Mother Mother’s Ryan Guldemond talks brand new album, ‘Dance & Cry’

Mother Mother are one of Canada’s most notable indie rock groups. Hailing from Quadra Island in B.C., their music sings loudly to fans of all ages across the nation. Thanks to an experimental and diverse approach, their efforts constantly feel fresh. Their seventh album Dance & Cry was released on Nov. 2.

A relentless habit of touring has crafted their brand into a household name. Mother Mother will hit the road in support of their new album early next year. They will play 40 shows across North America., beginning Jan. 26 in Phoenix and concluding in Buffalo on March 16.

The Juno-award winning band will headline 23 Canadian shows along the way. Mother Mother are a force to be reckoned with and this is a tour not to miss.

Frontman and lead-songwriter, Ryan Guldemond, sat down with Global News following an exclusive launch party for Dance & Cry. The event took place in Toronto last Thursday, where the band played an exclusive acoustic set. They even played the long-awaited album for the lucky die-hard fans who won tickets.

Guldemond wrote all 13 tracks on the new record and shared an in-depth look at how it all came to be.

Global News: How are things, Ryan? You had the launch party for Dance & Cry Thursday night.
Ryan Guldemond: Things are great. It’s a good day. A really good day [laughs]. Last night was lovely. It was a small and intimate group. We did a Q&A, mingled and played some acoustic stuff.

How is the new material being received so far?
The songs play really well actually. We’re definitely going to do a lot of this stuff live during this album cycle. They’re on the radio stations too. It’s nice when people adhere to it.

Do you mind sharing what the album is about and some of its surrounding themes?
For Dance & Cry, I really wanted to encapsulate that in order to dance, you have to be able to cry too. They’re symbiotic. Someone said, “What should give you joy, is something that would be taken away from you will devastate you,” and that really stuck with me. It’s so paradoxical if you think about it. They really need each other to exist.

Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother performs at The Knitting Factory on July 18, 2011, in New York City.

Did that rollercoaster of emotions reflect on where you were at personally?
Yeah, there was a full view of emotional reconcile, but I wouldn’t say it was volatile. I think I began in a dark place and as I pursued the light, the songs inured that evolution. Ironically, the intention for Dance & Cry was to not have intention. It was really just to allow the songs to emerge and then follow them to where they wanted to go naturally.

How did writing Dance & Cry differ from your last album?
No Culture was definitely more personal; this was more of a rekindling with my own creativity. Writing the songs became quite joyous and emotional. I was less in my head and more in my heart. That was an experience that I hadn’t had for some time. It was refreshing in all aspects.

Did you find it daunting to write this entire album by yourself?
No, it’s only ever daunting at the beginning. You really just have to roll up your sleeves and get in there. Before you know it, you have five songs; which feels like a start. Then you have 10 and suddenly you have 40 [laughs]. Then you go ‘OK, this is happening. I think we’ve got 12 that are good enough to put out.’ You just have to get lost in the work and trust that on the other side that you have something worth sharing.

So when it comes to having those 40 songs, do you find it difficult to narrow It down?
You hope clarity in which is the best material, but you get attached and you get really biased. It can feel like euthanizing your offspring. But with the help of objective teamwork, you learn what actually is the best direction. The band members, management and label all help filter it. You kind of have to put your trust in the peripheral team and use it as a guide to create the most potent offering.

And do you find that music comes first or the lyrics?
Typically, it’s melody first, but this record was very different. I really wanted to approach it from a different angle. Things that I would read, or things I would hear became little springboards for the lyrics. Such as a poignant thing a guy would say on the beach, or a bird song, or even a poem someone wrote for me during a dark time. I would write a song born from these encounters and much of the album came from that, which is new and very refreshing to me. It revolutionized how I approach the creative process.

You went away to Costa Rica to write the album, right? Did that help spawn that new creative process?
Yeah, I think when you can break free from the binds of familiarity, you unearth new stuff inside of you. Something that’s always good when you’re a creator — I find travelling mildly uncomfortable. You can’t lean on your persona, or you can’t speak the language. You’re vulnerable. I think it’s a really good thing for writing songs.

(L-R) Molly and Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother perform at the Sasquatch Music Festival at The Gorge on May 22, 2015, in George, Wash.

The Mother Mother sound is constantly evolving. Is diversifying your music important?
I feel like the bones of our songs are cohesive, but we definitely like to flirt with different production rallies. I’m not sure where it comes from. It makes sense as a human to pursue diversity though. There’s so many options out there and so much to try. Music is a great playground to explore.

How are the dynamics of being in a band with your sister after so long? How did it come to be?
We didn’t play together at a young age, so it was a bit of a shock when we decided to start a band as young adults. It was really all because I knew she had a cool speaking voice. My hunch is that it would translate to a cool harmonic voice. I wanted to start a band and I was like, ‘Molly, you sound cool. This is gonna work,’ and it did [laughs]! She created all the album artwork, the merchandise, tour posters and our general aesthetic. For me, working with a sibling on that level through your adult life was amazing. Because otherwise, you probably wouldn’t see them except for when it’s Christmas. She’s a vital force. It’s quite a gift.

You guys just announced a tour. Do you already have an idea on which songs you’ll play?
We definitely want to honour the whole catalogue because of those songs that are still so popular on tour. We are a band who doesn’t shy away from playing the fan favourites. We never get sick of that, because those songs gave us the opportunity to be successful. But we really are smitten with this new record, so we want to healthily represent it in the sets. We’ll do it all.

How did it feel going back and playing material from your first album for the 10th anniversary?
It was actually really beneficial to the writing of the new record. It was sort of a visceral peek back into the early mind of my young songwriting self. I was reminded of how free, bold and creative my choices were. It was exciting. I was like, ‘Right! We need more of that now.’

It kind of comes full circle then?
Yeah [laughs]! But with hopes of still progressing.

Where are you at personally with your music and lifestyle right now?
Better than ever. Writing this album rekindled a flame, or muse so to speak. I wrote these songs really clear and very healthy. I was sober as a tack. It was nice to discover that you can have a really transcendental and joyous experience writing from that space if you do the work and the right things. So that was reassuring. You don’t want to kill yourself trying to write a good song.

Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother performs during the 2015 Sasquatch! Music Festival at The Gorge on May 22, 2015, in George, Wash.

Tickets for Mother Mother’s upcoming tour will be on sale on Nov. 9.

You can purchase them on the band’s official website.

‘Dance & Cry’ Canadian Tour Dates

01/25 Courtenay. B.C. – Sid Williams Theatre
01/26 Campbell River, B.C. – Tidemark Theatre
01/28 Victoria, B.C. – The Royal Theatre
01/30 Nanaimo, B.C. – Port Theatre
02/01 Nelson, B.C. – Spiritbar
02/02 Kelowna, B.C. – Kelowna Community Theatre
02/03 Cranbrook, B.C. – Key City Theatre
02/04 Kamloops, B.C. – CJ’s
02/07 Vancouver, B.C. – Orpheum
02/08 Calgary, Alta. – Grey Eagle Event Centre
02/12 Red Deer, Alta. – Bo’s Bar & Grill
02/14 Grand Prairie, Alta. – Better Than Fred’s
02/15 Edmonton, Alta. – Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
02/16 Saskatoon, Sask. – Coors Event Centre
02/17 Winnipeg, Man. – Burton Cummings Theatre
02/23 London, Ont. – London Music Hall
02/25 Oshawa, Ont. – The Music Hall
02/28 Toronto, Ont. – Phoenix Concert Theatre
03/02 Hamilton, Ont. – FirstOntario Concert Hall
03/04 Kingston, Ont. – Grand Theatre
03/05 Peterborough, Ont. – The Venue
03/07 Ottawa, Ont. – Algonquin CommonsTheatre
03/08 Montreal, Que. – L’Astral

[This interview has been edited and condensed.]

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