Q&A With Athens GA Avant-Rockers Mothers



Noah SilvestryBY NOAH SILVESTRY In just a couple weeks, Mothers drop their debut LP, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired, and judging by what they’ve put out so far, it’s going to be a hell of a fun listen. The seeds of frontwoman Kristine Leschper’s art-school solo project have grown into a mighty experimental rock quartet. Drummer Matthew Anderegg stampedes triumphantly from one meter to the next without looking left or right while guitarist Drew Kirby leads your ears by leash in and out of harmony and Leschper’s voice, which sounds like that of an edgier, brooding, probably-pigtailed (I imagine) Angel Olsen, spits offhand philosophy with a smirk. I sat down with Mothers before their show at New Haven’s BAR last Wednesday to talk art, Athens, and their forthcoming release. Check them out when they play Milkboy Philly on Wednesday, February 4.

PHAWKER: You’re from Athens, GA. Could you tell me about the scene there, other artists you’re friends with, what it’s like playing there?

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: It’s cool. There’s a lot of young people experimenting.

DREW KIRBY: Everyone’s in a lot of bands. We’re all in a lot of bands.

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: There’s a pretty high standard there right now. Athens is really close to Atlanta, GA, and between the two cities, there’s a lot of great stuff. So bands from Athens that are great include…

DREW KIRBY: Grand Vapids.




DREW KIRBY: Deep State kicks ass. Half Acid’s awesome.


MATTHEW ANDEREGG: They’re technically Atlanta now.

KRISTINE LESCHPER:But it’s definitely a hub for experimental music because there are 24706428251_7255cc58b4_zplaces like Go Bar where you can kind of do whatever you want. And so people kind of use that as a way to express themselves through, like, performance art and experimental music.

PHAWKER: Are you all originally from there?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:Most of us moved. Drew and I are from Metro Atlanta and moved there for school. Matt’s from Savannah and moved there for school.

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: Patrick is from Miami. And he moved there after he went to school.

PHAWKER: I also heard you’ve toured with Of Montreal and worked with Kevin Barnes. Are there any crazy stories there? Because I know they have quite the production?

DREW KIRBY: Everyone says that, it’s really funny. They’re really hardworking and, honestly, pretty normal dudes. The only thing about Kevin is that he stays pretty private until after they play and then he just comes alive and he’ll talk to people for like four hours.

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: They’re all really sweet people.

DREW KIRBY: Yeah, I mean, dude just likes hanging out in the bus and watching Sports Center from what I understand. But it was nice in that way because we really got to just get to know them and talk about things that we enjoyed. The people he’s playing with now too are super talented. He’s got a bit of a different group around him, and it’s cool to see it revitalized.

KRISTINE LESCHPER:It was really inspiring, also, to just watch it as such a theatrical performance. It was cool to see it every night, because it’s a little different each night. They improvise a lot, so every night was a totally different experience.

PHAWKER: Kristine, Mothers started as a solo project of yours and eventually became the band. How did you make that transition, and about when did that happen?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:Yeah, so I had always wanted for it to be a full band, but I was really terrified of playing music with other people because I didn’t think that I was capable. I was timid and not sure that I’d be able to keep up as a guitar player. So I played as a solo act for about a year and a half. And then in November of 2014, we kind of all decided that we would try to turn it into a full band.

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: When it initially started, we were kind of making demos at me and Drew’s house because we have a recording space there. We made a couple demos just the three of us, there wasn’t any bass guitar yet. And we also did some arrangements of some of the solo songs that aren’t really rock arrangements, if you will.

KRISTINE LESCHPER:It was more like banjo and mandolin.

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: Keyboards and organs, and weird percussion.

DREW KIRBY: We had it in our heads at one point that we were going to record an album at the house. It was a solo project so it was like, yeah, come over and we’ll do these songs and put some stuff on it. Once it became more of a collaborative thing, it sort of took off.

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: We also didn’t quite have the resources yet to execute.

DREW KIRBY: Or the knowledge.

KRISTINE LESCHPER:I think we all got really excited playing together as a full band It was really refreshing for me especially. But it kind of started to fall into place.

PHAWKER: I know Kristine went to art school – did anybody else?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:No, but I would consider us all visual artists.

PHAWKER: And has that at all informed your music?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:I think so, for sure. For me specifically, studying visual art in an academic setting allowed me to learn how to focus properly and learn how to come up with a concept and then execute said concept. So that kind of allowed me to be really diligent in music making.

DREW KIRBY: I think sonically and lyrically there’s kind of a visual element to it, in that a lot of the time it’s not really locked into a conventional song format. It’s just a piece.

PHAWKER: When you mentioned earlier some songs with more acoustic instrumentation, like with banjo and mandolin, I thought of “Too Small For Eyes”, just among what’s currently on your Bandcamp. Did that one come out of a solo song?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:Pretty much all of the songs on the record came out of solo songs, most of them. Like 98% of them. So that was just one of my earlier songs that we happened to get a really good take of in the studio. It was an old solo song but not as old as my other songs. We were able to really lock into it during the recording process, and it was just one of the few older songs that felt good to play at the time and made it onto the record.

24504387740_88321e60db_zPHAWKER: I want to talk about lyrics, at least among the stuff that’s out as of now – there are quite a few references to honesty and promises. But I’d be interested to hear, even generally, what you think about when writing lyrics, what’s influencing you both from music and from literature.

KRISTINE LESCHPER:Up to this point, at least, the lyrics that I write tend to be pretty introspective. Usually really personal stuff, but things that relate back to the human condition, because that’s something that I’m really interested in. I’m the most interested in making things that are very human and that all people can relate to. Because everyone feels depressed at times and shy and unsure of their future. All those kinds of things. So the human condition is something I draw a lot of influence from. As far as literature, I read a lot of e.e. cummings over the last couple of years, that was a really big influence for me. And some more contemporary poets like Mira Gonzales and Sam Pink.

PHAWKER: And as far as the pure music goes, you guys change meter and temp, like, a lot, and I know that can’t be by hazard. Is that built into the songwriting, or did that develop later on?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:It has evolved, for sure. I have always been really influenced by more experimental music and math rock and more technical music. So it’s something I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t feel capable of pulling off as a solo act. So it was something that we’re all at least a little influenced by, so it kind of started evolving into that when we started playing together. Because suddenly it was this possibility.

PHAWKER: Harmonically, too, there’s a good deal of dissonance. Did that evolve in the same way?

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: We’re very fond of it.

KRISTINE LESCHPER:I think that comes down to, like, personally, I love super abrasive music. So that’s kind of my way of pulling in things that are abrasive in a less abrasive way. Abrasive but subtle.

PHAWKER: I know everyone asks you about “No Crying In Baseball”, and I know it kind of came about on its own, and I know it’s not going to be on the record. But that lyric, “There’s no crying in baseball” – it’s that movie quote that’s been beaten into the ground – what does that mean for you and in the context of the song? And where does this song fit into this band’s catalogue, since it’s going to be a B-side?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:So the title originally comes form A League of Their Own. It was our last day of mixing the record, we were in the studio, and we were all drinking beers and celebrating this awesome thing, like we’re almost done this project that has been so hard on us, and it was supposed to be this really happy moment, but I got super overwhelmed and started open-mouth ugly-crying in the studio for no reason. Everyone’s just hanging out, having a good time and I just lot it. And the first thing our engineer, Drew Vandenberg said was like, “Oh, I guess you don’t like the mix” or something like that just to be funny. And then he said, “Kristine, there’s no crying in baseball.” So that kind of put it to the forefront of my mind. Largely that song is more about being controlling of other people’s emotions and criticisms of sensitivity.

PHAWKER: So that brings us to your debut record, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired. Where and when did you record it, and who was involved?

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: We finished it about a year ago. We started it in December of 2014. It was a total of about 14 days in the studio spread out over the course of a month.

DREW KIRBY: It was super intense. We did it at a place called Chase Park Transduction which is a long-running studio in Athens that was started by some dudes who play in bands, and they still run it. It’s just a really nice atmosphere for a professional studio. But it was intense. Kristine asked me and Matt to play a show, the first time we had ever played together, like two days before it happened. So we did that, and two weeks later before were starting the record. So it was so quick and really intense for that reason, because we all had to really show up and perform.

MATTHEW ANDEREGG: We did a lot of homework. It was a big time crunch and there was a lot of pressure, making that record, both to develop the full band sound and the arrangements we were working on, but also to preserve so much about what people liked about Kristine playing solo up to that point. So it was this big thing where we were struggling to create an identity as a group in real time, like in front of microphones, and then also not compromise what she had built so far.

PHAWKER: Could you tell me about that title, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired? I guess I don’t know if it draws from lyrics, since it’s not out yet, but where does that come from?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:That sentence, I pulled directly from a book that I found when I was in France that was titled The Boy’s Own Book. And it was essentially this book for teenage boys about sports and hunting and fishing, and these kind of masculine thing that boys are supposed to like to do. And it was these really simple sentences relating to themes that were translated from French to English. And they were so simple that I found myself kind of applying my own context to them. And I was working on a visual piece at the time in which I was cutting up the whole book and taking words and sentences out and collaging them all together to create these poems and text pieces. And what I love24706429031_4e9e988354_z about it is that it’s ironic, the sentence, “When you walk a long distance you are tired.” You know, of course that’s the case, but it kind of leaves the reader questioning the meaning of it because it’s such a simple, straightforward sentence.

PHAWKER: There are a couple songs that you have out now that didn’t make the record – “No Crying In Baseball” and “Fat Chance”, which you did at the Audiotree session. Why didn’t those make it?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:We didn’t include those on the record because we actually wrote them way after the record was finished. Those are songs that we wrote over the last several months. When we made the record, it was intended to be this very cohesive thing that was intended to be listened to from the first song through the last song. And so it felt unfair to introduce these newer songs that had nothing to do with the record itself at a later time.

PHAWKER: You’re touring pretty heavily right now, but what happens when that’s over?

KRISTINE LESCHPER:The idea is to record as soon as we possibly can, and it’s hard to say when that will be. But we want to put out another release, probably an EP, before the end of the year. And that’s really to catch people up with what we’re up to now, because the sound has changed so much since we first started and made that record. Something that’s been stressful with touring so much is that we haven’t been able to write and record and be really creative. So we’re all really looking forward to creating this next release and putting it out as soon as we can.