Truth and Love: An interview with Mother Mother’s Ryan Guldemond

mother-mother-pic“I was in the midst of a bout of writer’s block, which is better termed as good old-fashion fear, when my birthday rolled around,” Ryan Guldemond, songwriter/guitarist/lead vocalist for Mother Mother, began. “So, I decided I was going to give myself the gift of song — good song, bad song, ugly song — I just wanted to ‘birth’ something on that day. I’m really not a ceremonial person, I almost did it as a lark… But it seemed to work.”

The song that Ryan wrote that day is a vibrant kaleidoscope of images and sounds called “Love Stuck.”

“The fascinating thing is the words emerged as sheer autobiography to what I was going through,” he continued. “I didn’t intend to write about analyzing love as a means to sabotage being enraptured by it, but that’s how it came out. I think that points to some strange and impossible to define truth that the elements are at play when a person is trying to create. It’s beyond the individual. And they help guide your truth out, they help squeeze it out.”

If there’s anything that Mother Mother’s new album, No Culture, has an abundance of, it’s truth. A beautiful soul-bearing honesty tempered with love. But it’s not necessarily a romantic love, as Ryan put it, “It’s the love which binds us and everything together.”

“Family” is one of the standout tracks on the album. It strikes a universal chord that resonates with everyone who has ever felt simultaneously blessed and cursed by those who are closest to them.

“That song had four different versions,” he revealed. “It began as a much more acrimonious affair — I had beef with my kin. Within that first version, there was animosity. But as the layers peeled away, the song took a different form and the love emerged. The celebration of difference and idiosyncrasy emerged. I arrived at a song that celebrated the odd and beautiful nature of family ties and loyalty — those ties do not only exist in the blood relation realm, they can extend to your fellow being of any variety.”

mm_cover_web-copyAnother track that includes family as part of it’s theme is Ryan’s very personal “Baby Boy,” a song that actually has two narrators.

“When you are writing a song, it can be really gratifying to treat it as if you were in a confessional booth. With ‘Baby Boy,’ I was sort of indulging in the admissions of my self-destructive tendencies, but I wasn’t expecting to arrive at intervention within that song. That part came in the form of my sister’s voice, which was very true to reality at that time. She was disapproving. I knew that, but I didn’t know I knew it well enough to incorporate it into our shared expression. The song helped to instigate a conversation. It’s actually kind of fascinating that a song can give your loved ones a cue that you’re ready to talk about something.”

“I had allowed my penchant for overindulgence, curiosity, extremism, and subversion to get the better of me,” Ryan recalled. “It overpopulated my life to the point where I had to cut everything out as a means to find myself and to tap into my own authenticity.”

At the end of January, Mother Mother released a captivating acoustic performance video for “Letter.”

“Letter is about unhealthy nostalgia — where one romanticizes the past and tradition to the point of creating friction with the present. I was doing that a lot at that time, living less in the skin of my life and more in the corpse of the glory days, but by writing about it I found a way to engage with the ‘now’ while also creating something that lives on.”

No Culture is an innovative and adventurous album. It contains an exhilarating swirl of textures and colors that combine to form a breathtaking soundscape of insight and wonder.

“What we wanted to achieve, sonically, was a mirror image of someone’s journey through a mental landscape while they were trying to figure out who they are — which could be a pretty topsy-turvy ride, emotionally. It was important to us that there was some correlation between the lyrical value and the sonic value of the songs,” Ryan offered.

ryan-02“Much of the human experience is dichotomy and paradox,” he continued. “In our music and these lyrics, if there is an attempt, it is to paint the human experience in a thorough way so that many people can relate to it. And, so any one person — who does contain multitudes — can find different rabbit holes to identify with. Beyond that, the album is really about navigating the vastness of self and trying to root that to some kind of foundation of identity.”

In closing, Entertaining Options wondered, “Since the album is a journey, should it be listened to as a whole, in order from start to finish?”

Ryan replied, “Bands choose sequences for very specific reasons, but I’m kind of at a place where I don’t want to dictate how people digest music. It’s a very rebellious act to listen to music and to identify with music, so people should do that in a rebellious fashion, however they so choose, against direction. That is the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. Telling someone how to listen to music feels very counter to what it’s all about.”

However you want to listen, just do it. No Culture is Mother Mother’s thoroughly impressive follow-up to their highly successful breakthrough album, Very Good Bad Thing — an album that allowed the band to tour with AWOLNATION and Imagine Dragons. For more information…

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