REVIEW: Mothers - When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired

Kelly Kirwan

Mothers has the air of a tortured artist. Their sound is both haunting and nuanced, a spectrum of simple strumming and abrasion. It's music that flirts with wallowing, fueled by that underlying ache which was practically trademarked by the country-bluegrass genre (the band is based in Athens, Georgia after all).

But, in this instance, I'd go against your own mother's advice to not dwell on darker thoughts—because Mothers is spinning a unique brand of catharsis. Their debut album, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired, isn't the kind of music that you cue up when you feel like a heavy sigh and some morose stares out the window. Mothers is poetic—literally. The EP's title was ripped from the pages of a relatively unknown French book Kristine Leschper (the band's founder) came across during an apprenticeship with a painter abroad. It's a name that's simple and subtly layered, which suits Mothers and their creative process.

Initially, Mothers was a one-woman show. Navigating the Athens music scene, Leschper met and then collaborated with the band's current drummer, Matthew Anderegg, and eventually the two added Drew Kirby and Patrick Morales on guitar and bass. There's always vulnerability involved when you funnel something intimate into art, and even more so when that personal inspiration is then reflected through the prism of three other bandmates. It's brings forth a certain tension and hesitancy as delicate as Leschper's folk-inspired vocals, which stretch to high, trembling pitches as an intersection of rawness and fragility.

So, while many of Mothers' tracks began as Leschper's brainchild, among the four of them these songs have evolved into something fully grown—like “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t,” which stays true to Mothers' signature style of straightforward instrumentals, often guided rhythmically by Anderegg’s steady drumming. The opening lines should by all means be crushing: “I felt alive for a little while / But when I died I had the time to notice / I was crushed by the weight of my own ego.” But instead, the effect is more introspective. There’s a degree of despair in Leschper’s voice that pulls you in, because she’s putting it all on the table. “I felt your love for a little while / But never had the guts to give myself up,” Leschper continues, and you’re hooked on the story she’s coming to understand in hindsight. 

Then there are songs like “Too Small For Eyes,” which relies on guitar plucking and a string arrangement building beautifully in the background. The melody is relatively simple, but not sparse. Mothers knows which strings to play and which buttons to press, to leave you in a bittersweet rapture.

When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired is a highlight in the indie-folk-rock landscape for being understated and experimental, an album that plays like the lost diary pages from someone’s blue period. But Mothers takes all that angst and leaves us with tracks that have an aftertaste of relief. Like I said—catharsis.