Features Interviews Mother Mother's Ryan Guldemond: Pursuing Knowledge Through Song

Mother Mother's Ryan Guldemond: Pursuing Knowledge Through Song

Mother Mother
Mother Mother

Interview by: Natalia Buia

Having not released an album since September of 2008, loyal fans of Mother Mother spent the beginning of 2011 itching for new material. A lot of internet buzz surrounded the band prior to the March 15th release of Eureka – a collection of 12 off-beat, jubilant songs. Even our very own Katie Christensen raved about it in a review here. Come December when it's time for all to reflect on the year in music, Eureka is a sure contender for one of the top ten albums of 2011.

The album continues the theme of colourful animals on the cover; Touch Up featured a five-headed rooster, O My Heart dawned a fish out of water and now Eureka welcomes a roaring lion. These animals aren't coincidence. They've all been mentioned in separate songs.

While chatting on the phone from Vancouver, Ryan Guldemond (vocals, guitar) explains the initial plan of action was to feature a tiger on the cover because the band recorded Eureka in the year of the tiger. Some can argue, however, that the lion better represents the confidence and ambition seeping out of this young band.

Aesthetics aside, sonically, the album is sheer delight. Their third album in, Mother Mother manages to produce a well defined, polished album containing both moving lyrics and relentlessly catchy beats.

"We were pretty visionary of the songs before going in...We didn't leave a lot of room for interpretation. It was a blueprint. We really stuck to it," says Ryan. "That was really just a way of making a record. By no means is it the way we've made all our records. By no means is it now the only recipe we'll use. It was just time to put that much thought and preparation into one of our albums."

According to the group's chief songwriter, the band has always been successful in the preliminary conceptualization of their albums. For an extended period of time, the band worked steadily to make concrete demos that they'd later recreate with better sound in the studio. Ryan was the sole producer on Eureka, while the great Mike Fraser brought his mixing talents to the table.

While Ryan makes for one hell of a producer, it's undeniable that his true calling is to lead this band. The evocative stage presence of all five members is strongly felt during every set. Their captivating energy also shines in music videos and televised interviews. Pinpointing the source of such stellar creativity is often impossible.

"To try and dissect that flash of creativity when anybody creates something with pure, raw and extreme emotion is to defeat the purpose of what that is meant to inspire in those who appreciate the art," says Ryan.

When asked what sparked him to pen the first single, "The Stand" and more specifically, the lyric: "everyone's fucked and they don't even know", Ryan explains it's all happenstance. Usually he fills the holes in songs with lyrical gibberish but overtime that gibberish forms into greater meaning.

"I definitely don't try and force anything. That's a recipe for detention. But I really, really value the lyrical process. I put a lot of effort into that. But, I don't invest in something unless there's a really good platform or a word or an obvious theme that is coming together," says Ryan.

For Ryan, songwriting isn't so much about self-exploration as it is about the pursuit of knowledge. A lot of the digging and research he conducts when trying to find lyrics linger with him, leaving him feeling well read.

"I try and flesh out the theme as creatively and cleverly and with as much rhymes as I can muster. That process becomes really long sometimes, but can be quite enjoyable. I learn things about what I'm writing about," he says.

One of the songs that best highlights Ryan's songwriting capabilities is the gloomy "Born in a Flash". He began writing the heavy sounding song on the piano, which, he says, is atypical of him. While visiting his mother on Quadra Island, he began dissecting the idea of fraudulence and photography. It's one of the few songs off Eureka where the importance lies in the power of implication, as Ryan describes.

Mother Mother may not have produced a definitive ballad on the album, but the song "Getaway" is the quintessential slow song meshed between hyped anthems. Ryan says it's important to show diversity in an album because he's always been inspired by the journey other albums have taken him on.

So, without further ado, if you're in the mood to be whisked away to a wonderful place, let Eureka be your soundtrack. If that place just so happens to be Ottawa this July, you're in luck because Mother Mother is planning on making an appearance at the Bluesfest. The band will also be playing the Osheaga Festival before conquering the U.K. in the fall.