Queen's University — Since 1873
13th September 2011

Lyrical epiphanies

Mother Mother’s frontman Ryan Guldemond talks to the Journal about haircuts, animal inspiration and Oscar snubs

The lead single  on Eureka, “The Stand,” was written by Ryan Guldemond to pass the time while in transit.
The lead single on Eureka, “The Stand,” was written by Ryan Guldemond to pass the time while in transit. (Supplied)

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Vancouver-based quintet Mother Mother is coming to Kingston with a new roster and a new album. They’re playing a sold out show tonight at the Mansion in support of their newest album Eureka, and then continuing across the country for a leg of their tour.

The band is touring Canadian universities including stops in Victoria, Guelph and a mystery campus for TD’s Pump it Up contest.

Guldemond sings, plays guitar, writes songs and even produced the latest album. He personally recruited their newest member Jasmin Parker, after the band’s keyboardist and backup vocalist Debra-Jean Creelman decided to leave the band in 2008. Before joining Mother Mother, Parker was Guldemond’s hair dresser. He asked her to belt out some tunes while giving him a trim.

“I was blown away,” he said. “It was a real quiet day without anyone else in the salon, so nobody needed to feel embarrassed or anything,” he said. “At that point she’d been cutting my hair for years, so we were both pretty comfortable with each other.”

Guldemond said it was an easy decision to welcome her into the fold.

“I knew she had good work ethic and was punctual, because she was never late for the haircuts,” he added.

Guldemond shares singing duties with keyboardist and sister Molly.

“Molly has really evolved as a synth player, as a synthesist,” Guldemond said. “It’s brought a flanking keyboard quality to the band’s sound.”

On working together with his sister, he provided a balanced perspective.

“We definitely have some tumultuous energies, but what pair of siblings doesn’t,” he said. “On the flip side there’s a lot of love and compatibility there.

“Now I just couldn’t imagine being in a band without her, it’s just really become the norm. It’s hard to know how to properly describe its rarity when in fact it feels so common and natural to me.”

The band’s growth is felt on Eureka, where melodies are fleshed out by the extra key-work. On songs like “Chasing it Down,” the synthesist’s switching between a church organ and a sharp grand piano is indispensable.

It’s these powerful riffs that inspired the album’s cover, a roaring lion’s head bursting through a technicolor backdrop. Animal heads proved to be a theme in Mother Mother’s album art. The first album Touch Up features a five-headed rooster. Their sophomore album O My Heart has a fish, hooked through the lip.

“[The rooster] is confident and zany, and also has barnyard connotations. Our earlier sound was very earthy and countrified in its eccentricities,” Guldemond said.

Each head signals a change in mood.

“[The fish head] is a bit morose, and there’re some confessional elements to it, some ‘kill me now’ quality,” he said.

The band is checking out studios and writing material for a fourth LP. But, a busy tour and album plans haven’t kept Guldemond from exploring other artistic avenues. Guldemond had a small role as a band member in the 2010 adult comedy Hot Tub Time Machine.

“That was my big foray into Hollywood. I was pretty much perfect for the part, so it was a no brainer,” he said.

While there was no Oscar nomination, Guldemond assuredly stated he was otherwise rewarded.

“I definitely won a Grammy,” he joked.

While they may not always tell the truth, Mother Mother can certainly be depended on for a distinctive edgy pop rock sound.

Mother Mother plays the Mansion tonight at 7 p.m.

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