The Beach Boys – Smile

Brydon Crain – I love Smile because it’s one of the most beautiful things ever recorded and it comes with a long, complicated story. I know Brian Wilson is very respected but I truly don’t think his influence on music can be overstated. He changed the way we think about writing songs and the way we record those songs. He was so far ahead of his time that the technology wasn’t available to support his modular style of recording, which is probably why he abandoned the album. But even though it didn’t get finished it still made its way into the world because the songs sound like God wrote pop.  

Jean-Pierre Ferland – Jaune

Penelope Stevens – Jaune came out of the French-Canadian province of Quebec in 1970, and although my French is quite rusty, I don’t need to understand what he’s saying to be moved by Ferland’s songwriting. Jaune has a layer of cigarette smoke that softens every hard edge, swirling everything into a psychedelic haze. There’s an almost Disney-like quality to the synth and choir parts; a perverted kitschiness that is absolutely irresistible to me. A friend gave me a copy of this record while we were on tour in Quebec, and he said ‘it’s basically Quebec’s equivalent of the White Album.’ He was right, it certainly scratches a similar itch. There’s a place in Sing Sing that skips on the copy he gave me, and I’ve listened to the record so many times that the skip has just become part of the song in my mind. It always surprises me when I hear it outside of my living room and the song carries on, uninterrupted.

Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde

Adam Sipkema – Today – once again, it’s Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan. It’s all good – front to back. Can’t say that about most albums. Definitely played Blonde straight through 50 times at least on the road over the years. ‘I could make it without you if I just didn’t feel so all alone.’ Who’s a better road dog than Bob?

Favourite film:

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

Adam Sipkema – Inherent Vice, probably. The levels of fog and motive that envelop every scene -the comedy in stumbling ass-backwards through a sinister web of intersecting conspiracies, hopelessly outmatched, barely understanding what’s unravelling and narrowly escaping death at every turn. It has darkness and levity perfectly measured out. No one but Paul Thomas Anderson could have made a movie like this and made it out so successfully. It has everything I want. 

Favourite book:

Kurt Vonnegut – Hocus Pocus

Brydon Crain – One of my favourite books is Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. I really like the concept of a book written on scraps of paper and I thought the formatting was great. It’s interesting to read a Vonnegut book that’s set mostly in one place and doesn’t have any sci-fi stuff and I think that allowed him to make more specific political and social points. Vonnegut was so good at communicating serious ideas in a really silly way that kind of forces you to appreciate life more.

A song that means a lot to you:

Joanna Newsom – This Side of the Blue

Penelope Stevens – Joanna Newsom is one of the few artists that all 3 of us can agree on. She’s what gets us through long late-night drives, calms us down after bad shows, and acts as a constant source of inspiration when it seems like all music is starting to sound the same. This Side of the Blue is one of Joanna’s simplest songs – just an electric piano and some swoopy strings – but each verse weaves a tiny narrative into a larger mosaic that asks tough questions in a very easy way. I don’t know how she does it. My favourite verse:

‘And the signifieds butt heads with the signifiers,

And we all fall down slack-jawed to marvel at words,
When across the sky sheet the impossible birds,
In a steady, illiterate, movement homewards.’

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