Our Mother are the quartet from Tottenham who are bringing together the worlds of ambient, Brian Eno tinged production, with diverse, innovative instrumentation to form a contemporary sound that’s all their own. The newcomers have been generating a whole lot of buzz thanks to their standout debut release “Surprise Machine”, an intriguing, cross-genre proposition that should appeal to both techno-heads and those with more Pop-centric sensibilities. With all four members – John Hartley, Paul Kowalewski, Liam Garrett and Joseph Charlton – bringing their own diverse tastes to bear on the meticulously crafted beats they make, Our Mother thankfully buck the trend for the nostalgia tinged, middle-of-the-road synthpop that has consumed much of London’s band scene.
Given the quality of their music, it should come as no shock that the video for “Surprise Machine” (see below) is something a little more engaging and inventive than the band singing into a camera: instead, there’s some enigmatic, cultish stuff afoot in this tale of a lonely man counting days off a calendar before he begins construction on a fairly creepy project. With their excellent debut EP, AOB, coming at the end of April on Lucky Number, it’s high time to get familiar with these lads. So, read on as we talk influences, air mattress fracases, and why an Alex James-style cheese farm is future goals.
You were born out of a Halloween party in Seven Sisters….tell us more about that!
Yes. We all met for the first time at the party and made some (now unfortunately lost) music. The next day we found a mouldy lamb’s head in an old box that we’d used to build a cave in the flat. Later on we had a McDonalds in bed.
Then there was that gig at Hootananny that really set things in motion: is that something that really sticks in your memory as a great moment?
It was pretty nice to play a proper London gig. Before that every university battle of the bands I’d (John, vocals) entered had ended in a dead last. It was also the first time we’d experimented with mixing a live set-up and electronic production, so that’s been a fruitful dynamic for us since.
You’ve spoken about the importance of conflict in your creative process, how does that work in practice?
There’s four people with twenty different opinions. We argue a lot in the studio and everywhere else. At a festival last year there was a large fracas over an air-mattress, for instance. In musical terms, there’s a conflict between song-writing and production. Obviously there’s a huge amount of onus on production these days, but we’re keen to keep focus on good melody-making too. The new Anohni stuff is quite a good example of marrying both bits of content really successfully – Anohni’s writing and then the HudMo/Oneohtrix production. Ideally you want to make something which can impress on both fronts.
Your inspiration seems to come from all over, but if you had to break down your all-time favourite artists, who would they be?
In no particular order: Joni Mitchell, Smashing Pumpkins, Dario G, Aphex Twin, Sufjan Stevens, Bill Evans, Talking Heads, and also nineties-era pop produced by William Orbit – Madonna, All Saints etc.
You debut EP is coming soon – what can we expect?
It’s got four songs on it and quite a lot of variety. One’s called Age of Empirez, which John wrote while his girlfriend was in the Philippines and which is why it features lots of airplane sounds in. The fake harp and the 3/4 waltz feel are meant to add up to the sound of a kind of medieval video game. Then there’s a track called Silent Brass which steals a bit of Silent Night’s melody – kind of in the same way Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone adapted popular carols in the past. The vocal on that track sounds quite messy and incoherent – it was recorded the morning after a heavy night and goes for a kind of Christmas party on a comedown feel.
Favourite track of yours thus far and why?
We used to have a track called ‘Our Cube’ which was about the time one of us met Patrick Stewart. It’s addressed to Jean-Luc Picard with reference to his experience with the Borg in First Contact. Probably unlikely that one will ever see the light of day.
What would success mean to you…platinum records, indie success, or something else altogether?
Success means everything to the band. At the moment we’re just looking for a few more plays on SoundCloud.
Where does the name Our Mother come from?
Both words are Anglo-Saxon in origin. It also sounds good in a Geordie accent.
You seem like real music-heads, can you recommend us 5 tracks we *probably* haven’t heard yet?
Edmund Finnis – “Brother (4th movement)”
Forth Wanderers – “Painting of Blue”
Pharoah Sanders – “Harvest Time”
H.O.S.H. – “White Elephant”
Disasterpeace – “Compass”
Outside of music, is there anything else that inspires you to get creative?
There’s a great John Peel interview with Aphex Twin which takes place in a stone circle in Cornwall. John Peel asks him what gets him going creatively and Aphex Twin says something along the lines of “well, it’s just out of boredom really, isn’t it?” That’s probably about right.
Where would you like to be in ten years’ time? (No pressure, obviously).
If all goes to plan we’ll be making cheese in Oxfordshire and wearing flat caps.