In the cozy, dimly lit room tucked away at the back of The Frequency, a modest crowd nestled down on July 27 for an evening of soul searching with Mothers. The event marked Mothers’ first appearance in Madison and can only be described as triumphant.
Mothers is a fresh four piece indie-folk band from Athens, Ga. comprised of guitarist Drew Kirby, bassist Patrick Morales, drummer Matthew Anderegg and singer/songwriter Kristine Leschper. They released their first album, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired, in February of this year. Since then they’ve gained momentum quickly, amassing a substantial fan base following their placement on multiple lists of “Bands to Watch” by press such as Stereogum, the Blue Indian and the New Musical Express. All of Mothers’ members play in other bands as well, but together they form a winning combination.
This particular show matched the understated brilliance of When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired. The audience was notably respectful of both each other and the band; I’ve never seen so few people on phones during a concert, and the band was just as engaged. They took a direct approach to their performance, beginning without an introduction and finishing without an encore in a lack of formality that actually made the show feel more personal.
Leschper’s stage presence punctuated this feeling of intimacy. Her enchanting voice, able to transition flawlessly from orotund low notes to feathery falsetto, spilled sharp-cornered songs capable of simultaneously breaking and healing hearts. This is just one example in a slew of balanced contradictions that made Mothers intriguing to witness live. When I closed my eyes and focused solely on Leschper’s vocal delivery, she could have convinced me that she wrote each song on the spot as she sang, such was the emotion in her tone. Yet her eyes expressed indifference. “I want to apologize to everyone I see/ I want to apologize to everyone I meet,” she crooned morosely near the end of the song “Too Small For Eyes,” before wrapping the tune up with almost playful hums: “haha/ ha ha ha.”
The new songs Mothers bulked their set with followed a familiar formula of barefaced honesty that I’m beginning to associate as a trademark of their music. No Mothers songs (so far) can commit to being entirely sad or happy in nature. Rather, they are rare representations of the complicated range of emotions that humans are capable of experiencing all at once. Mothers communicates this through lyrics that thematically contemplate the internal struggle between ego and insecurity, complemented by atmospheric instrumentation to fill in the gaps words can’t articulate. The result is a convincing recreation of the raw emotions and moments in life that, in their complexity, take your breath away. How to cope with your own existence is an abstraction everyone faces. Managing the pain and joy that come with simple consciousness presents a puzzle of sorts, but perhaps just acknowledging this predicament can put the first few pieces together. The vulnerability of expression in Mothers’ performance demonstrated how empowering honesty can be.
Mothers are certainly a “band to watch”; I have a feeling the next time they play in Madison will be more high profile than the soft-pedaled gig we were treated to this time around. Regarding what it means to be alive and how to move forward, I left the show thinking maybe the answer is to just be genuine.