You couldn’t miss them even if you didn’t know who they were. Ryan and Molly Gulemond, the brother and sister duo and creative minds behind the Canadian indie rock group Mother Mother, command a corner of a restaurant the same way they command a stage – with dynamic presence.
As I walked into Toronto’s School Restaurant, a brunch spot in Liberty Village, to conduct our interview they were just clearing away the blueberry crepe and green tea. I must have either been their 10th or 50th interview of their whirlwind promotional tour because for, what seemed like the first time in days, Ryan and Molly seemed content.
Quiet and reserved, while still keeping their natural magnetism I sat down to talk about their new record No Culture out February 10th via Universal.
“We were absolutely more focused this time; more cohesive,” Ryan said about working on the new record, “I feel that we made and album in the classic sense.”
“Letter,” the lead single from comes off as a love song, but I’m quick to be corrected. “It’s more of a tale of unrequited love with a side of you. The narrator is longing too much for his former self,” Molly continued, “Unhealthy nostalgia – living too much in the past.” This is a common theme, even if you were take the lyrics out the equation, the record itself sounds nostalgic, “To me when I listened to the record for the first time it surprised me how it kinda felt like our earlier records in a way,” Molly added, “even though it was produced differently, it has that feel and energy of our earlier stuff.”
And it’s this energy that brings people into the group. When listening to the back catalog of material there’s a tantric, hyper-arranged quality to their arrangements and musical output. And as Ryan does most of the writing in the group I asked him if he ever found it difficult to manage these insane arrangements while still writing something he found creative.
“I think it’s a matter of honouring the different facets of the creative process. Every idea starts somewhere. For myself, I find it’s best to surrender to the chaos of genesis and to allow an idea to go on its desired tangent and to eventually arise at a meticulous place. You don’t start in an exact fashion, you start loosely, you pay respect to the creative process by letting the tendrals reach out. When they have stretched as far as they can go you bring them back and start shaping and giving form – so by the time you wind up going in with a scalpel, the idea has sown its own wild oats.”
I first encountered the group at a festival in Burlington, Ontario in 2012 as they played a glorified parking lot in support of a festival act. While they worked effectively releasing nearly a record every year since 2007 they’d been largely silent since 2014s Very Good Bad Thing. As a result, they find themselves this time around playing soft-seaters like Massey Hall and the National Arts Center. “There are more people drinking beer on a tailgate,” Ryan said about the change in crowds. Molly said, “I think with festivals there’s more people there who don’t know you; people who didn’t necessarily come to see you specifically. That creates a different dynamic – winning over new people and starting a relationship with people. Whereas putting on your own concert people are coming to see you so there’s almost a forgiving nature – but there’s also the thing about living up to their expectations.
Festivals are kind of fun that way to see a crowd that, at first, don’t really know what to think and to see them come to life – it’s pretty rewarding and pretty terrible when it goes the other way.”
Striving for overall authenticity is clearly important for both Ryan and Molly and is one of the themes central to No Culture – they went back and forth on the topic:
Ryan: “Having a level of self awareness that distinguish what aspects of your personality are by products of external forces as opposed to who you actually are “No Culture” is a suggestion – not a prescription – for someone who is trying to get in touch with their own humanity and return to their true essence. The idea is to strip away your culture; your societal imprint.”
Molly: “In such a day of overload of opinions and media where everywhere you go you can get an idea or opinion people have this need to strip that away and to understand who they are. There’s always a barrage of things you can think but what do you really feel?”
Ryan: “This breeds a lot of divisiveness too there’s pressure to belong to certain clubs or groups with ethos and rulebooks.”
Molly: “Yeah it closes doors instead of opening them. It forces you to have a narrow path where we should be focused on listening to other people’s stories and understand what other people are going through instead of yearning to be a part of an elite club.”
It may be sooner rather than later that Mother Mother find themselves in an elite club of their own. While the world focuses on Canadian acts from the R&B and Pop stages (Drake, The Weekend, Alessia Cara, etc.) they may be sleeping on the Indie Rock scene a little bit, and Mother Mother are in prime position to create buzz for themselves moving forward. When it comes to No Culture Ryan and Molly understand that this record may represent this next step they need to bring their music to an international audience. One things for certain is that they’ll not be looking back.