Mothers attempt to exist in two places at once - both singular and collaborative, sprawling and concise, present and distant. Kristine Leschper, songwriter and founding member of the project, explains that it is in the space between opposites that she finds herself. The multifaceted is, by nature, fragmented - each facet reflecting a slightly different perspective of the whole.
It is in this way that their latest record, Render Another Ugly Method, attempts to gain an expanded view of its surroundings through splintered sound, thought, and image. By conversing with her own experiences of attempting to validate herself through work, Leschper moves toward understanding the harmful and often indulgent nature of inextricably coupling the quality of your creative output to your right to exist.
An arts major who spent her teens listening to formative influences like The Microphones, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Sufjan Stevens, Leschper began exploring songwriting when she moved to Athens, Georgia - the birthplace of the widely admired Elephant 6 Collective, whose sound-collage psychedelia undoubtedly influenced her sensibilities. Inspired by the growth that studying art allowed her and energized by the buzzing southern town, she started to perform publicly in 2013 and quickly developed local acclaim for her stark, unflinchingly vulnerable songs.
During this time, she met many local artists and musicians, among them Matthew Anderegg, whom she quickly recognized as an artistic kindred spirit and friend. The following year they began working together to flesh out and arrange a collection of songs she had written, which would become the project’s debut release, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired. It was recorded quickly and intuitively with help from Drew Kirby and McKendrick Bearden, and engineered by Drew Vandenberg at Chase Park Transduction.
Released in 2016, When You Walk kicked off a sprawling eight months of touring across the US, UK and Europe, as the group honed their take on left-of-center indie rock with an explosive and surprising live show that displayed how forceful the songs translated to a full-band setting. "That first year of touring was an engrossing and resonant jumble of new experiences and unfamiliar music," Leschper reminisced. During this time, Leschper began absorbing new musical influences: longform records like Music Von Harmonia and This Heat's self-titled record, The Fall's satirical lo-fi Dragnet, the interweaving guitars of Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s Rosa Yemen, and music released by now-defunct experimental label OSR tapes such as Recorded In Heaven by Zach Phillips and Monet In The 90’s by Chris Weisman.
She also began to explore polyrhythmic groups like T.P. Orchestre Poyly-Rhythmo de Cotonou and Lifetones, as well as rhythmically dense Fred Frith records like Gravity and The Technology Of Tears. "Traveling with other people full time was a great way to become saturated in new music," Leschper explained. "Being in the car 6-10 hours a day forced me to listen to what others were listening to, whereas my relationship with new music at home tended to be more scattered and topical."
Those influences, varying widely from one another in sonics and structure, greatly informed and shaped Render Another Ugly Method, which unfurls slowly and often without total lucidity. Leschper admits that she felt vaguely interested in alienating the listener within these protracted structures, as a way to communicate her lack of clarity during this bustling and inscrutable period.
Within Mothers, Leschper and Anderegg have remained a creative constant, with other collaborators changing over time. Render Another Ugly Method sees the remnants of Leschper and Anderegg, Chris Goggans and Drew Kirby in musical conversation, through cut-up songs that were torn apart and rebuilt over and over again. Sonically, the record is compartmentalized, each song existing in an environment of its own with disjointed linear fragments that feel as if they hang onto one another by a thread. Leschper describes the collection as “an assemblage of personal vignettes and imagined scenarios that examines consent, escape of the body, power and powerlessness, and the act of making.”
Fittingly, the album addresses the exploration and dissociation that comes with pushing oneself artistically, witnessing a shift in focus within Leschper’s writing from intuitive and insular to a process that's acknowledging and methodological. This is displayed most prominently on “BAPTIST TRAUMA”, a composition of stop-start drums and shards of jagged guitar whose title functions as an acronym, and is ultimately a dissection of Leschper’s practice and work ethic, self-described as “ugly, at times seeking validation through itself. Additional mentions of work and process can be found on “’IT IS A PLEASURE TO BE HERE’”, whose title is presented in quotes, raising questions as to whether this is simply a direct quote or a paradoxical means of displaying unrest within the constraints of “here”, whether that be body or place. Leschper sings, “I wonder how much you can fit inside a painting”, begging a question many of us ask ourselves - is this enough?
The album also dives headfirst into matters of the corporeal - the word “body” is used seven times, perhaps most notably on “WEALTH CENTER/RISK CAPITAL”, where Leschper asserts: “I am excited by the prospect of living without a body - I am ungrateful and this proves it.” This happens alongside many other references to physicality, and again we find ourselves measuring opposites, dealing with representations of here or not here. Within the context of bodily preoccupation, simple sentences become charged with meaning, questioning what can be perceived as most valuable, the physical or the non-physical.
On the closing track of the record, we hear “you must keep quiet - the hands are the organs of feeling”, a sentiment which is at once directive and dominating, yet it conveys an urgent softness. “MOTHER AND WIFE” uses religious imagery of baptism and the iconographic gesture of benediction to describe a moment of inviolable physical intimacy. Render is certainly most engaged in examinations of “not here” - such as “BEAUTY ROUTINE” where Leschper requests of the listener, “show me a beauty routine / to erase me completely”.
When we observe opposites side by side - here, not here; detached, vulnerable; power, powerlessness - we can more clearly see their exaggerated forms because they become grotesque caricatures of themselves. Render Another Ugly Method utilizes opposing imagery, structure, and mood in an effort to better understand the characteristics of its motifs. Mothers experiment in the space between detached and vulnerable, rend and render, because it is between opposites that there is room to exist.