In contrast to the psychological intricacies of artists’ self-portraits, bands giving a self-description of their work is often clunky and best avoided all together. In the case of Widnes-raised, Liverpool-based act Mothers, the self-penned tag “noise rock power-trio” actually suits them down to the ground, and has survived a recent name change. Jack Evans (Guitar), Roanne Wood (Guitar) and Lewis O’Neill (Drums) had previously been going under the name Aeroplane Flies High, but felt strongly for a long time that a shift in emphasis was needed. “We kinda got sick of the whole Smashing Pumpkins thing,” says Lewis of their old name (also the title of a Smashing Pumpkins song). “Also, when we told people what we were called they’d just be like ‘…what? Ha!’ So we wanted something short, sweet and snappy.”
MOTHERS are signed to London-based label Snaketown Records, with whom they released an EP – Honey – in 2014, in a relationship that came largely from their rapidly-expanding reputation in alt.rock circles. The group’s fuzzy brand of US college rock draws inspiration from the likes of Mudhoney, The Breeders, Electric Wizard and METZ, but one of their key influences is perhaps a more unlikely one. “We wouldn’t be here without our mothers. We definitely miss our mums the most on tour. Well, mums and dads really,” a sentimental Lewis tells us. “We called [the band] Mothers as a tribute to the fine three ladies that all brought us here… Most of the time all our mothers are at the rehearsals. There are actually four guitar tracks in our songs and two drum tracks. My mum plays drums as well as me, and Roanne’s mum and Jack’s mum play guitar with them. That’s why it sounds so big.” Flights of fancy like this, where a joke is stretched to madcap lengths, are a regular occurrence of sitting down and talking with the trio. Their attention spans aren’t suited to serious interviews, and it seems as though they’ve no inclination to resort to chin-stroking musings on something they find to be an enjoyable way of spending their time. Lewis, in particular, can’t let the idea of parental involvement go. “I think if Oasis ever reformed, the only way I’d ever end up liking it was if all their mums re-joined the band with them.”
Mothers may initially seem like a classic MTV2 noise rock act through and through, but at heart their songs illustrate a stellar ability at being able to pile on all the fuzz without losing sight of the amazing melodies buried underneath. “I think there will always be a bit of a doom or stoner-rock element to the music that comes from our influences,” Lewis explains, “but we also like fast, nice, happy pop songs. The two just kind of intertwine and make sweet, sweet love.”
When it comes to recording, the trio have a bracingly simple approach which plays to their strengths. “No metronomes or nothing, we just get in there and play our songs as if we we’re playing them live.” While hardly revolutionary, this method of recording ensures that the group don’t sacrifice the energy that made the tracks so great in the first place, as they feel that recording each component in the track separately would result in more a rigid, robotic feel. Lewis: “As much as we like big-sounding songs, we’re all for a bit of sloppiness and being a bit lo-fi… I sometimes think we sound better live than on recordings, so we just try and capture a bit of that in the studio.”
Their live performances can best be described as genuinely brutal, but that’s not to say that the band aren’t tight and disciplined; Lewis tells us that they still feel that their greatest strength lies in their live act. “Jack’s a really good performer and his voice is amazing for a heavy rock band. Jack and Roanne are both really passionate actually. It’s funny because I’m there sat at the back of the stage on drums but we just click as a three-piece.” A communal approach to all aspects of their work ensures that there are no egos in the band, which Lewis believes is for the greater good. “One of the kind of unwritten rules is if there’s one of us who isn’t happy with something then it doesn’t go ahead.”
With care not to have their tongue lodged too firmly in cheek, the group’s low budget, almost DIY way of making videos has both incredible and disarmingly hilarious results. “We were filming the video for Honey dressed up as bees and the director said at the end he wanted us to have a fight,” Lewis explains with glee. “Me and Jack went to primary school together and once had a fight in the playground because I stood on Jack’s Beyblade. That’s stuck with him for life and he thought that I was finally going to go down for it… I think one thing we’d all hate is to make a cheesy video where the band acts all moody, with misty effects and sitting around being all arty-farty.”
As well as avoiding the expectations of a tired genre, Mothers aren’t afraid to just get out there and play their music to new audiences, so it’s common for the band to simply organise their own tours. “It’s funny when you tell people at home or at work that you’re going on tour and they’re like ‘Ohh, hotels! Tour buses!’” says Lewis. “But it’s actually an old postman’s van and we just sleep on people’s floors with no heating on. But it’s the most amazing holiday you’ll ever have. Most people, when they hear the aggressive music, will think it’s all smoking dope and partying; but for us a party is just pizza and Adventure Time.”
Their next stint on the road in the postman’s van is coming up in June, in the form of a six-date tour with their current labelmates Stilts. “They’re definitely one of my favourite underground bands. The four guys in Stilts are all super-nice dudes,” Lewis tells us, evidently excited about getting out on the circuit again. Prior to this (5th April), the band have a date with Stilts closer to home, at Maguire’s Pizza Bar. Maguire’s is a venue that the group are fond of for its very hands-off approach to its events. “It’s all very DIY and you get the freedom of setting-up your own gear and doing your own lighting. I know it sounds weird, but when you can choose the bands who are on with you and run your own night, it’s much easier and much more enjoyable… and, of course, there’s pizza,” explains Lewis.
It could be said that Mothers are making noise rock fun again, by striking the balance of making great tunes whilst not taking themselves too seriously. With a full length album due out by the summer, if anyone should be taking the band seriously, it’s us.
Words: Dan Brown / @danbrownnn
Photography: Adam Edwards / @AdamEdwardsFoto