Review: Motherhood returns with another new sound

Motherhood took the stage at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre for their album release of Dear Bongo on March 1. (Johnny James/AQ)

Brydon Crain, Penelope Stevens and Adam Sipkema from the band Motherhood have reminded everyone they are the fun parent of Fredericton’s music scene with their fourth album Dear Bongo.

The band reinvents their sound with each project they release. They’re a demonstration of how Fredericton’s arts community operates outside conventions.

Crain, Motherhood’s guitarist and lead vocalist, said they enjoy keeping things fresh.

“It’s not so much a challenge as it is just trying to keep things interesting. It’s no fun making a record that you already made, and we don’t have any interest in doing that,” said Crain.

They lead by example through their sound and their contributions to the industry, guided by the efforts of bassist Stevens who assists in grant writing for artists and plays key roles in festivals like Folly Fest and Shivering Songs. The band has also performed at local schools.

“It’s important to get younger people involved in music, let them know that it is an option cause every kid might not come from a home where they are encouraged to explore that side of themselves,” said Crain.

Dear Bongo will lead the band on their third tour of the United States with 22 dates, making additional stops in Canada as they venture across the map.

“We didn’t know what to expect, especially in this weird political time, but everyone we met was great, people came out to the shows and were very welcoming and we had a great time both times,” said Crain.

Penelope Stevens of the band Motherhood plays bass, keys and sings. (Johnny James/AQ)

The album

The band said Dear Bongo tells the story of a painter who is reeling from the end of his latest relationship and seeks solace in alcohol and his craft. Bored of a typical canvas, he paints rooms, other artist’s paintings, buildings and highway lines until he ultimately decides to fix nature’s colours – most of which now seem flawed to his obsessed eye. It’s a meditation on the strident need for perfection in an imperfect world.

From down-home jams like “Way Down” and “Pick of the Pugs” to the unhinged instrumentals on “Costanza” and “Sweet Kid,” the album transitions using sharp, unexpected turns.

Each track is unabashed in its quirks, standing proud on each microcosm of sound it creates. Crain’s and Stevens’ mystery box vocals and lyrics come off as both lighthearted and startling throughout the album’s progression.

Motherhood was joined by some guests like Jerry-Faye Flatt (left) on their album release to be able to play all the parts that are recorded in the album. (Johnny James/AQ)

The show

Motherhood took the Charlotte Street Art Centre stage for their album release show on March 1. The stage was dressed in a backsplash painted with the red, white and blue colour palette from their album cover with matching lights that flashed in dizzying patterns during their set.

Joining the trio for the occasion was WHOOP-SZO guitarist Joe Thorner, their producer Kyle Cunjak who added some weird sounds, and singer-songwriter Jerry-Faye Flatt who handled backing vocals and the theremin, an instrument that emits noise as you manipulate its exposure to light, disguised as a toy baby head.

Members of The Hypochondriacs also paraded out from backstage into the crowd at the end of the first song “Bird Chirp,” leading a sing along.

The trio and their additional ensemble ran through the album front to back in act one, translating its aesthetic to the packed crowd. After a brief exit from the stage, the trio returned by themselves for one last treat, ripping through their energetic two-part instrumental “Tin Can Beach” and the controlled chaos of their track “Greed” to cap off a night that all-ages and all musical palettes could enjoy.

Motherhood will resume their tour when they head to New York City on March 8 to play the New Colossus Festival.