Mother’s Children don’t care what you call them as long as it’s not pop-punk, which I don’t see any danger of that anyway. With influence’s ranging from Nick Lowe, The Raspberries, The Zombies, Sweet and ELO, Mother’s Children craft songs like a gourmet chef cooks fine food. Their last LP, Lemon, was anything but. Instead Lemon is filled with the kind of American meets UK power-pop songs that most bands dream of writing for a single and Mother’s Children filled an entire album them. Mother’s Children don’t like being called pop-punk, but after listening to their songs you may come to agree with one reviewer that they are “Power Pop, with Actual Power.”
Interview by Ed Stuart
Who’s answering the questions?
Kenneth James; Singer / Lead Guitarist / Song Writer
Give us a brief history of Mother’s Children? How did you meet? What other bands you have played in and currently do play in?
We’ve been a band since 2008, so about 7 years. I broke up Sick Fits a year prior to do something new with our singer; Michael Hurts. The Million Dollar Marxists; another Ottawa group, broke up around the same time. The ex-Marxists went onto to form the Sedatives and the White Wires, while Tim and Davey went onto join us. It’s been the same fab four up until last year when we got Seiji, the current Average Times bass-player on bass for us. Two of us also back up Ian Manhire from the White Wires in Voicemail. Voicemail has been playing for about two years and has recorded about two albums but hasn’t released anything yet. I played in a version of The Barracudas, for a tour once, which was pretty neat.
Who is in the band and what instrument do they play?
Kenneth James – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Michael Hurts – Guitar, Vocals
Tim Ostler – Drums
Seiji W. Hewett – Bass, Vocals
How is the Ottawa music scene? Is it competitive or like one big family?
Well it’s the only music scene I’ve been in, so it’s hard to tell. It’s definitely way better now, than when we started out. I’ve read about how great Ottawa’s bands and scene are lately. It feels like there’s a more positive energy and bigger crowds now at punk/underground shows than there was like 10 years ago. The Ottawa Explosion surely has something to do with that. There aren’t really any bands like Mother’s Children, so there’s no competition. Even if there was, it wouldn’t matter to us, because we just want to make music on our own terms.
What bands did you have in mind when starting this band?
I’m not lying even a little bit when I say that I wanted to be in a band that sounded like The Raspberries, Cheap Trick, The Sweet, The Zombies and T.Rex. I assumed with that mix of influences we’d come out sounding like Supergrass. We even had an organ player in the beginning. Over time, the band developed a more fast-paced, straight-ahead approach, which some people say is called Punk Rock. But those old influences are still very much looming in our songs.
In an interview with AUX, Kenneth mentioned Sparks’ Mael brothers, Nick Lowe, Ray Davies, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Wood as influences. What was about these musicians that drew you them originally?
Sparks for everything. The songs are fun, hook-filled, and occasionally epic. And the lyrics are perfection to me. Just the right amount of weird. Same thing about Ray Davies (the Kinks) and Nick Lowe. Although not as weird; it’s the unique way they are able to throw a story into a simple pop-song that is a major inspiration to how I write lyrics. Lynne and Wood, well you can follow their careers from the Move and the Idle Race who were psych-pop bands, and watch them evolve into the hugely successful Electric Light Orchestra. Quite the musical journey, and the tunes were always top-notch. Another influence to my lyrical writing is John Waters movies. I love just how declarative his characters are. The acting is bad, but the actors speak with such conviction you just have to listen! That’s kinda like our music.
In the same interview with AUX, Kenneth spoke of a very interesting band philosophy “I don’t like pushing my music on anyone, especially since there are just so many bands and varying tastes out there,” he says. “But I’d like people to know how to find us when they’re ready.” One could make the argument, that when a band plays live they are indirectly pushing the band on the fans especially since the only other alternative for the crowd is to step outside the venue to not hear them. Can you elaborate more on that quote?
Yeah, sometimes you’re gonna have to listen to bands you hate, and sometimes you’re gonna BE the band people hate. I guess I’m just a sensitive “artiste.” I’d rather stay underground than be shrugged off by a cold, indifferent public. Yet I refuse to make the music that the public wants to hear, HA! I sometimes feel we belong in a different, simpler time. As a kid I grew up with the Oldies AM radio station playing all the time, and I never knew that they were “Oldies” until I got older. You are right though. All bands have to push themselves to get anywhere, especially when they’re just starting out. When you make music that isn’t the accepted norm, sure, you get creative satisfaction, but the fallout is a lot of folks just won’t care, and that can sting. We prefer to play small venues and house shows. I feel they have a more open-minded and fun vibe going down. If the crowd is up-front and responsive it’s the best thing in the world. If they’re not, I kind of feel foolish. I think we come off as kind of reserved compared to some of the bands we play with. Running around the stage or being super intense just isn’t our thing. I just want to sound good. So yes, you must go outside your comfort zone a little bit if you’re gonna blaze your own trail. A LOT if you’re gonna try to change anything for the better.
In an interview with 53rd and 3rd, the band didn’t really seem to enjoy being labeled power-pop, but then at the end it was stated “Call it anything you want really, just don’t call it pop-punk,” which begs the question, why not pop-punk?
HAHA! I guess we don’t leave a lot of options for ourselves do we? I dislike labels, but I understand it’s important to be able to categorize bands. I’ll accept “Power-pop” as a title. Our music is certainly heavy on both those things. Someone once said in a review; “Power Pop, with Actual Power,” which was great. I love Punk Rock, it’s truly thrilling. I have hundreds of punk albums and we play with punk bands all the time. We get a kick out of playing fast and loud, but I just never felt the music we were making was punk music. I guess I just don’t wanna set the wrong expectations.
What are some things you like about all the digital avenues presented to musicians nowadays (Bandcamp, blogs, blog writers, Facebook, smaller record labels, internet magazines, etc.) to help bands today? And some things you don’t like?
There’s a lot of shit talk in some places, but all the other stuff is great. There are many web-zines and blogs worldwide who have reviewed us and said wonderful things about our records. There was a time when the only reviews I ever read were in an actual magazine. You used to have to create a website from scratch, with pages and everything. Now we just have a band camp and we make money without really doing anything. We’re not about making money, we just want our music to be accessible, and all the resources you just named are great for that. Small record labels however, are the true heroes. I know how hard putting out records is. Without them we’d be nowhere.
Where can people hear Mother’s Children and what’s next for the band?
HUGE Cross-Europe tour with Calgary’s the Mandates in May 2015!
Our bandcamp has pretty much all the songs. (motherschildren.bandcamp.com) It’s all on vinyl too. Our newest one is on Mammoth Cave Records in Canada (www.mammothcaverecording.com) Resurrection Records in the USA (www.getresurrected.com) and Taken By Surprise in Europe (www.takenbysurprise.net) We just recorded a few new songs this month. There will be a new 45 coming out soon to hold you over until our next full record.