photos and story by Sean Kelly
It was a leisurely weekday morning, I had the day off and Canadian art-rock three-piece Motherhood (Adam, Penny, Brydon) had a St. Louis date cancel. Coming from New Brunswick, the trio is currently making their way across the country on their first U.S. tour. We met at one of my favorite coffee shops, Star Lounge in Humboldt Park, to talk about the challenges of touring internationally over Dark Matter's finest.
Emulsion: What was it like getting across the border on your first US tour?
Brydon: Getting across the border was actually easy and very painless, I don't think it took more than a half an hour. It was more the process before that of getting the visas, which Penny did.
Penny: It cost a couple thousand dollars. You have to have written contracts with venues and promoters that can prove that you're going to play shows. And they'll only keep your visa open as long as you have contracts. The latest we could get someone to give us a contract is the end of September so thats when the visa closes. But from our start date 'til the end of September, we can come and go as much as we want so we're hoping to come in quite a few times. We'll be back a few more times to pop down through the... eastern seaboard?
Emulsion: Haha ooo "The Eastern Seaboard".
Penny: Haha ok in the movie Monsters, Inc. they talk about "The Eastern Seaboard" and i've always thought that was really cool for some reason and i've been saying it so much. "Yes, we'll be going down the eastern seaboard and then traveling west to California", haha it sounds so cool.
Emulsion: Hahaha you've gotta take advantage of it while you can. So you do have some planned dates after this tour already?
Penny: Yeah, after this there are a few festivals. New York is closer to us than Toronto, which is kind of flabbergasting, so it actually makes more sense to go to New York than drive to Toronto so we're hoping to get down a few times. I always thought Chicago was closer to the east coast...
Emulsion: Smack dab in the middle out here.
Penny: Actually when we decided to do this tour, it was because of the Tree Fort Festival in Idaho, the promoters saw us play an event in Halifax and asked us to play their festival. We were like "Oh yeah, Idaho! Sure we'd love to!", then we looked it up. Idaho is SOOO far away, I thought Idaho was Iowa.
Adam: I definitely thought it was more in the middle. Turns out it borders Oregon.
Emulsion: Haha I live here and I thought it was basically in the middle too...
Brydon: It's exciting though, because now we get to drive across the whole thing.
Emulsion: There's so much to see, it's honestly kinda worth the super long trek. I'm backtracking here a bit but going back to the cost of the visas... if you don't mind me asking, how do you guys fund something like that?
Penny: Well, usually we have some grant support. The Canadian grant system is pretty good for touring musicians. There's a lot of funding in place, provincially and federally. The way that it's structured though, it turns over in April and we're doing the tour in March so there's not a lot of money left in the pot for us basically. It's kinda poor timing on our part, so were doing this one mostly out of pocket. We're mostly a DIY band, we do get grants sometimes but we do pretty much everything ourselves so were used to sleeping on floors. We have a big cooler full of food instead of buying food at restaurants every night, we just keep it as low cost as possible.
Emulsion: Even if you're getting grants, I think the process of going through that remains very DIY in my opinion.
Penny: Well that's my job, i'm a professional grant writer so that's what I do for a day job. It definitely helps us.
Adam: Hahaha we're insanely fortunate.
Emulsion: That's amazing. That's a great situation, I honestly don't know how easy that sort of thing is to get out here.
Penny: It's really, really hard actually. I mean, every state has different arts councils and some of them have really small amounts of money, it's no where close to what we're able to access in Canada.
Adam: There's undoubtedly more bands here in the US too, and places to play.
Brydon: I think to a degree in Canada, the funding is more important because the cities are so far apart. You have to travel so far to be able to play, we're going from Maine to California and back but from New Brunswick to B.C. and back, which is the same distance, you can only play like eight cities.
Emulsion: Yeah that does actually make a lot of sense. You still got a long road ahead of you on this one but what are your plans for the future?
Penny: Part of the reason we're here is to try and find a U.S. label so we've been playing to different people in different cities. We have some contacts out west that we're going to meet, if we can find an American label that wants to put out the next record, which is basically done, our timeline will kind of depend on that. We've been sitting on the record for a while, it's not mastered yet but it's otherwise ready so we'd like to get it out as soon as possible. Probably late fall? When we do the album release we'll do a more extensive "North American Tour", which just involves more Canadian and American dates but sounds more badass hahaha.
Brydon: We'll be playing the Eastern Seaboard, the Western Seaboard, the Southern Seaboard...
Emulsion: Hahaha hopefully not the Northern Seaboard...
Motherhood's new album is somewhere on the horizon, in the meantime check out "Baby Teeth" and other goodies at www.motherhoodmusic.bandcamp.com. Fingers crossed they make their way back through Chicago sooner than later.