Grief Chapter

Grief Chapter

“What is normal? Nothing’s normal!” That line is the core mantra of “Normalize,” the delirious centerpiece of Mother Mother’s ninth album. Part punk rave-up, part operatic chorale, the song is an anthem for the proudly nonconformist Vancouver band and their freaky followers. Mother Mother’s unconventional essence is reflected in both their genre-blurring sound—a frantic fusion of vintage glam-rock attitude, modern alt-pop pomp, and earthy indie-folk aesthetics—and their surprise TikTok boost in the early 2020s, which has made them the rare group to massively expand their fanbase on the cusp of their 20th anniversary. And they’re not taking any of it for granted. A surface skim of the Grief Chapter lyric sheets reveals a pronounced preoccupation with dying—if you were to play a drinking game and take a shot every time singer/guitarist Ryan Guldemond references death here, you’d be hammered by the third song. But Grief Chapter isn’t some by-product of gloomy, post-pandemic depression. Rather, by couching weighty discussions about mortality in energetic, effervescent songs, Mother Mother can more effectively demonstrate the importance of living life to the fullest. “In the past few years, Mother Mother came into new success and a higher quality of life,” Guldemond tells Apple Music. “And I feel as though when life is good, it begets the topic of death just naturally, which I think is a good thing. Death is a good incentivizer to get out of any doldrums you might find yourself in. We're using death as a means to celebrate life, appreciate what was happening around us, and seize the day.” Here, Guldemond offers a track-by-track explanation for how singing about dying makes you feel more alive. “Nobody Escapes” “I love the happy/sad dichotomy, the seemingly saccharine mixed with the demented. The gift of songwriting is that you can really be hard on yourself in a gruesome way, and it works. It makes for a better song a lot of the time. Originally, this song was just too short—it was like a minute and a half. And it didn't want any more verses or any more choruses. It felt complete. But it also felt a bit criminal to not try to find something else to say, so we went off on a bit of a tangent—or three.” “To My Heart” “This song just came from hanging out in my apartment playing acoustic guitar, feeling sad. I was originally going to use it for my solo project, but then it just felt like it would really fit the Mother Mother skin, and the girls [Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin] would elevate it. That phrase 'going back to my heart' means I'm going to make the effort to transcend the fiction of my toxic mind and return to a more feeling-based approach to living.” “Explode!” “This is about the type of person who tries much too hard to pry meaning and inspiration out of everything. And ironically, in doing so, they miss out on all the nuanced beauty of the mundane. We know those types of people. I have been that type of person. And it's hard on those around us—you start to enter into an overzealous, manic, alienating space when you're just rushing for the thrill. It's like the cold-plunger people—like, just relax! Go grab a blankie and read a book.” “Head Shrink” “This song was born out of a really bad back injury that I still struggle with. And there's something very emotionally charged about a lower-back injury. It feels like it's attached to more than just physiology. There's definitely a school of thought that says our injuries are expressions of emotional trauma. You go into yourself and start dissecting who you are, and 'Head Shrink' came right out of that. But I liked turning that idea on its ear a bit, and disavowing the usefulness of digging so deep and looking so hard at oneself. Sometimes, you just have to let go and not look and instead peer out at the day and try to make something good of that. When we just busy ourselves with trying to fix ourselves, we just miss out on life. And so much of life is just surrendering to the fact that it's deeply imperfect.” “Days” “This whole song posits the idea that you're ultimately going to fall prey to one of those bad days, and it's going to take you out. There's a suicidal implication there. But I like how in the very last line of the song, it rebukes all of that and says, 'I'll never let it take me out.' I think if you go grim in songwriting, there ought to be some silver lining. Otherwise it just becomes indulgent in the darkness.” “Forever” “I'm not religious in any traditional sense. But this song is taking a person who has a spiritual bent and then placing them in a quandary where they have to reconcile with the possibility of life just being done—poof, gone. It's all over at the end of this fleshy stab at life we are offered.” “Normalize” “This was by far the hardest to make. We're all a little traumatized from the construction. Some songs just want to stay in the womb, and you feel like you're conducting an unnatural experiment by ripping them out and forcing them into the world. And 'Normalize' felt a bit like that.” “Goddamn Staying Power” “It's nice to hear children innocently cooing away in a playground while you sing about dark subjects. There's something about that juxtaposition of light and dark that really works. And I think it's just nice to fill the space with textures that aren't musical. It gets kind of boring when it's just instruments and drums and things that are innately musical. I think it's lovely to field-record and bring that sort of soundscape into the music.” “The Matrix” “This is less about people being trapped in a job, and more about being trapped in a frame of mind that is limiting you and holding you back from tapping your potential or raising your frequency and your state of inspiration. Like, we all have to work, and it's fairly idealistic to say, 'Quit your job and go be happy!' But there's a lot of time in the day that isn't attributed to working for The Man—it's just being with yourself. And it's more in those moments that this song is trying to encourage people to wake up to themselves and what they truly want.” “God’s Plan” “It was only until after we wrote this song that I actually searched 'God's Plan' online, and realized, 'Oh, wow, that's a big [Drake] song!' I don't know if that will work for or against us. But this isn't a commentary on death; it's more about how flawed the human race is, and just making a joke about the idea that if there was a creator, they must have been all hopped up on drugs when they made us. I don't actually feel that way—I think people are beautiful and alien. There's still a lot of beauty in the world. But it's fun to dip your toes into that extreme irreverence.” “End of Me” “As a kid, I would really get drunk on that fantasy of experiencing my own funeral, but the irony with fantasizing about that is you think, 'Oh, it'll be so great! There'll be this row of weeping people celebrating me!' And then you wake up to the fact that you don't actually get to be there. There's a departure: They stay, you go. Your funeral is not for you. That was a really disturbing realization for me. It shook me up. And now I can't even imagine having a funeral—like, ‘How embarrassing, I really hope that doesn't take place!’” “Grief Chapter” “This is probably my favorite track on the record, just because it wasn't written from a place of songwriting; it was more from just living and reacting to what was going on in life. I was tending to my friend John, who was grieving the passing of his father, and I basically transcribed a series of text messages into that song. I love it when songs happen like that. It's way better than 'I'm gonna go to the studio today and write the closing tracks of the album!' Instead it's like, 'Oh, fuck, I can't go to the studio today because I need to be there for my friend because his dad's dead.' And through opening your heart to that experience, one of your favorite songs is born.”

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