Self-Portrait: Mothers | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Self-Portrait: Mothers

Performative by Nature

Oct 12, 2018 Mothers Photography by Kristine Leschper Bookmark and Share

For our recurring Self-Portrait feature we ask a musician to take a self-portrait photo (or paint/draw a self-portrait) and write a list of personal things about themselves, things that their fans might not already know about them. This Self-Portrait is by Mothers, the project of singer/songwriter Kristine Leschper.

Mothers’ sophomore album, Render Another Ugly Method, came out in September via ANTI-. Mothers started in Athens, Georgia, where Leschper was attending printmaking school, but she’s now based in Philadelphia. Render Another Ugly Method is the follow-up to 2016’s debut album, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired, and was produced by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, The War on Drugs).

The album’s “Pink” was one of our Songs of the Week. “‘Pink’ deals with the passage of time,” Leschper said in a press release. “It describes a series of memories within carscars of my childhood, recent past, and presentand subsequent feelings of childlike removal and helplessness.”

Read on as Leschper discusses the difficulties of being a performer, her childhood, and not identifying as a musician.

1. I chose a self-portrait with my microcurrent machine because I’m a human person!! I experience chronic daily pain in my face/jaw/neck, most likely due to years of untreated anxiety issues that have trained my jaw muscles to spasm and continuously contract, causing other symptoms like headaches and dizziness. I often feel discouraged by the tendency of fans to dehumanize musicians and performers they admire, and so I only broadcast this personal information in the hopes that someone will read it and reassess the way they view and/or interact with people who do work that is performative by nature. It’s helpful to remember that the musician you are watching or talking to is probably experiencing the same insecurities and emotional challenges that you are. Generally, I feel uncomfortable drawing attention to myself, even on my best days! Working as a touring musician is structurally performative, so it’s easy for viewers to assume that the performer is totally comfortable-that they’re sleeping enough, that they aren’t in physical pain, that they aren’t insecure or uncomfortable in their bodies, that they aren’t struggling with the act of performing in a fundamental emotional waybecause that’s so much of what performing is! It means transcending (at least, visibly) whatever hellish minutiae is swirling around you in order to poise yourself as “in control.” Obviously I’m speaking from a very private place here, and arguably projecting onto the psyche of the touring musician at large, but have found that amongst my peers this is a prevalent dispositionthat touring can feel like physical and emotional punishment, but a necessary challenge if we choose to continue working within an industry that provides no other options for financial stability.

A short list of ways to avoid dehumanizing a touring musician:

- Do not point at them (as if they are a caged animal!).

- Do not take photos of them just chilling/doing their thing. Taking photos during the performance is different, because it’s a performance! You want to document your experience, and that’s fine. I’m upset by the assumption that performers forfeit their right to privacy in their personal lives/existence because they at times take on the role of performer (especially in the context of the music industry, i.e. there are musicians who don’t necessarily feel comfortable performing, but are required to do so for any kind of financial stability). It feels extremely invasive to see someone sneaking a photo of you while you’re literally just existing in a space where you have to be (a venue with no green room, etc)!!

- Remember that touring is physically taxing, and the person you are watching perform might be: dehydrated, not getting enough sleep, experiencing rashes/infections, residually motion sick (this happens to me oftenI’ll get motion sick in the car and will continue feeling nauseous for the rest of the day/evening), etc. Think about how you feel when you are at your most physically stressedt’s likely that the performer you are interacting with is experiencing something like this.

- Remember that touring is emotionally taxing, and the person you are watching perform might be: emotionally stressed from being in a car all day (one of the most dangerous things we do!!! I can’t emphasize this enough. Driving for six or more hours a day means countless terrifying experiences and close calls with other vehicles/bad drivers), away from their partner/loved ones for prolonged periods of time, dealing with the psychological burden of being observed and scrutinized night after night, etc. Think about how you feel when you are at your most emotionally stressedit’s likely that the performer you are interacting with is experiencing something like this.

2. I straddled two disparate worlds as a child, simultaneously pursuing competitive gymnastics and competitive riflery. I often felt more comfortable in the traditionally boyish world of gun handling, where I was allowed to wear more clotheseven as a kid, I felt too exposed in a small sparkly leotard, and during rapid-fire tumbling practices the older girls had a nasty trick of standing behind you and pulling your leotard up into a wedgie, exposing your butt in its terrifying entirety, just as you were about to run out onto the floor for a roundoff back handspring. The only thing more horrifying than running full speed into a tumbling exercise is running full speed into a tumbling exercise with your butt out. As a kid, I was honestly interested in anything that could be competitive, and I was extremely performative in my self-contempt when I was outperformed (especially by my invented standards for myself). I remember once in elementary school, fifth grade, when a classmate looked at a picture I had drawn and excitedly told me that it was beautiful, perfect! I immediately ripped it up and shouted “IT SUCKS!!” and disappeared behind my Lisa Prank notebook or whatever.

3. I’m extremely hypersensitive to sounds, to the extent that I feel emotionally drained when exposed to loud sounds for prolonged periods of time, or busy/active environments with sounds, people, and moving lights like festivals or carnivals. That can make things really difficult for me on the road!! I have to carve out plenty of quiet time/space for myself to balance it out.

4. I don’t identify as a musician exactly, or feel that my identity fits neatly into a categorical box. I acknowledge my function as an observer, and this is what I would like to become exceptional at. I want to then communicate those observations through text, sound, image, and/or performance. I find it easier to work when I remove myselfso rather than attempting to spontaneously create something (out of nothing), I try to observe and document things around me until something stands out and demands to be expanded upon. Removing the self also dissolves the western ideology of the “solitary genius,” who spontaneously (“with a stroke of genius”) creates masterful works entirely alone. Subscribing to this ideology provides a far-fetched, damaging set of expectations to the creative individual to leverage against themselves. I prefer to understand creativity as collaborative, basically by processing the ideas and experiences of other people and synthesizing them with your own ideas and experiences.

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