It’s a rare bird or beast of a band that can wow both fans and critics in one fell swoop, but Vancouver five-piece Mother Mother just happens to be one of them. From the crackling promise of its debut, Touch Up, to the critical breakthrough of O My Heart, the group has displayed a knack for marrying pop conventions with an unparalleled level of artistic mastery. And the group has caught plenty of ears, too: It captivated a sold-out crowd at the Gateway in January. And, in the midst of producing its third album, it’s not a stretch to imagine them headlining the Saddledome some day in the not-so-distant future.
Much of the quintet’s promise, however, has already been actualized. O My Heart, released in 2008 on Last Gang records, yielded three singles, including the frenetic “Hayloft,” an impossibly gleeful farmyard-fornication romp that combined guitar rock, accented vocals and a hodgepodge of lofty ideas with the band’s considerable instrumental prowess. This, all in a slick three-minute package.
Ryan Guldemond, the group’s impeccably groomed singer-songwriter-frontman, readily acknowledges the uneasy relationship between art and pop, creativity and commerce.
“You’re always trying to strike a balance between, I guess, commerce and art. It’s an age-old sob story, and it’s a balance we wanted to strike,” he says. “We want to break some rules and write some songs that reach a broad mass of people. But we also want to do something that’s unique, creative and different, something that makes people think outside the box and makes people feel something outside the box. That’s the type of music we like, so that’s the type of music we want to make.”
But for its forthcoming album, the group has approached things differently. Over the span of three months, Guldemond and team (which includes sister Molly, keyboardist Jasmin Parkin, bassist Jeremy Page and drummer Ali Siadat) secluded themselves in Vancouver’s fabled Mushroom Studios, turning it into their own audio laboratory. And while Guldeman has experience producing — he handled the knobs for O My Heart and Hannah Georgas’s This is Good along with fellow Vancouverite Howard Redekopp — he’s handling production duties for Mother Mother’s latest by his lonesome. And that, he says, is a job he’s taking very seriously.
“I pushed it way beyond the limits of healthy work hours, like no days off and 16-hour days. You’re so fuelled by the lust of your own project, your own band and wanting it to be good. It’s something you’re going to have to promote and live with, well, for the rest of your life,” he says.
“More than that, we wanted to make an album where you could really get the essence of our band,” he adds, noting that he’s hoping the album sounds simultaneously hi-fi and organic. “We wanted to accentuate the elements, so you hear five people playing the song out.”
And while the album is now at the mixing stage, Guldemond isn’t relaxing just yet.
“It’s so easy to feel pressed against the wall and rushed when you’re putting out records and trying to move forward as a band. We’re really going to use the time between now and the release to get all our ducks in a row. When the gates are open and the album’s out, we’re just going to be prepared and ready to go.”
Although fans will have to wait until next February to hear the full album, Guldemond says he will be previewing new material at upcoming performances. As for what to expect, Guldemond says it’s a blend of artistic growth and flat-out listenability.
“It’s the most accessible album, but at the same time it’s the quirkiest as well; it’s the closest and most real representation of who we are collectively and individually as musicians,” he says. “But I guess it’s easy, sometimes, to forget that there’s a very important relationship between the listener and the artist and neither side should get too self-indulgent.”