by Max Freedman (@anticlimaxwell)
A few months ago, when Brooklyn DIY venue Palisades announced that Mothers and Palm would play a show together there, I was confused about this pairing. Would the twisted, cerebral, dissonant music that Palm plays make for a proper warm-up for Mothers’ more hushed, obviously personal songs? After catching the show, though, it became apparent that both bands share a good deal of influence and technical prowess. Although this commonality emerges most strongly live, where Mothers’ guitars growl and rumble even more aggressively than on the most immediate parts of their debut, February’s When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired, the bands’ shared traits are still audible in the rushing guitars and unexpected tempo shifts frequent in their music.
Both acts hear an overlap too: a new Mothers tour stretch that kicked off recently saw Palm again opening many dates, among which was a fantastic show at esteemed Brooklyn venue Baby’s All Right. Reliable Boston punks Vundabar kicked off the night with a riveting show rife with jangly surf punk; Palm followed with an incredibly strong set emboldened by the venue’s impeccable sound; Mothers blazed through a chilling hour of tunes both intimate and charged. Earlier in the evening, Post-Trash brought Mothers and Palm together to talk with each other about their somewhat easily overlooked common threads. Read on to discover both bands’ thoughts on topics ranging from improvisation to small DIY labels and even Future.
I’m hoping this will be a conversation between both bands. I want you to chat with each other and see what differences and common threads emerge. Anything I say is just a guiding hand for conversation topics. With that in mind, I’m first interested in getting the room to talk about how you learned to play your instruments and sing.
Eve Alpert, Palm (vocals, guitar): I knew a foreign exchange student growing up in middle school, and he was in a rock band in Peru. He would always play guitar, so I got really excited about that, and he started showing me chords and stuff. Once he left, I took three months of lessons, and then I kept playing guitar on my own.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers (vocals, guitar): I took some guitar lessons when I was younger, but I was sort of at an age where I wasn’t really ready to dedicate myself to it. I think that I just had other priorities at the time. I was 13 or 14. I got a rock star starter kit, just a Squire Strat and a five watt practice amp. I took lessons for a while, but it just kind of left me feeling dejected rather than empowered. I didn’t commit the time to it that I really needed to get better, so I kind of trailed off and didn’t really start playing again until early college.
I’d love to get a conversation going among everybody here about how jamming or improvisation or whatever you wanna call it factors into the songwriting in each band.
Hugo Stanley, Palm (drums): It’s kind of like, a tie-in between those two questions: my musical background is just improvisation. My friends from high school just really liked unstructured [things]; whether or not our songwriting approach for a song is improvised, it’s kind of my mindset, my mode of writing. [I'm usually] playing the first thing that I come up with and trying to work from that.
Eve Alpert, Palm: That’s the thing, because our instruments are not really our first instruments in ways, besides guitar for me. We kind of went into it not exactly knowing how to play in a traditional way, so jamming together was sort of the only way we could form music’s language with each other.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: It’s sort of a slow forming process for us that usually starts with me and Matt generating a structure for something. The songs that we have on the first record were songs that I’d written and been performing as a solo act, so they had existing structures that just needed to be expanded upon with other instruments. So especially those songs, we started forming them as the full band, with me and Matt slowly etching away at what it could be and just playing things over and over until they started to take form. It’s sort of still a way that we work; some of it is more a full band setting, all at one time. Generally, it’s this slow moving process of me and Matt playing together, and us all getting together and expanding upon that idea and letting it change the process.
Matt Anderegg, Mothers (drums): Yeah, we didn’t start with a very improvisational approach. It was usually very deliberate. Now, it’s a little more…the newer stuff we’re doing comes from the whole group at once.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: The nature of that has changed a lot, since we’ve sort of grown to know each other’s musical tastes and patterns and learned how to react to each other.
Eve Alpert, Palm: We’re also pretty deliberate in how we write songs these days, but it often takes time. In practice, some members of the band will be improvising in order to write their parts. But there’s usually a core idea or rhythmic element that underlies the song direction.
This one might be more for Kristine, Eve, and Kasra, as you talk among each other about when lyrics make their way into your songwriting process, and what role they play in developing the emotional impact and resonance of your songs.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: I’m curious to hear about that from [Palm].
Eve Alpert, Palm: It was always, from the beginning, the last thing we ever wanted to touch.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: We started as an instrumental band.
Eve Alpert, Palm: Purely instrumental. We forced ourselves to try adding vocal elements, and only in the last year and a half has it become the goal to really write them at the same time as the song, or even before. We sort of still feel uncomfortable about it, but we’ve tried to treat it in different ways. Kasra and I will try to, for example, hocket some voice patterns back and forth, and words come later. It’s not as natural at all for us, compared to musically.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: For me, it was the opposite. I was starting to play music at the same time that I was starting to write poetry, so it became this way for me to give the words I was writing on paper a different kind of life, meaning, and way to be presented to other people.
I have this notebook where I just have stream of consciousness writing. It isn’t really [that] I write a poem at a time anymore. I just keep writing line after line, and I stop writing when I stop. Whenever I pick it up again, I just start where I left off, and when I’m writing a song or want to piece it together, I flip through it and find things that naturally come together and make sense thematically. The writing aspect, for me, is like collage in a way. I’ve done that a lot as well: actually cutting the words out and reforming [them] together. The musical process so far for me has been primarily starting with the lyrics and theme of the words in mind before adding a musical component.
I want this one to be open to the whole room: throw out all of your influences and see where they align. Just chat with each other about “Oh, I love that band!” or “I never got into that band.” Just a whole frenzied conversation among everyone.
Drew Kirby, Mothers (guitar): I just found out Hugo likes Future. (all laugh) That was a surprise. I was not expecting that.
Eve Alpert, Palm: (jokingly) Oh, I love Future! (all laugh) Well, I think we’ve been listening to a lot of different genres. Electronic music….
Hugo Stanley, Palm: Yeah. We all really like DJ Rashad.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: Yeah. Rest in peace.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: Jlin as well.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: You guys showed us that Principe Disco stuff, which was amazing and not something I’d ever listened to before. Nothing like it.
Eve Alpert, Palm: It’s like, otherworldly.
Matt Anderegg, Mothers: I think we all really like a couple of bands from Atlanta – Red Sea and Hellier Ulysses.
Eve Alpert, Palm: They’re like our favorite bands. I think Georgia in general is the most vibrant state for music.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: Future. (all laugh)
Drew Kirby, Mothers: For real, yeah. Atlanta’s got all the rap music in the world. And I will say that in New York and not take it back. I could give a shit. It’s a fact.
I’m not gonna fight you over it.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: I stand by it. That’s where it all is.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: I actually heard Hugo’s old project, or other project, pretty recently and was really inspired by it. It’s called Big Neck Police.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: I didn’t know you were in that! What the fuck? (laughs) I had no idea. That’s sick.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: New Kanye album is pretty good.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: Cindy Lee is something we all listen to. It’s funny, we’ve talked about this with each other already a lot throughout our relationship so far.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: Kasra turned me on to Chris Weisman. Really into that. He’s great.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: Especially in the van, at least for me, I’m usually trying to listen to, as much as I can, things I don’t normally listen to, outside of rock or just fuckin’ guitar music. Just trying to get out of that consciously, listen to electronic shit, rap stuff, country. That’s kind of been more of what I’m trying to draw influence from, I guess.
Matt Anderegg, Mothers: We all, everyone in our van…I guess you guys like Chris Weisman, they’ve released some of his music…there’s this label, OSR Tapes, that’s based out of New York, but I think it started in Vermont. There are a lot of really good bands on that label.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: I know we’ve all been into it, because Kasra showed us, but there’s this guy named Jimmie Packard. He’s been dead for a few years, but he put out one tape of him singing all these country songs, all these old covers, cassette-recorded. Fairly lo-fi sounding, it was just released locally. The dude was just a wedding singer, basically; legend has it he did six weddings for the same man in Vermont. He was just this local dude who played around a bunch, and OSR just re-released this one tape he had released in the 70s on his own. [As similar influences go], I’ve learned a shit ton from Palm, I would say.
Eve Alpert, Palm: We’re on different tangents in a way, but we cross over…it’s cool that we’re not exactly the same.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: Not at all, but it’s cool that we share influences.
I’d like to let you all ask each other questions, if you have them. I’ll sit back and let you chat.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: I was talking to Hugo a bit about this the other day. When y’all were an instrumental band, what was the process like and what was the sound like? It was so interesting to me to hear about how it started. When did Palm solidify?
Eve Alpert, Palm: Palm solidified when that ended. It was just the three of us, Kasra, Hugo, and I. Kasra had a couple of songs already from high school, and we basically just started rewriting with Hugo. It was way noisier and distorted.
Kasra Kurt, Palm (vocals, guitar): The fuzz pedal was always on. (laughs)
Eve Alpert, Palm: Always on, like super long, many different ideas.
Kasra Kurt, Palm: Loud as fuck.
Eve Alpert, Palm: More sludge.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: Every song was in a different alternate tuning, often with the low E being the C.
Eve Alpert, Palm: It was an inspiring time leaving high school, going to college, having all these influences, and stealing really hard from some, throwing them all in a song. It was really informative in that way.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: Kasra and Eve also knew each other previously, and I met them because Kasra and I had class together. At that point, there was a lot of [musical] overlap, but we also had pretty different influences, and kind of influenced each other musically. It was probably a good thing for the continuity of our music that we have more in common musically now than we did.
Eve Alpert, Palm: That’s funny to think that we were directly inspired by people that you weren’t when we started playing, and somehow your inspirations are probably what made the songs weird.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: We’ve definitely had different ideas; we still have different ideas about how things should sound, and that is part of why our songs sound the way they do. That was almost more the case then; we just had different musical backgrounds.
Eve Alpert, Palm: (to Mothers) What other bands are you guys in? You guys have a history together, right?
Drew Kirby, Mothers: Me and Matt have a passionate history.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: (laughs) Spicy.
Matt Anderegg, Mothers: When we were 19, we started playing Drew’s songs that he was writing in this band called New Wives. We still do that, but it’s kind of a different thing now.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: Much different.
Matt Anderegg, Mothers: I play in this band called Group Stretching. It’s a funny name.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: That’s awesome. (all laugh) [Matt and I] met…I guess you had just started playing music again, cause you –
Matt Anderegg, Mothers: I was hurt for a while and couldn’t play. [Once I recovered] we started playing music and then started playing shows and meeting a lot of other Athens musicians.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: [We met] Kristine pretty quick. It was in the first six months or so of us starting to play. Kristine was playing alone, so we would do shows, because no one was fucking with us, I feel like, in Athens. I don’t know if you felt the same way.
Eve Alpert, Palm: Have you ever played with other people?
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: No. My first experience…was in this project that me and Matt were playing in together called Padre, which is unfair that it was titled that, because the guy who was fronting the project knew that my project was called Mothers and he still…I think it was a joke. I think he thought it would be complimentary –
Drew Kirby, Mothers: No, I think his other names were just that bad. He really wanted to be called Ocean Fish. (laughs) It’s an alright name, I guess, if I think about it, but at the time, I was like, “Please don’t name your band that.”
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: I was playing drums in that, and I was playing mandolin, which was weird because I don’t play mandolin. It was this really large group of people playing together, so that was my first experience playing collaboratively with people, but it was weird because it wasn’t my instrument and I didn’t know how to play it.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: It was like eight people at one point. That band was huge.
Kristine Leschper, Mothers: I never felt like I had a really serious role in it or a really important part in it. It was weird to feel extraneous, so me and Matt started playing music together. It was kind of nebulous at first; we were playing music and talking about Mothers, and it became a three-piece with Drew quickly after that.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: Mothers was going on the whole time throughout this too, as was New Wives. That’s kind of how Athens works: you just land in a bunch of bands of varying degrees of seriousness. It’s fun for the time being. What about y’all? Is Palm like, y’all’s first band? Or I guess not [Hugo].
Eve Alpert, Palm: It’s my first band.
Gerasimos Livitanos, Palm (bass): [It’s my first band] that plays shows and stuff, yeah.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: That’s awesome.
Gerasimos Livitanos, Palm: It’s the first time I’ve played bass. I’ve never played bass, but I play bass in this band.
Drew Kirby, Mothers: You play piano?
Gerasimos Livitanos, Palm: Yeah, I’m a piano player, man.
Eve Alpert, Palm: (to Hugo) I saw you play a show when you were a freshman.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: Fat Ape. (all laugh) I’ve been in a lot of bands that play one or two shows, bands that have played like semi-regularly, whereas the first band like that was a band with me and Paco from Big Neck Police. There were different people at different points, including Ani from this band Palberta, which is another really sick band that I forgot to mention.
Eve Alpert, Palm: What about the one with Jackie, freshman year?
Hugo Stanley, Palm: Nod? We played like two shows. (All laugh) Baby Teeth, The Makers.
Eve Alpert, Palm: The Makers were awesome.
Hugo Stanley, Palm: Mantis.
Eve Alpert, Palm: I remember seeing Hugo play in Mantis on the drums with Kasra at our school’s venue, and we looked at each other, and were like, “What the fuck? They’re doing exactly what we wanna do.”