Momma: Wet Leg-approved ‘90s rock revivalists blazing a grungy trail

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you’ll see opening the bill for your favourite act. This week, Brooklyn duo Momma, who will soon be touring with Wet Leg and Snail Mail, tell us about studying the rock history books in a bid to make the new ‘Nevermind’

‘Rockstar’, the latest single from Brooklyn duo Momma, sees the pair pining for a hedonistic rock’n’roll lifestyle where they make it to the very top. While many bands may look back to the likes of Joan Jett, Mick Jagger or Jimi Hendrix to fuel this ambition, Momma had a different source of inspiration. “We watched Tenacious D‘s [2006 film] The Pick Of Destiny, and it’s so funny that Jack Black wants to make it big. But, besides the glory, he just wants to be able to pay his rent,” guitarist and vocalist Etta Friedman laughs over Zoom. “It’s genius!”

Since meeting at high school in Los Angeles in the late 2010s and bonding over being the only two pupils there interested in raw, heavy music (“Donald Trump’s daughter went there, if you want to know what kind of place it is,” co-singer and guitarist Allegra Weingarten winces), Momma have worn their influences proudly and unashamedly on their sleeve. The influence of grunge looms large over the band’s two studio albums, 2018 debut ‘Interloper’ and 2020’s ‘Two Of Me’, with the pair fervent scholars of Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, but also Pavement and Linkin Park.

“Everyone loves the ‘90s, but I feel like a lot of bands don’t like to be compared to that,” Weingarten muses. “A lot of bands get pigeonholed, and I’ve read interviews with bands that try to say, ‘We’re not just a ‘90s revival, we’re our own thing!’. I totally understand why a lot of people don’t like to be associated with it, but I think it’s cool to be associated with it! I think it’s awesome!”

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The creation of the band’s upcoming third album, their first since signing to the Polyvinyl and Lucky Number labels, carries the traditions and methods of their beloved ‘90s, and its creation saw the pair study their heroes’ processes in detail.

“We were listening to a lot of Nirvana, and we were really obsessed with the idea that there was one rock’n’roll record [‘Nevermind’] that changed rock music forever, and it was mainstream! People with guitars were on MTV!” Weingarten says, still a little taken aback. “We wanted to make a rock record that was big, but polished and digestible with hooks and melodies.” She pauses, before coming back to the point: “I hope that doesn’t sound too arrogant! We’re well aware that we haven’t made the next ‘Nevermind’!”

Whether the still-unannounced record ends up being the next ‘Nevermind’ or not, Momma have poured the same intensity, passion and love into it, with not a single shortcut taken. Across the process of making the new album, the band would use the 1991 classic as their touchstone, saying to each other, as Weingarten remembers: “‘Oh, cool, this is the ‘Drain You’ of the record’. We were looking at rock records that we loved and studying the sequencing, and fitting that into what we were doing.”

In conversation, Momma come across as flag-bearers for guitar music: possessing a vision where the instrument itself is centrally integral to the sound and energy of the music above anything else. This week, they head out on the second part of a US tour with Wet Leg, having played two New York gigs with them at the end of 2021. “I love seeing people so stoked on a band,” Weingarten says, emphasising the final word. What Wet Leg do, what Nirvana did, what Momma are aiming for – it all stems from the communal idea of a band.

Later this year they’ll tour the US with another modern guitar hero Snail Mail, but in May they’ll head to the UK for a string of gigs including a headline show at the Brixton Windmill, another storied home for ground-breaking guitar music. Ahead of their UK tour, the pair are once again looking to their heroes from the past for inspiration. “I’ve been listening to so much Blur to prepare!” Weingarten says giddily, with Friedman giving us a taster of how they’ve been brushing up on their British accent (not bad so far, some work needed).

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While ‘Rockstar’ is clearly intended as a humorous look at a band getting their big break, you can tell the two members of Momma also really mean it – and really want it. Among the jokes about Jack Black and Kyle Gass, surely they’re also well aware that they’re likely writing their own future with ‘Rockstar’, no matter how firmly their tongue sticks to their cheek. This is the sound of a band hungrily soaking up musical history and ensuring that they’ll soon create their own little part of it.

Momma’s latest single ‘Rockstar’ is out now. They’ll tour the UK in May following four US dates with Wet Leg from March 26-30

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