While studying guitar at a jazz college in Vancouver, B.C., Ryan Guldemond's newfound passion for songwriting came with a slight hitch—he despised the way he sang.
MOTHER MOTHER With Silhouettes. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599, tractortavern.com. $10. 8:30 p.m.
"I have a tendency to write songs that are arguably too high in my register, and it was almost painful to sing because I didn't know how to breathe," said Guldemond, frontman of the Canadian quintet Mother Mother. "There was an element of feebleness that I physically experienced when singing. That cast a lot of doubt into my mind about whether I should be doing it at all."
His solution was not to go instrumental. In fact, he went the other direction. Guldemond enlisted the help of his sister, Molly, and a friend from music school to help him start a band that emphasized vocal harmonies. "Much of that motivation was to mask my own voice or to infiltrate what I felt to be a weak lead voice," Guldemond said. "So we just packed as much vocal harmony into these first songs as we possibly could."
Mother Mother has since blossomed into an avant-pop powerhouse, with the band's chilling harmonies accompanied by horns, synth, keyboard, bass, and drums to create three albums worth of hauntingly beautiful hooks and melodies—made possible in no small part by Guldemond's budding self-confidence. "You just learn how to use the tool that you have," he said. "I've really come to accept and appreciate my own voice and understand its limitations, but also understand that there are unique strengths there as well."
Guldemond's growth is evident in the band's latest album, Eureka, as he was able to flex his creative muscles as the producer and preserve the indie roots on which Mother Mother's music is based. His voice is no longer covered or even damped, but is a soaring instrument all its own, setting the tone for the band's most complex and proficient album to date.
"There is the understanding as well that it is a strong formula to have a leading character in something like a band," Guldemond said. "I came to understand that it was only a positive thing for me to try and step up and just utilize my position."