Mother Mother cover art

In Love With Mother Mother

By Lori Garrett | Published, Monday, February 3, 2014 |
Thursday Review contributor

On a shelf in my room there is a piggy bank dressed up like an angel, resplendent with her wings and golden halo. There is very little money in her belly now, but I do try and feed her a little bit every week. She is the guardian of one of my most precious and lofty goals. You see, I am in love.

I remember it clearly-I was sitting on the floor of my friend’s room. We were just hanging around-him playing video games and me doing some studying for whatever college class I was in at the time. He swiveled in his chair and said the four words that would change a big part of my life forever; “Hey, listen to this.” Then he played me a song.

With the opening strains of "Dirty Town" by the incomparable band Mother Mother, I immediately perked up to listen. Musically, it didn’t sound like anything else I had ever heard-which is usually my general rule of thumb for liking music. Lyrically, that song spoke to me in a private sort of way. It took the shadowed feelings of my heart and verbalized them so that I would realize they were there, knocking at my rib wall, in desperate need of escape. And it only got better from there. I was hooked from the first song of the first album, and there was no looking back from there.

Mother Mother is a band based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. They originally consisted of the lead singer/guitarist Ryan Guldemon who does the most writing for the band, his sister Molly Guldemon who has an interesting baby-doll quality to her voice and also plays the keyboard, and Debra-Jean Creelman who has one of those romantic voices usually attributed to 20’s style speakeasies. They quickly added Kenton Loewen and Jeremy Page, a drummer and bassist respectively, before independently releasing a self titled album in 2005. After paying their dues playing festivals and opening for larger artists such as K’Naan, The Wailin’ Jennys, and The Cat Empire they were picked up by Last Gang Records for a four album deal. They re-released their debut album with a few new songs and called it Touch Up.

After the first album, they replaced their original drummer with Ali Siadat, and after the second album, O My Heart, Debra-Jean Creelman left to begin a solo career. A lot of bands deal with upsets such as this, and when I originally heard, I was worried that the loss of their romantic female voice that it would be a setback for the band. Enter Jasmin Parkin, who had already provided a few vocals on O My Heart. Her voice is considerably different from Creelman’s, which was her saving grace. There’s nothing worse than trying to replace a band member with a facsimile of their missing element. It stunts growth and creativity. It all comes down to a win-win for fans, because Mother Mother got to continue to evolve and grow, and Creelman got to focus on her own music projects Debra-Jean and the Means, and more recently a cover group; Debra-Jean and the Dreams (their Beatles covers are superb).

Some of the bands Mother Mother is likened to are The Shins, Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, Man Man, The Black Keys, and The White Stripes, but I assure you they have a sound that is completely their own. The only similarities I see are that each of those bands also has their own sound and their own way of writing and performing.

With each album, Mother Mother changes a little bit, but you can’t listen to any song they’ve done and not know it’s 100% them. Ryan Guldemon’s lyrics continue to convey that yearning that I resonate with so deeply; the desire to run away from society at large and live peacefully and simply. From the need of simplicity in "Dirty Town," to getting away from the city in "Miles," to not being able to take people in "The Stand," to the songs on the fourth album that more or less reflect each other--Bit by Bit and The Sticks; they all convey the need for isolation and a general distaste for humanity at large. Not every song is a gem, but I can’t think of one that doesn’t mean something-not a single one that was just written to be a dance song or a simple love song. That’s what I like so much about this band; they have something to say and they way they say it is fresh and entertaining. And they are only getting better the more they progress.

Thus, I continue to feed my angel piggy with the thought that one day I will be able to afford a passport and a lengthy trip to Canada to attend some of their shows. I can only hope that they will still be performing by the time that comes to pass. Being stuck all the way down in Florida puts a damper on being able to travel far enough north or west to see any of my favorite bands perform, but Mother Mother is the one. This is who I will scrimp and save for. This is the band for which I will pinch my pennies and put them down. They are the love of my musical life.