Blondfire, Mother Mother
1711 Main Street
Niagara Falls, NY, 14305
Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:30 PM
This event is all ages
Hit singles are great, but for every real artist the dream when they go into the studio is to make music that reaches people, songs that strike a deep chord and resonates with audiences well after the track ends.
For Aaron Bruno, the architect of white-hot new rockers AWOLNATION, hearing that his brilliant Megalithic Symphony has achieved that lofty ambition with anyone is the greatest reward of the success the band is enjoying now.
"There's a good amount of word of mouth stuff going on with this record where I meet fans after the show and they're like, 'Oh man, I hadn't heard of you guys and my friend turned me on and it's my favorite record in the last 10 years,'" Bruno says. "People are saying stuff like that to me, which is obviously the goal and it blows my mind."
To make that connection you need two things, the first being a hit song that brings fans into the music. AWOLNATION has that with the unlikeliest of radio successes, "Sail," a dark, infectious tale of angst with an unmistakable and unforgettable hook where Bruno wails at some point, "Maybe I should cry for help/Maybe I should kill myself/So blame it on my A.D.D. baby."
As we said not a likely radio hit. In fact, Bruno is as surprised as anyone by the success of "Sail." "It has been charting and still climbing, but it was never intended to be a song that was on the radio," he says. "I think I just struck a nerve in people and caused a visceral reaction with the sort of the nursery rhyme aspect of the melody and how simple it is."
The second ingredient for a lasting impression is originality, something that stands apart from the banality of top 40 radios and dares to speak to people's true feelings, both musically and lyrically. Bruno has definitely done that with Megalithic Symphony, an album whose uniqueness is evident right from the ambitious title and carries on throughout the 14-song collection.
From the opening title piece, a mishmash of computerized sounds and keyboards that culminates with a robotic voice calling out the band's name twice, and the following 22-second sound bite, "Some Sort Of Creature," Bruno invites fans in on a journey into his musical Wonderland. And it is a dizzying soundscape, one that moves from the frenetic paces of the hook-laden "Soul Wars" and the vaguely Nine Inch Nails-esque "Burn It Down" to the engaging upbeat feel-good dance hooks of "People," a song that begins with Bruno thanking fans for listening and saying, "I am grateful for this," and the hard grind of "Kill Your Heroes," a song who vivid imagery starts with Bruno singing, "Well, I met an old man dying on a train/No more destination, no more pain/Well he said one thing before I graduate/Never let your fear decide your fate."
Among the tracks that fans are picking up lyrically the most are the soul/pop gem "Not Your Fault" and the more than 12-minute closer, "Knights Of Shame," which informs listeners from the outset, "Dance, baby, dance, like the world is ending."
For Bruno, that fans are picking up on that song is as gratifying as the success of "Sail." "A lot of people seem to know that whole thing and that was like the most fun time of my life making that song," he says. "And when we play it live it's so enjoyable, so I'm stoked that people are into it."
Like "Not Your Fault" "Knights" is an amalgam of styles, something that bridges techno, soul, a lullaby feel, rock, rap, and pop into one 21st-century anthem. That much diversity in one song can blow the minds of an industry still used to the compartmentalized mentality of the 20th century record stores where every genre had its own bin.
But you won't pigeonhole Bruno into one style of music. "I like so much music. I love old country music, I love a lot of kind of silly pop stuff, I love all hip hop, all different eras, obviously metal, punk rock, indie rock, there's no one genre that I love more than another one. So I think that comes through in the music," he says.
That does lead to some memorable, occasionally confusing, and very flattering descriptions. "I'll talk to one person and they'll go, 'I hear Nine Inch Nails meets Aretha Franklin.' I'm like, 'That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard. How does that even make sense?'" he asks. "I've heard the Nirvana comparisons, Nirvana meets Outkast meets Prince, that's a comparison I love obviously."
All of those artists have achieved the dream that Bruno has been striving for since he started making music. "It's always been a goal of mine to make that special record people remember as sort of like a landmark in time." With Megalithic Symphony Aaron Bruno has proven that he is the unique talent that can make that dream come true.
"We were driving around with friends and someone said 'I smell a bonfire,'" recalls Erica Driscoll, lead vocalist-keyboardist-guitarist of the brother-sister duo Blondfire. "We thought they said 'Blondfire,' and at first we kind of jokingly said it should be our name – but it stuck. We liked the fact that it was masculine and feminine at the same time. It represented who we are in a cool way."
That push-pull of elemental forces is fundamental to the siblings' sound. Winsome, melancholy vocals and '80s-influenced melodies float atop shards of guitar and propulsive beats, leavening Blondfire's infectious pop tunes with real punch. Alternately haunting and ebullient, their Warner Bros Records debut Young Heart represents the purest example yet of Blondfire's unique musical hybrid.
"We tend to write sweet, dreamy melodies," agrees guitarist-drummer-sequencer-backup singer Bruce Driscoll, "and having a rhythm section that's more aggressive – and not too straight – gives it that gutsier, edgier feel." Like Erica, Bruce grew up loving bands like The Smiths, The Cure and New Order. But when it came to drums, Led Zeppelin skinsman John Bonham always occupied a special place in his heart.
The formula has resonated strongly with listeners. Blondfire became the first unsigned act to hit the #1 spot on the iTunes Alternative chart and one of very few unsigned bands to be added to the Sirius Alt Nation playlist, on the strength of the evocative, bouncy "Where The Kids Are" and its arty video. "I submitted that song to a few blogs and it just took off online," Erica marvels. "According to Hype Machine, we became the #1 most talked-about band on the internet!"
"Where The Kids Are" is the lead single on the self-produced Young Heart, most of which they wrote and recorded, Bruce reports, in "about a week" at his home studio and Hollywood's historic Wax Studios (formerly TTG). The set was mixed by Wally Gagel (Muse, Folk Implosion, Gorillaz). "Wally mixed 'Kids,' and he has a great grasp of what we're about sonically," volunteers Bruce. "He has a real knack for pressing the 'sound big' button."
Young Heart is the duo's first full-length album since their 2008 indie release My Someday. In the interim, the band has developed a homegrown following in Los Angeles through live residencies and radio airplay from KROQ, KCSN, 98.7 and KCRW. Their music has also been heard in the films Besties and Get a Job; on TV via ESPN's Australian Open Tennis, The Client List, MTV's Awkward and The Collection and in an ad for Ecco shoes.
Bruce and Erica grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan; their U.S.-born dad plucked classic rock and pop on the guitar, while their Brazilian mom – a classically trained pianist – exposed them to bossa nova and music lessons. By her teens, Erica was mad for '80s pop and teaching herself guitar.
Bruce was initially obsessed with film soundtracks, which no doubt ultimately contributed to Blondfire's emotionally vivid musical textures. "My dream was to score a Batman movie someday," he remembers. Later he got into drums (partly as a rebellion against piano lessons); although he soon switched to guitar, he retained his preoccupation with beats.
"Once Bruce started playing guitar, that's all we wanted to do," Erica says. "In Michigan there isn't much to do, especially in winter. So we just holed up in the basement, writing songs and recording them on our 4-track machine." They began gigging soon after.
And that Brazilian thing? "You can hear it a little in the way we use melodies," Erica muses, "and in the way that Bruce likes to put all kinds of variations into his beats." Bruce adds that he leans toward certain chords that lend a melancholy feel one could trace back to Jobim and other Brazilian songwriters. "It's not obvious," he says. "But it's in there." And just part of the one-of-a-kind recipe that makes Blondfire sound like nothing else.
Mother Mother - A biography
Ryan Guldemond - guitar, vocals
Jasmin Parkin - keyboard, vocals
Molly Guldemond - keyboard, vocals
Jeremy Page - bass
Ali Siadat - drums
Mother Mother has always reveled in contradiction.
"It's the person, the humanoid...that's the very good bad thing."
For Ryan Guldemond, there is no denying the human condition in all its tragic, conflicting nature.
Two years after the Juno-nominated "The Sticks," the band's apocalyptic 2012 album steeped in isolation and dread, the Vancouver quintet returns with its fifth studio album, "Very Good Bad Thing": an edgy, synth-heavy, club-driven rock record filled with massive hooks.
But as is the band's trademark, behind the gauzy boy-girl vocal harmonies, angular guitar lines and infectious rhythms lies something deeper and darker.
"I think it's peppier and more of a party, but at the same time the torture is very apparent," singer/keyboardist Jasmin Parkin says.
"But there's not a lot of denial," Guldemond says. "There's a pride behind the confession. No one's denying anything."
Human "malfunctions" are cause for celebration on "Very Good Bad Thing."
Mother Mother come out swinging on "Get Out The Way," a super-charged call to arms Guldemond describes as not letting anyone to get in the way of your truth, whatever your truth may be. "I know I'm supposed to integrate," he snarls, "but how's about instead I inch away?"
"F -- - yeah, I'm a deviant," Guldemond proclaims on the proggy "Reaper Man," which pounds its way through your cerebellum like the giant walking hammers from Pink Floyd's "The Wall."
No subject is taboo for Mother Mother on "Very Good Bad Thing": male body image ("I Go Hungry"), morning-after self-loathing ("Have It Out"), bullying and suicide ("Kept Down," inspired in part by the death of Amanda Todd).
"Am I to die alone and sublime?" Guldemond asks before ending the album as if it had all been an illusion -- with a vanishing trick. "You may just watch me disappear," he sings against the silence.
"As I get older I feel more in touch with my flaws as something I can integrate, as opposed to something I suppress in order to spin some yarn of perfection," Guldemond says. "Never have I been so at peace with the imperfect side of myself."
Recorded with Juno-winning producer Gavin Brown (Metric, Billy Talent, Tragically Hip) at his Noble Street studio in Toronto, "Very Good Bad Thing" is the next logical step in Mother Mother's sonic evolution.
This isn't the same Mother Mother that gave us the cheeky "Touch Up" (2007) and "O My Heart" (2008), or even the adventurous "Eureka" (2011). It's a much different band than on the conceptual "The Sticks" (2012), an album that made Mother Mother the second most-played artist on Canadian alternative radio in 2012 and 2013.
The guitar hooks are bigger, the synths are louder, the vocal harmonies are more carefully crafted and the irony toned down, and the bass and drums are tighter.
"I've been really getting into James Blake, Little Dragon and EDM in general," Guldemond says. "As the songs were coming in, they were wearing a skin of electronics. It's easy to demo from that place. In doing that you get attached to that personality and it begins to define the shape of the song. It just made sense to continue down that path as opposed to uprooting the core and starting from scratch.
"It feels natural. There's a lot of fire in the band and its sentiment, and that seems accentuated through big, modern, tough sounds."
"Very Good Bad Thing" certainly pops out of the package with a resounding snap.
For a band whose approach has been to modernize itself at every turn and has never really been able to fit neatly into a box, Brown was the right fit for the job.
"He really brought an edge to our sound," Parkin says. "We've never done the same thing twice. Every album is a new chapter and a new beginning."
Close to 10 years after it formed, Mother Mother is embracing its true nature. And it speaks volumes.
"No matter what you do you'll be criticized for it," Guldemond says. "So it's better to be criticized for taking risks rather than being safe."
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