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There’s nothing better than talking up a band’s “Negative Qualities”

Single Mothers - Negative Qualities

The guys of Single Mothers have plenty to be positive about, that’s for sure!
Negative Qualities, Online Image, “Dine Alone Records-Releases” 21 October 2014
< http://www.dinealonerecords.com/2013/images/releases/91/391/sm-nq-500x.jpg >


Don’t worry, this is no slanderous band rant.

This all about the London, Ontario based, garage punk band, Single Mothers and their debut LP, “Negative Qualities,” which just dropped via HXC Recordings (subsidiary of XL Recordings) on 8 October.
Single Mothers is a band that, even in their relatively short life as a group, already has a narrative that unfolds with a high amount of intrigue, and with the kind of minute, career-span-worthy detail found in the “Behind the Music” documentary installments from music channel, VH1. Interestingly, the journey to the band’s current state of increasing recognition by figures in the mainstream music business feels like a series of events that were cut out of a time from the ways of the old music industry and dropped in present day, digitally driven 2014.
Referencing people to the tagline of “[B]roke up in 2009 – and have been playing shows ever since” and pushing through to album release success, despite a rotating door of at least 12 members prior, is not exactly the epitome of picture perfect normalcy. This is perhaps though, a quality of Single Mothers that makes them more old school punk than even the band’s music itself. Calling to mind sounds of bands like The Replacements and The Hold Steady, and with the production chops of Joby J. Ford of fellow punk band and former tour mates, The Bronx, neither “Negative Qualities” as a single album nor Single Mothers as a whole entity, are as easily digested as their respective whirlwind paces might have one otherwise believe.
Currently holding down the fort with four members, Andrew Thomson (Vocals), Micheal Peterson (Guitar), Evan Redsky (Bass) and Brandon Jagersky (Drums), Single Mothers effortlessly balance the rough-around-the-edges character of “the up-in-coming band that’s driving neighbors crazy,” with an indescribable cohesion in their execution that makes listeners feel like this band has had anything but player rotation problems.

Single Mothers current lineup from left to right: Brandon Jagersky, Evan Redsky, Drew Thomson and Micheal Peterson Photo credit to Ben Pobjoy

Single Mothers current lineup from left to right:
Brandon Jagersky, Evan Redsky, Drew Thomson and Micheal Peterson
Photo credit to Ben Pobjoy

Micheal “Mike” Peterson recently sat for a call with me, talking everything from the making of “Negative Qualities” to the band’s overall sense of identity and even a bit about his preferred musical tools of choice as the (now) guitar player of the band. Read the interview after the jump!

Kira: Your individual back story says you were “tricked into the band” –joining as drummer before moving onto bass, then guitar and then even putting on the front man hat before returning to, and settling on, guitar. Single Mothers being as a band that has a history of going through lots of change, aside, you seem to embody that aspect all on your own. How was it for you, coming into a group with this kind of dynamic and is there any particular reason you ended up trying on all the hats before circling back to guitar?

Mike Peterson: Well, I guess as far being “tricked into the band,” it was just one of those situations where, I just got out of playing in [another] band–I was playing drums in that band for a while–and I quit that band. I remember running–I’d known Drew just from around–and actually, the band that I had quit, I had played shows with Single Mothers before I was even in the band and…[Drew and I] ran into each other one night at a bar got to talking and just kind of, I think he might have been there alone, I don’t know who I was there with. We just got to talking and we got a little more tipsy as the night went on and eventually just sorta drunkenly agreed to out to a jam with him for Single Mothers and I guess at the time I was looking for something new to try. I went out as the drummer for that. I just wanted to play completely different music I guess. And so I kinda got roped in that way and for some strange reason I actually followed up sober the next day and it kinda went from there. 

[As far as changing all the band positions], actually what happened was, I was on drums and our bass player at the time couldn’t make a practice and we had like a show coming up–like, our first show–so I kinda wanted to maybe jump at the opportunity to not play drums in this band and so I offered to play bass and I suggested that we just get the drummer who was originally in the band, back in the band, to play drums…and then following that, it’s just like, our guitar player moved to Montreal and so I just like, “Let me play guitar” and I was [thinking], “I wanna write songs for this” so I…jumped on there. Then, as far being the singer in the band, after some time, Drew decided to go back up north to make some money –he was out of money– and uh, so I was just like, we had shows booked and we had another guitar player at that point as well and so I was like, “I’ll just do the vocals for these.” And so I was singing in the band for, three or four shows? And we made a music video with me on vocals…It was a very strange time.

Kira: Well it all worked out and it makes for a great story!

Mike: Well hopefully people are entertained by it then I guess. -laughs-

Kira: To me, now I’m going to know you as the versatile guy in the band. Like, it’s really cool when you can be “that guy” that, in a pinch, like, saves the band from losing a gig.

Mike: Well, we’ve always sort of had this like mantra I guess, or this rule that we live by, which is that, “If we book it, then we play it” kind of a thing and we’ve really, really tried to stick to that over the years.

Kira: Does seeing the solid debut of “Negative Qualities” feel like a time of newly-motivated breaking through, or, does it feel more like a release of frustration after so much instability and unpredictability?

Mike: It’s kind of a culmination of the both actually. I mean, for me personally. I think for the band, this is definitely a milestone; something that I don’t think many of us, or any of us, thought would ever happen, you know what I mean? And then it sort of…the release date crept up closer and closer and when it finally came out, it was just like, you know, we could actually exhale. Like, “Holy cow.” It’s sort of, I think, all the frustration that may have gone into this record, I think it just comes through in the music or so. And in terms of the actual release, we just, couldn’t be happier about it. Came through a lot of hard work and a lot of uncertainty. It’s very validating to see it for real.

Kira: Do you think this quirk of having gone through so many members, so quickly, affects the identity of the band–both from a literal sense and from the sense of the kind of musical cohesion that develops between consistent bandmates who spend lots of time working and playing together?

Mike: I think band has always sort of, maybe even arguably from the get go, just been sort of defined by the chaos. And so, within that sort of uncertainty and with that sort of volatile nature of the band that we are who we are…this thing has always felt like, like a gang. Like…it’s always been kind of groups of friends, even since like back in 2009–2010 when we just totally a London band. It was always just like, us and then like, the 10 other friends that came with, some of which had been in the band before. We were always kind of together and so we’re kind of characterized by that thing.”

Kira: On that note, how would you describe the songwriting and recording process? How was it making the new album? Was it anything as “off the cuff” and aggressive as your sound? Have you had a previous, or developed any new, band rituals with song writing/recording?

Mike: “..As far as the songwriting process goes, like, earlier on in the band it was more of, um, like I wrote the music. Like brought the ideas, like structure and everything to the band and everyone kind of filled in their parts and Drew took care of the lyrics and vocals…for this record it became sorta like, we had written so many songs for this record–scrapped so many of them–and uh, we kind of just started to become more of a cohesive thing as like, you know, Evan and I and Drew have been playing together in the band since 2010 and uh, so it’s kind of like really even, in terms of like…Evan and I will collaborate and we’ve collaborated with other guitar players and stuff before. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that with this record it was a lot more um, sort of communal. You know we all sort of put into these songs, doing our parts, you know what I mean? And as far as like any different rituals or anything…no, we’ve always just kind of like, [written] until we felt comfortable about each song.

Kira: Is there one of those characteristics in particular, that made you all choose to embrace the sub-vein of punk that you did? (e.g. energy of the crowd, rawness of the songs, the slightly less mainstream existence, previous band love/homage?)

Mike: It’s never been a conscious thing. Um, we’ve always just sort of, we’ve never tried to do anything [purposefully]. We’ve always just written like whatever and just, I guess, whatever we’re feeling at the time or you know, wherever maybe we’re all at in our head space is like, sort of what comes out and that’s just like, the evidence is just on the records. Like our EPs sound different from each other and the EPs sound different from the full length. It’s just like, whatever we’re feeling at that time or, whatever we’re vibe-ing on together is just what comes out. We’ve never really tried. Like, I’ve always wanted to play–I’ve never wanted to be in a band where I felt like I would be bored on stage and I suppose that contributes to the fact that I just want to play loud and I want to play fast so, that’s what we do.

Kira: There are a few lines in penultimate track, “Blood Pressure,” where [Drew] says, I am who I am and I’m not just not gonna change / Well I’ve been trying to fill the hold where my soul was residing / but all I feel is my blood pressure rising. …So we need to make a change or shut the f-ck up about it already”, which is then followed by the final track, “Money,” where things start with, “Well I don’t know really what you want from me / I’m tired of these phone calls… / Cause all you want is attention. You see I know you better than your games / I like to interrupt your expectations…” Are either or both of these meant to reflect a general sense relating to the band going forward with staying true to itself and its founding character, amidst the whirlwind of fresh mainstream attention you’re all receiving?

Mike: It’s hard for me to speak for Drew, to be honest. Um, I know a lot of the lyrics that he does write are very personal to him…I’m not sure whether he necessarily like, ever consciously put [or] forced those kinds of connections. I think that the connections that are there, or maybe the themes that do exist, um, I think they sort of just happen based on like, the stuff that [Drew’s] going through…I mean, I think this record, lyrically, is sort of like a culmination of angst and frustration and you know, whatever you want to call it that we’ve experienced and he’s experienced, over the, you know, last two years or whatever it was since we put out [our self-titled 7-inch.]

Kira: Well, either way, they’re really good lyrics so, all hail spontaneous results!

Mike: -laughs- I’ll let [Drew] know!

Kira: On a note slightly more individualized to you, now as Single Mothers’s guitarist, what would you say is your guitar and setup of choice? The band having such an abrasive style, do you have a favorite guitar, pedal, effect, playing technique or the like that you turn to as “good old standbys?”

Mike: Um, as far as guitars, I’ve sort of always been a Fender guy. You know…my first guitar was a Strat[ocaster] and played Tele[caster] for years. Recently started moving into Jazz Masters, which I like a lot. And actually, it’s kind of scaring me lately but, I’m really, really feeling Gibson SG’s, which is kind of strange because I never thought I’d ever go there but, it could happen in the near future. As far as pedals go…my two effects pedals, like my main ones that I use–I love them a lot–one of them is the…Wampler Spring Reverb pedal and I use that for pretty much everything we do; almost every song. As well I also use a Way Huge Auqapuss Analog Delay pedal. I like that one quite a bit. It’s like one of my favorite delays.

Kira: I don’t know a lot of people who turn to analog as their favorite so that’s awesome.

Mike: Yeah, I have fun with them. I mean they’re not overwhelming and don’t think that’s the standard about it either, musically. It’s like, I’m not trying to create some like, U2 vibes, you know what I mean? These ones are just like, great sounding but [also] manageable sounding and they kind of work perfectly for what I want to do.

Kira: It’s great that you’ve got your ideal niche sound with these pedals. A lot of times people get stuck wishing, “Oh, if only this pedal could be tweaked a little more like this, and this one like that!”.

Mike: I mean obviously I could tinker for days. -laughs- Left to my own devices, I might go nuts, but, for [Single Mothers] and how I want to play guitar, they do the job.

Kira: For those from the NYC and Long Island areas who might be coming across Single Mothers for the very first time, very likely with no precursor to anything aside from possibly a single genre label, how would you describe your live sets? What can people expect from a Single Mothers live show?

Mike: From our live shows, I guess you can expect to see something a little different. I mean, I think the way that we play and the way that we approach out stage show is just a little bit different than other bands and like, you know, anyone is welcome and free to disagree with that but, that’s kind of what I would say and you’ll just have to come and see it!

Kira: Any other parting thoughts?

Mike: Buy our record!

*        *        *
Negative Qualities is a 10 track, 24 minute, unyielding ride, in a car with no brakes, that has one fearing for their life during every last moment but also somehow knowing that the car will never crash.
Single Mothers are currently on a two month tour of North America, with a long string of U.S. dates starting tomorrow in Boston and then kicking off the weekend with three NY area shows, followed by an extensive and busy list of shows, the full of which you can see here with ticket links.
  • Friday, October 24, New York, NY at Baby’s All Right (5PM set, CMJ FREE Day Party)
  • Friday, October 24, New York, NY at Cake Shop (10:15PM set – CMJ)
  • Saturday, October 25, Amityville, NY at The Amityville Music Hall

Negative Qualities is available now in LP/CD/mp3/FLAC through XL Recordings, as well as available through iTunes and Amazon (US) / (UK)

Follow along with the escapades of Single Mothers via their official website and though these social media outlets:
If you are in fact someone just reading about Single Mothers for the first time ever, here’s one track from Negative Qualities, the official music video for their song, “Half-Lit,” from “Negative Qualities,” which was just highlighted by UK based, Amazing Radio, as their Track of the Day at the start of the week:

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