Kristine Leschper on “The Opening, or Closing of a Door” and Leaving Mothers Behind | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 17th, 2024  

Kristine Leschper on “The Opening, or Closing of a Door” and Leaving Mothers Behind

Redemption Song

Mar 02, 2022 Web Exclusive Photography by Tyler Borchardt Bookmark and Share

It’s understandable that Kristine Leschper, founder and leader of Philly-by-way-of-Athens, Georgia, indie band Mothers, would need to muster up a little courage to approach ANTI- about dropping her project’s name after just one album with the label. Speaking from her Philadelphia home base, with lots of assistance from her attention loving cat, Hans, Leschper strikes you as someone that would be fully prepped for such a meeting.

“I had prepared a bullet point list of all the reasons that it was good to change to my name for marketing purposes, ‘Google-ability,’ and all of these things,” Leschper says. “But I didn’t get to say any of that stuff because they said, ‘If you want to do that, that’s great. You should do that.’ No questions asked.”

But truth be told much more hung in the balance for Leschper than what may appear a simple name change to the outside world. Using the Mothers moniker going back to the early 2010’s and having released two critically acclaimed and popular albums (2016’s When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired and 2018’s Render Another Ugly Method), the project became an anchor dragging Leschper further and further down. Render is no doubt a much more challenging affair than the folkier When You Walk a Long Distance, and Render’s dense and combative landscape left Leschper about as much air to breathe as there was empty space on the record. In other words, oxygen deprivation was reaching critical levels.

“Anyone that was close to me at the time that I was making Render knew that I was very unwell,” Leschper reveals. “I was suffering from severe depression that I was having a hard time getting on top of. It’s obvious to me now that I was making music in order to cope.”

She describes dealing with debilitating anxiety and depression in the aftermath of recording and touring behind the final Mothers’ album. Though we are seeing Leschper emerge with new music in what is hopefully the waning days of a global pandemic, her struggles predated COVID-19 by a large margin. She attributes much of this to being confronted with global recognition so early in her musical career. “I wanted to transition to take control under my own name to represent all the changes I had been going through,” she says.

The only way Leschper saw forward was to shed her prior identity and the challenges associated with it in order to provide a chance for healing and whatever operating under your own name might bring. Though making further music under any identity was the furthest thing from Leschper’s mind. “I was unsure if I would continue making music at that time. I couldn’t really see the future,” she explains.

The departure from where we last heard Leschper in Mothers to new music that finally began to emerge is readily apparent. “Something Like an Exit,” which was contributed to a 2020 benefit album on the tiny Nino Tomorrow label, is meditative but also stripped down to the point of creating a lighter than air sense of buoyancy. “It was the first song I had ever written, arranged, played every instrument on, and recorded myself. I really loved doing home recording and self-producing, so that encouraged me to move forward with this music,” Leschper says.

The single makes for a beautifully crafted preview of what lay ahead in the new album, The Opening, or Closing of a Door, which is out this Friday on ANTI-. The new album’s songs started to come together during lockdown, with Leschper operating solely on her own. The songs take on gently percussive rhythms or, on other tracks, the studied approach of chamber music arrangements. In some cases these elements blend together seamlessly as on “Ribbon,” where Leschper’s voice and the lightest taps of drums and woodblocks are met over time by the swell of strings followed by a delicate fly by of a flute. Her primary musical partners for the album are Garrett Burke, who brought along a huge array of percussion, and Sammy Weissberg, who Leschper sought out for his experience in arranging horns and strings.

“Writhe and Wrestle” takes a different approach from the rest of the album as Leschper used vocal snippets from a sample pack to create a layered staccato effect over which she also sings. And on “Compass” she enticed a cadre of family and friends to sing along with her as the song unfolds. “There’s something so special about the way it sounds when people sing together. I’ve been singing with the Philadelphia Women’s Slavic Ensemble. It feels so good to sing with other people,” Leschper says.

She is more interested in these community pursuits than trying to keep pace with the rush of new contemporary music. She does speak excitedly of finding time to listen to Cate Le Bon’s new album and is anxious for Aldous Harding’s upcoming release as well. Like those incomparable artists, Leschper has found herself happiest operating in her own lane with outside influences brought in to enhance her vision rather than overwhelm it. But she does so with the warmth of finding love for herself, family, and the community around her. Listening to The Opening, or Closing of a Door in the context of the healing that it helped cement for the artist that created it makes for a rewarding listen. In the closing strains of “Picture Window,” Leschper sings “I hope I get the notes right.” In taking control of her music and finding peace with herself, Leschper most certainly has the notes all right where they belong.

Also read our 2018 Self-Portrait interview with Leschper.

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