Categories: Arts Music Pop

Mother Mother’s Ryan Guldemond not served by ‘total abstinence’

Mother Mother bandleader Ryan Guldemond — sensing himself sliding into drug-fueled debauchery two years ago — stopped taking all stimulants and depressants for 12 months. The experiment was long enough to compose the group’s sixth album, 2017’s reflective “No Culture.”

Its recent follow up “Dance and Cry” — which the group is promoting on tour in The City this week — is an analytical epilogue to the project, with ABC/Human-League-classy alt-pop tracks like “Get Up,” “Back to Life” and “I Must Cry Out Loud.”

It’s taken the Vancouver-based Guldemond, 36 — who fronts Mother Mother with his vocalist sister Molly — 14 years to feel this comfortable pushing the aesthetic envelope. He was patient. He could wait.

How did Guldemond know something was wrong?

“When you take inventory of your life — financially, creatively, health-wise — and you notice a pattern of deficiency, there’s a problem,” says the singer, chuckling.

“If there’s a problem with substances somewhere in the mix, then that’s a pretty good place to start. But it should be noted that my year of sobriety when we made the last record was never meant to be about a 12-stepper versus some eternal hustler. It was to figure out how to sculpt my life in a way that best suits me and my path.”

In 2005, things started slowly for Guldemond and his sibling, who initially dubbed themselves just Mother (the second Mother was added in 2007 for legal reasons) and sought nothing more serious than to make fun, vocal-textured pop.

But their career took off. They signed to Universal Music Canada as the frontman developed an attendant cocaine, MDMA, ketamine habit, complemented with alcohol.

Writing about his condition on “No Culture,” he came up with the New Order-thumping single “The Drugs,” wherein he praises a new paramour with, “You’re hotter than the sun/ And you’re better than the drugs I used to love” before swearing off his vices.

But he didn’t quite do it.

Guldemond refused to subject himself to rehab, saying the watchwords “you use, you die” didn’t ring true for him.

“That’s such an extreme take on it,” he says. “I think that if you don’t do what you want to do, you die, as well. If you live a life restricting yourself, your soul dies. So total abstinence doesn’t serve me, and ever since my year of sobriety, I’ve been exploring ways to reintegrate or dabble, without detrimental effects.”

Instead, Guldemond was guided by Julia Cameron’s classic “The Artist’s Way,” which maintains that the artist is a humble conduit, channeling a bigger force than themselves. “I think that’s a really approach and mindset,” he says of the text that was crucial to his turnaround.

Mother Mother
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Jan 19
Tickets: $15 to $18
Contact: (415) 885-0750,

Tom Lanham
Published by
Tom Lanham

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