“Always is a dirty word to say.”
That’s the short bio stamped on Mothers’ Facebook page. At first glance, it seems hesitant, fearful, or doubting. At second glance, the phrase begins to strengthen. At third glance, it has a certain melody to it—probably because by then you it’s coming from the band’s early song “Stairwell Song”.
“It’s talking about not making promises, about never saying ‘always,’ because you really have no idea,” frontwoman Kristine Leschper explains. In her eyes, the word is unfair to say for it carries cruelty, and cruelty is dirtier than any imaginable mess a child could make.
Mothers fall in an interesting place. On one hand, their music stirs up memories of longing and isolation, things that put a weight on your heart. On the other hand, their music remedies that. Their songs show you’re in good company, surrounded by those striving to heal not for the pain to subside but for their own growth towards a stronger body, a stronger mind, and a stronger heart. The only reason Mothers could be called cruel is because in getting over the cruelty they’ve felt over time from others, they get you to reflect on your own. Together, you get over it.
Mothers began as Leschper’s own solo adventure in 2013 while she was attending art school. By the time she finished, she began meeting up with other musicians in the city’s tight-knit community—particularly drummer Matthew Anderegg, guitarist Drew Kirby, and bassist Patrick Morales—through organic means. By then, the band’s sound fleshed out to its current state.
The four-piece dodges pain by confronting it head-on in its music, never once lowering its head to let cruelty score a jab. Be warned: it knows how to fight. While the sadness in Leschper’s music is unavoidable (“I’m not sad, but I tend to experience my emotional context so deeply that it can be crippling—sort of like an animal sentinel, a canary in a coal mine.”), it never dominates. Humbleness, in its own ironic way, does instead. At least the lyrics of “Copper Mines” (“What I have to give is small / but at least I can admit it”) acknowledge she’s self-aware. Throughout it all, the Athens, GA, quartet stirs up guitar tones reminiscent of folk acts like Waxahatchee, Sufjan Stevens, or Courtney Barnett. The tempo changes, however, suggest something more mysterious is at work.
“It’s always been an intuitive process,” says Leschper. For her, guitar was a self-taught adventure that carried its own set of catharsis. “I feel like naivete of my instrument has allowed me to be really honest in songwriting, as far as not overthinking it. It’s all about the feeling of it, rather than, say, a formula I was taught.”
The band’s debut LP, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired, both emulates exhaustion and acts as its remedy. It’s empowering in that sense. Of course, that’s easy to see when the band performs, for live, the record sounds sure-footed and confident.
It’s clear Mothers is tired–from life, from heartbreak, from aging, from death–but still walking. Granted, the four are awake enough to recall their own long distances. “My family used to go on fishing trips out there [in Ontario], in the middle of nowhere, where you have to ride in on a float plane and land on a lake because there are no roads,” Leschper recalls. “There were different lakes, and you would portage between them, hiking and carrying your boat. Sometimes they were huge distances.” Not all walks are exhausting. A routine trek like her walk from home to the farm-to-table restaurant she works in is only three houses down. “My cat follows me over there,” she laughs. “I have to bully him into going home.”
At least a walk, no matter its length, has an end. “Always” keeps its paws off that one.
ALLAN RAYMAN, MOTHERS, ANIMAL FLAG, LOLO, DJ CARBO. BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL, 158 BRIGHTON AVE., ALLSTON. WED 2.3 7PM/18+/$10.50. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM.