If we look at indie music not as a means of independent production but as a distinct genre, there are certain components of the style that become expected. To call themselves “indie” bands, artists need a truly unique sound, very original lyrics and a spritz of oddball to help them stand out. At one time it didn’t take much effort for bands to be different from what was being played on mainstream radio, but as the alternative style becomes more and more popular, the chore seems to be increasingly difficult.
It’s a sort of vicious circle: pop music is mainstream, indie music is not, but if we separate genre from definition again, “indie” is popular, and therefore, isn’t indie just “pop” after all? If everyone is trying to be weird and different, doesn’t everyone seem the same? And if the sole aim of indie music is to be distinctive, how do bands rise up from the quirky mass of misfits and stand out? Breaking away from the herd on the road less travelled can be challenging, but many great bands have managed to emerge from the masses and become popular by being truly original. One group on this journey is Quadra Island’s Mother Mother.
Mother Mother’s attention to composition and fluency of sound is what makes the five member group unmatched on the indie music scene. Guitarist and lead singer Ryan Guldemond’s voice is both edgy and strangely soothing, an effect made totally unparalleled when matched with keyboardist Molly Guldemond and Jasmine Parkin’s harmonies. The three voices, together or apart, are always perfectly controlled whether the song is upbeat or a slower tempo number. Paired with Jeremy Page’s bass and Ali Siadat’s drums, Mother Mother’s sound is entirely their own. There are no accidental rough moments, each note is thought out and placed accordingly in an order that sounds unfamiliar, and the obvious effort put into achieving the clean, almost scientific musical product pays off. By fitting together the individual qualities of each musician, Mother Mother creates a new musical dimension with which only they can experiment.
The lyrics follow the same sort of approach. The words to their songs are unexpected and without cliché, but still catchy. “Arms Tonite” from their second album O My Heart (2008) is an up-tempo, witty reference to Cutting Crew’s 1986 hit “(I Just) Died in Your Arms.” Guldemond’s lyrics are written from the perspective of someone who has actually died in the arms of his lover: “I died in your arms tonight/I slipped through into the after life/It was nice/White light in your arms tonight.” Their hit single, “The Stand” from their most recent album, Eureka (2011) comments on how separate the band is from mainstream society through a conversation between the backup vocalists and the lead singer. Collectively, there is nothing very surprising about the topics the songs revolve around, but somehow, without being overly pretentious or ambitious, Guldemond’s lyrics are just provocative enough to be memorable and strange enough to be classified as “indie.”
When the separate talents of each member come together in the instrumentals, and when the lyrics are brought to life through the balance of harmonies, it becomes evident that Mother Mother’s individualistic sound is not an accident. It is this unmatched creativity that has allowed the band to progress throughout the years. Their fourth album, The Sticks comes out on Sept. 18 and they will be in Victoria on the 16 to headline the Rifflandia festival. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to help the unconventional group redefine the “indie” genre and show the music world that being popular and being unusual are not mutually exclusive.