Fredericton, NB, may not be the biggest music hub in Canada, but it’s home to the noisy, mind-melting art rock group Motherhood. They’re gearing up for a string of fall shows, and the Ottawa date features a stacked lineup on November 8th at Pressed along with Winnipeg’s Tunic and locals Warp Lines (members of The Yips, Big Dick, Tropical Dripps, Million Dollar Marxists, Van Johnson).
While the distances between stops are long, Motherhood is no stranger to the road.
“The last 14 months have seen us across the country twice, and to Ontario and Quebec like 6 times (plus a heapload of NB shows),” explains multi-instrumentalist Penelope Stevens. “We recorded a full-length album, did a couple cool collaborations, and purchased a new tour vehicle. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited to take a couple months to relax (relax = finish our album, write a new album, and play locally…). We don’t like to risk touring in the winter months, but as soon as the snow melts we’ll be back at it.”
This is not Motherhood’s first time in Ottawa, as they’ve had the chance to play at Ottawa Explosion Weekend this past year and a handfull other venues in the past. They have warmed up to the city somewhat—minus a couple bumps along the way.
“Ottawa, interestingly enough, is the only city where we’ve ever had our van vandalized—twice actually!” Stevens admits. “But that hasn’t stopped us from really loving the Ottawa scene. One of our first shows was at Mugshots (RIP), and even though we didn’t really know anyone in town, a nice crew of people came out and supported us.”
“We’ve always found there to be a lot of sick bands to play with (Mushy Gushy, The Yips, Pippa, and more) and the venues are cool. House of Targ was always #1 on my bucket list of venues to play in Canada, and last year my dreams came true! It was as cool as I wanted it to be. The folks in Ottawa Explosion, Debaser, and booking Pressed are good folks, and we really admire the work people put into their scene. Ottawa seems a lot like Fredericton, close knit and supportive, and decidedly “other.”
2017 has shaped up to be a big year for Motherhood, with the band getting into festivals such as Sled Island, CMW, Ottawa Explosion, and Lawnya Vawnya. Even more, they’ve been exporting their irresistibly fuzzy, dissonant sound to small stages across the country. The band members are enjoying their road-heavy schedule.
“A lot of New Brunswickers move on to larger cities, so we get to catch up with some of our closest friends on the road. We bring gifts from folks at home and get to bring news about how everyone’s doing. We’re glorified carrier pigeons. Plus, we usually bring a road pal with us, and they keep things fresh. This time we have our bud Noah, who’s never been on tour before. His excitement will keep the posi vibes alive on the long drives!”
Their tracks “Guano” and “Yarn-Barred” were featured on the Greville Tapes Music Club, vol. 1, and their cover of Construction & Destruction’s song “The Oracle” appeared on volume 2 of the Pentagon Black compilation. With two LPs, an EP, and a split under their belts, Motherhood is on the verge of entering the studio once again to record another full-length for release in winter 2017-18.
“We write collaboratively in our studio, so the music comes from pretty much anywhere,” says Stevens. “Sometimes Brydon will bring in some lyrics or one of us will have a riff, but a lot of it is just hammered out through long jams, then we chop it up and forget 95% of it. The stuff that sticks is the stuff worth keeping. We’re composers, yes, but I think our talents actually lie in our editing. We don’t have any particular goals when writing, we just set a timeline—we’ll write for 3-6 months, then record when the time runs out. I guess it’s pretty weird, but it works for us!”
Be sure to catch Motherhood along with Winnipeg’s Tunic and Ottawa’s Warp Lines at Pressed on Wednesday, November 8th. $10 at the door, 8 pm. All ages, licensed 19+ show.
This being my first time at Ottawa Explosion I didn’t know what to expect except for great tunes and a very kind group of punks. I didn’t exactly expect the chaos that ensued, then again, these were punks and a punk show is always chaotic either due to the time it starts or due to the go-with-the-flow-screw-time attitude.
I made it to Warp Lines early and sat through the booming sound check. If you think sound check is loud enough, it’s nothing compared to how loud the band itself gets. Their voices resonate and bring a livelihood to their otherwise gritty rock sound, and let me tell you – this band does not fear noise in the slightest. There also isn’t as big a need to mic the drum kit itself, because even without it you feel the drumbeat in your heart and the bass rattles you.
The way the three guys work all together is astounding. They’re loud and proud, all while creating a very garage-like setting despite being situated in an artsy bar by the name of Avante Garde. They know how to capture your attention and though some may say it’s a more generic sound, there’s nothing remotely generic in their performances and how they capture the crowds attentions with their singing and screaming.
I’ve seen the band once before and had even reviewed them, but honestly, I was shocked when I got the email asking if I could photograph this time. I hadn’t received an offer like that beforehand and this was new. I knew Johnny was an incredibly nice guy (see House of TARG show review with Steve Adamyk and Bar Robo show review with Warp Lines) but this was beyond a pleasant surprise. Naturally, I complied and actually managed to get some decent shots despite the hardships with lighting. Curse it for being light out at 7:00 PM!
Next up was WLMRT, who I’d sprinted over to Club SAW to see. I thought I had made it just in time, but they were finishing. However, I managed to catch three of their songs. They’re loud, aggressive, sometimes shoeless, and overall astounding. The lead singer and bassist were both up front and centre, and they really set the tone. I’m always rooting for female fronted bands, and always looking out for them because there simply isn’t enough. Let’s be real – female fronted bands are badass and deserve far more attention than they get because they’re incredibly talented and full of fiery passion.
The bass lines really encompassed what punk music was supposed to be, with everyone else seeming to flawlessly (but with that sloppy punk character) build around it. Their music itself doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, and there are some underlying tones under it that let some seriousness peek out. Despite being there for a small amount of songs, the performance shook me and it carried an infectious need for you to move. Perfect to thrash to, mosh to, and just let out all stress and anger to. If you get the chance to see this band, they are truly worth seeing live.
After WLMRT I quickly ran outside to witness the very bizarre Cincinnati, OH, band Mardou. Their energy was so odd and their performance was so unique that it drew me in and kept me staring no matter how much I might have wanted to go to the band playing inside. The clown doll, the pink LED fairy lights, the exaggerated movements. Everything set the tone. It reminded me of post-punk and new wave music, but I honestly think it would be more of what Kim Gordon classified as No Wave.
Their sound was almost Joy Division-esque, but with such a different twist to it that it’s a band you’d have to go see to understand what they’re about. There is nothing generic about this band. It’s fresh and it’s new. The lead singer’s voice was monotonous but worked well for what they’re trying to do. It, as well as the entirety of the performance, almost puts you in a sort of trance.
Through all of Ottawa Explosion, you’ll see the bands smoking outside, or walking around downtown. You might catch some people just hanging out or jamming out to their friend’s songs. Everyone seems to be supportive of one another, or their friends and fellow musicians, and the beauty of it is that they’re people just like you, and just like me. You could probably strike up a conversation, no hesitation needed. Explosion, and all the bands that play during it, unite the people, the punks, the oddballs, the ones who have a deep affinity for music. Take a break from your high school work (we know exams are happening next week but come on!) and get down to Ottawa Explosion at Club SAW.
The closer it drew to 8:00pm, the more the feeling of knowing something good will come out of what I’m doing settled and eventually completely took over. This feeling – remember that I’m talking about it.
Just beyond the arch of Chinatown is a small bar by the name of Bar Robo. Despite what you may think of music clubs – grimy, unwashed bar, people asking for beer by the pint – it isn’t what you’d expect. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, and the place was very tidy, had neon lights, some large potted plants, and cushioned seating. Having only seen the bar in photos, I always thought it had a mellow vibe, but as soon as I entered it, my gut feeling was only confirmed.
The first act, The C.H.U.D.S, came on at around 9:00pm (I admit I messed up and showed up an entire hour early). They proved to be the most difficult to photograph, with Imogen (the lead singer) constantly moving around, kicking over chairs, and flipping tables, and Brenda (the bassist) having her hair in her face at all times.
The band gets up in your personal space and the members really immerse themselves in every song they perform. Not only did I enjoy their sound, which I can describe with having tones of thrash punk with a unique twist, making it their own. They heavily touch upon the societal injustices that trans people face every day, and just how poorly they’re treated. This is why I really admired them, they’re a band that is very open about trans rights and they’re very active in getting awareness out in spite of how difficult it is.
Audrey (the guitarist) threw in many amazing riffs that sound like they were very well thought out, melding so well into every song. The band even toys with having controlled feedback, which is often hard to fit into songs naturally. James’ drumming added intensity to the overall sound the band had and really set the pace for each song. It seemed to determine the energy the room held and got everyone moving, and of course Imogen played a huge role in that as well.
After they had finished off their loud performance, I managed to talk to a few people, and learned that out of all the bands James was in, this one was the one with the most meaning. I have never listened to any of his other bands, but I decided since the person knew James for a number of years, I would take their word for it. I believe this especially because the whole focus of the band is to amplify the voices of people who identify as trans. They voice their pains, struggles, and how they matter. They sing and scream about the trauma they face daily, and about the violence they face from society. They do not hide from what they are and they stand very firm in their beliefs. The band is a reaction to the expectation of being respectable and quiet, as Imogen had told me. She even brought up how she sings about resistance, drug addiction, and cis complacency.
She even touches on the hypocritical side of punk. Punk has always been considered a genre that’s meant for everyone. Everyone is welcome to the punk scene, everyone can be a part of it. It’s about resistance, and never letting anyone take you alive, so why are trans people being out cast from a genre that is supposed to include, to resist, to bring awareness to important and pressing issues? Within this band’s violence is liberation.
It didn’t take long for Street Eaters, a duo from California to begin their performance. They took the two instruments people care about the least and transformed them into a full-throttle truewave punk band. They really impressed me with the coordinated drumming and signing brought forth by Megan March. This is something that’s incredibly difficult to do. Not only was this something that blew me away, but it was also the way that John played his bass. The approach is unconventional – he played it as if it was a guitar. This produced a heavy and gritty garage sound and shook the floor with its raw power. Their singing and shouting melded together and really brought the mood of their songs together. If you like Black Flag, I’m sure you’ll find yourself loving these guys.
Their commentary about Ottawa’s weather was accurate, but they bounced back with that if we were to go down to the USA, we could insult their weather patterns as well. After this, they performed a song that they seemed to sarcastically admit wasn’t about the hail storm they experienced while coming up to Canada. The song is called ‘To the Ice’ and it’s from their new record The Envoy which you can pre-order on their Bandcamp.
They closed off with the joke of “we’ll do you one better, we’ll play one more song” after suggested they cut their set down to two more songs. The song they closed off with was one they claimed to be about punching Nazis in the face, in reference to the event that occurred a couple of months back with Richard Spencer. This one seemed to strike a fire in both of the musicians that I had seen glimpses of throughout the night, but never with such intensity.
After they finished up, I managed to speak briefly to Megan, who was incredibly down to earth, and despite the angry sound of the band, was incredibly kind. We spoke of the band briefly and a very small amount about photography regarding the band before I let her go do whatever she was set to do. During this time, a few other people had piled in and had come to support their friends in the next band.
When Warp Lines came on, I immediately recognized their lead singer and guitarist Johnny from the TARG show a few weeks back with Steve Adamyk Band, however don’t let that fool you into thinking this band had the same sound. Although possessing some of the same roots, the sound is dirtier and grittier. Technically classified as pop-punk, these guys really nailed that heavy punk rock we were there to see. The trio brings a lively performance with them, coordinating very well with each other. The dynamic the guys have was incredible, sharing smiles throughout the songs they played. They drumming relies on crash cymbals and a very heavy beat all thanks to the wonderful Dave Sec whose technique impressed me. The riffs thrown in by Johnny, in their song ‘Weak Signals´, where perfectly placed and the string bends added a new depth to the song. Some riffs were kept light to contrast how heavy the entire song was and yet, it oddly fit so well. The bass, played by Kurt Rafuse (of The Yips/Tropical Dripps) shook the floor and made itself stand out in every single song they performed. It’s no doubt that this band is not afraid to bring out the bass.
If you listen to Steve Adamyk, PUP, or Hollerado, Warp Lines is a band that you’ll find yourself drawn to without a doubt. They’ve lively and really immerse themselves in their performance and despite bordering pop punk, they don’t fall into what the stereotypical association with that genre is. In a way, they grasp it, make it their own, and bring a new flavour to the punk and pop punk scene of Ottawa.
The night ended on a really positive note and gave me the opportunity to speak to a few more people, Johnny was one of them. He’s a very sincere and approachable person despite how serious he may look. Once you jump into conversation with him, he’s a really pleasant person to talk to. I also managed to say hello to Steve (Steve Adamyk Band) and Pat (Telecomo) who came out to support their friends. Now, remember that feeling I told you about in the very first paragraph? That feeling is something I had during the entire time I was in the small bar in Chinatown. This was without a doubt one of the best shows that I’ve been to, and the whole night the atmosphere was filled to the brim with positive energy.
Overall, any of these bands mentioned above are worth seeing live because you’ll either never find the recordings no matter how far you delve into the World Wide Web, or if you do, the recordings will never do the band justice and will never possess the same grit, grime, and liveliness that their live performances hold. That being said, make sure to catch The C.H.U.D.S and Warp Lines at Ottawa Explosion weekend in order to hear their sick tunes live and raw.