andrew kruse-ross | the return of mothership | march 2017
If you can imagine for a moment a race of super beings traveling across the cosmos on a mission to assimilate the guitar-driven music of the '70s and early '80s before ascending back into the heavens only to return, decades later, and unleash that same music upon the Earth after it has absorbed bits of the cosmic dust from the edges of space, you're on your way to understanding Mothership's sound.
The Dallas-based rock trio is a throwback to hard rock's roots, but attempts to pigeonhole their sound are futile. Describing their music can get out of hand quickly and inevitably leads to a confusing conversation that involves imagining “part of this band mixed with part of this band, sprinkled with the early work of this band."
It “feels like UFO and Orange Goblin got drunk with St. Vitus, smoked some weed with Blue Cheer and spewed out the tuffest [sic] blues-drenched, no frills love child I've heard all month," wrote Sword of Doom.
In short: Mothership may be best heard instead of discussed.
Green Bay will get another shot to catch this up-and-coming act as the band makes a stop at both Rock N' Roll Land and Gasoline on March 30, 2017, less than two weeks after their third album, “High Strangeness" hits shelves.
Taking a few moments to answer some questions via telephone from Memphis, Tenn., bassist/vocalist Kyle Juett talks about the band's early days, their ascent and the new album.
It isn't unusual for musicians to credit their parents with putting an instrument in their hands at a young age, but in the case of both you and your brother, your father was your original drummer; I wonder if you could tell us a little about that?
It's probably one of the most natural ways you can start a band, getting together with your family and just jamming with music.
At an early age, there was always music going on. There were always CDs and records being played. Without so many words being said, at an early age, we couldn't do anything without music happening. Over the years we started to get the itch to start creating it and also find a way to spend time with our family. Jamming became a once a week on a Sunday sort of a thing. It kept progressing and we knew eventually that we'd have to get somebody who could tour, but it's a good story and pretty badass that we started that way.
I'm always intrigued by how much sonic space can be filled by a trio. Whether we're talking about Motorhead or Texas trios like ZZ Top or King's X — I apologize for picking two bands from Houston — a good trio doesn't seem to be lacking anything musically and the same goes for Mothership. Is Mothership a trio by design and is there anything that you do consciously as a trio that you might not as a four or five-piece?
Yeah, I think a trio is really natural. I've played in bands with two guitar players and you can't do everything in a trio that you can with another guitar player, but we come pretty damn close.
One thing with a three piece is you can't really hide behind anyone; you can't have someone that hides in the back. You're basically all part of the focal point of the entire set. It's the same on a record. You can't lackadaisically show up on a record; everyone's got to be jamming.
There's a buzz in certain circles about how far the band has come since your first album. From your vantage point, is there a sense within the band that you guys are on the rise or heading in the right direction?
Yeah, I think with anything hard work pays off, regardless of anything that you do. A lot of these towns that we're getting close to selling out—some of these smaller-capacity venues, in any town — you have to keep going back. You have to prove to people that this is what you do and you're serious about it. Being an out-of-town band and coming to a town that may not get a lot of bands, we're definitely starting to see it.
At the same time, we still see towns where we roll in and there're only five or six people that show up. It's a sobering feeling and it makes you want to work a little bit harder.
We've definitely got a lot of notoriety. We've definitely come up fast or in a quick way in that last couple of years since the first album, but we still approach it just like we're a brand new band. I feel like you can't ever quit that attitude. The older you get the rougher it is, sleeping in the van and shit, but at the end of the day: you gotta do what you gotta do. In rock 'n' roll it's never been pretty, it's never been easy and that's what makes rock 'n' rollers who they are.
Your touring schedule is pretty sick. You guys regularly seem to make the most of your time on the road, often playing five consecutive nights. That may have become the norm for you; do you find all that time on the road rewarding?
Being on the road is what it means to be a rock 'n' roll band. Anyone can sit at home and record a great album, they can take some great pictures and give off the façade of being larger-than-life to the internet world, but if you're really in a rock 'n' roll band—and in it for the right reasons—you're in it to perform and to show people what you've created live. I think every band out there needs to play live at every single opportunity they get.
Yeah, the touring schedules we get are fucking ridiculous, but I mean that in the best possible way. I mean, some people may think we're crazy, but there are others out there that would agree that that's what you have to do. We treat this like a seven-day-a-week thing.
The record drops on March 17, but I've been listening to a promo copy over the weekend. One thing that instantly leaps out is that this sounds very much like a Mothership album and I think that's a good thing, meaning fans aren't going to be disappointed. It feels like a fitting continuation in the catalog. Was there anything that you, as a band, tried to do differently in making this album?
We worked with a new engineer and some new mastering. You can definitely hear the audio of the album has a different flavor to it, but as far as trying to write certain songs we're just trying to write another Mothership album. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. We're just trying to keep it in the realm that's gotten us to this point and that spans the heavy blues stuff to heavy metal shit and rock 'n' roll in between.
I think that's a testament to a band doing what feels natural to them. It feels like a Mothership album and fits with the albums that preceded it.
And that's great. I think that's the best compliment you can get when you've got multiple albums.
That's one thing that we've had in the past where guys have been like 'well, those guys are too all over the place. They need to hone in on something and stick with it.' I've heard that a couple of times with labels that didn't really want to work on an album.
I dig that you guys aren't afraid to throw in some instrumental stuff and for a straight-ahead sort of rock band, that's refreshing. You kick off each album with one, where'd that idea originate?
I don't know. I think we fell into it. I think we like to ease into our records. We want you to be strapped in before it actually kicked you in the ass. It's kind of ascending.
We love the instrumental stuff. I was actually thinking the other day we've got a lot of them. Maybe we'll release an album one day that's all the instrumental tracks from all the records.
When you guys visit Green Bay, you'll be doing a sort of doubleheader as you'll be playing a club in the evening, but doing an all-ages set at Rock N' Roll Land record store. I was wondering what your take is on the resurgence of vinyl and the importance that record stores are playing in bringing music to the people?
I think records are more the interactive media for music. When you mix in album artwork and you have to be engaged with flipping the record. It's pretty crazy to be a touring band selling more records than CDs on the road. It's kind of mind blowing. I'm sure there are people out there that said that would never happen.
I think records are important, especially to the younger generation. It needs to affect them like it affected us. They need to have something in their hand. You're owning it. CDs are great, but compared to a record or an mp3, which doesn't exist at all, I think we're getting back to things being more real. I think that's what people are craving, something real that's not fake. Something that's honest.
But record stores are important and these record stores that have weathered the storm for the last 30 years are now about to, or have already started, making up for the 30 years of no income. Records are exploding. Pressing plants are backed up and there's a balancing act that's happening.
Now you've got major labels pressing their shit to vinyl now too at like 50,000 units or something insane. When a band like ourselves, when we pressed our first album like five or six years ago, there wasn't really the insanity vinyl fever that there is today.
I dunno, I feel like it's good timing. Rock 'n' roll is coming back, vinyl is coming back. We'll see what happens.
It's no secret that the band is heavily influenced by the rock music of the '70s. As such, a lot of names get thrown around when people are trying to describe you guys: Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, UFO, St. Vitus, ZZ Top, The Who, Blue Cheer, Orange Goblin. Just for fun, I'm wondering if you've ever heard a band come up when someone's describing your music and just been left scratching your head?
To be honest they're all kind of funny.
It's kinda overwhelming. You'll stop at a gas station and they'll ask 'you guys play in a band.'
My first thing to say is yeah, we play in a heavy rock 'n' roll band, but nowadays that doesn't mean anything to anyone. I mean there's no way anyone can dial into what that means. So we start throwing out the names of all these bands to get people on the right track and then we sound like airheads because we're all throwing out like 50 band names. People are getting mind-fried because we're taking them all over the place, but it's never gotten any easier. It starts sounding like a fucking science project.
It's all just shit we kinda love and we listen to, but we never thought that we sounded like any of them. I think the reason it's hard for people to pinpoint what we sound like is because a lot of our shit is different; we're not writing the same song over and over again. I mean, you've listened to the record, one song's a fast song, one's a little bit slow, another one's a bit bluesy. We're all over the place because we've got influences all over. We feel like, as a band, it's a lot more fun to have a lot of influences and not care about the album sounding exactly the same from start to finish.
Anything you'd like to mention before we hang up?
We love Green Bay, we've been there twice and we actually got to play a show and hang out for a day. You guys really got something special in that town and we're very thankful to have met the right people that have exposed us to your town.
Look for “High Strangeness" on March 17 and catch Mothership with Black Pus*y for a free all-ages show at Rock N' Roll Land at 5 p.m. on March 30 and again at Gasoline with Sons of Kong added to the bill at 9 p.m.
For more info visit mothershipusa.com.