For Kristine Leschper, the former visual arts student who’s the catalyst behind Wichita’s latest signings Mothers, songwriting is a way of working out her questions about life. Questions about mortality and ego, an individual’s value and the often knotted path of relationships. With Matthew Anderegg (drums) Drew Kirby (guitar) and Patrick Morales (bass), the group’s debut album ‘When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired’ puts all of those queries and more into intricate, twisted folk-rock with a math-y edge. It’s a curious and emotional look at the human condition – one that’s hugely personal and yet strikingly relatable.
“That’s probably my biggest goal in life in general – to make art that’s human and relatable,” Leschper explains from her home in Athens, Georgia. “The things I have questions about and the things that I’m unsure about, I know other people have those same questions. It’s not even about answering those questions, it’s about allowing other people to realise these are universal issues that everyone deals with. I think that makes them easier to deal with.”
In the same way that Mothers’ debut is intended as a kind of support group for all who hear it, the process of making it and forming the band has been something similar to Leschper. Originally a solo artist, the self-taught guitarist felt she couldn’t keep up with other musicians. “There’s a lot of musicians in Athens so it’s a very normal thing for people to get together and jam and make music, but it was just so intimidating for me,” she explains. “I became really good friends with Matt and he was really the first person I started playing music with.”
After a month of playing with Anderegg and Kirby, the trio hit the studio with Drew Vandenberg to put the record to tape. It was there that they really turned Leschper’s solitary creations into the winding, serpentine gems that stun and soothe on the final record, like the yearning clatter of ‘Lockjaw’ and ‘Too Small For Eyes’, and ‘Accessory Cloud”s melancholy bubbling. “It’s a portrait of us as a young band, trudging through these songs and trying to figure out how to do them appropriately as a full band,” Leschper says. “To me, listening now, it feels like reading a journal or a scrapbook.”
Between touring full time, the band are working on material for their second album, songs that the front woman describes as “more collaborative, more sure-footed and quite a bit noisier”. Her lyrical approach is changing too, with her beginning to leave behind the approach of laying herself emotionally bare. “I used to write in a way that was very heavily based on imagery whereas I’m not thinking in that way quite so much anymore. The songs are more abstracted, more vague at times.”
Leschper’s past studies feed into Mothers in every way. She describes her songwriting process as “like carving the way out of a block of marble to make a sculpture”, while even the band’s name comes from an art project she worked on. “I was working on a lot of visual work that was based on motherly instincts and nature,” she explains. “I was really interested in nesting behaviour in animals. I have two pet rabbits and I’d been reading about how they are in the wild. Female rabbits will start pulling out their fur with their teeth so they can make a nest for their young. I was really interested in those sacrifices and how I could correspond them with sacrificing yourself for art.”
Then there’s their live shows. Currently, the band have yet to action their plans to create big, immersive experiences, but their hope for the future is to produce something more visual and “inescapable, like [people] don’t want to look away. “We love playing the songs and it’s not that I don’t think the songs are strong enough as they are, but I want to turn everything into art. It’s a blessing and a curse,” laughs Leschper.
MOTHERS: THE DETAILS
BASED Athens, Georgia
FACT Kristine once curated a multimedia performance during which a masked man chopped her hair off as she played guitar.
BUY ‘When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired’ is out now via Wichita
FOR FANS OF Waxahatchee, Wild Beasts
BEST TRACK ‘It Hurts Until It Doesn’t’ – a tangled rumination on ego and self-doubt that swings from galloping melodies to a sparse, sad folk shuffle.