When Ann Courtney formed Mother Feather in 2009, it also represented a huge shift in her attitude and ideas. Previously, the New York-based singer had made music as a form of catharsis, as a reflection of her emotional fragility, but buoyed by the influence of her new bandmates – keyboard player and fellow vocalist Elizabeth Carena, bassist Matt Basile, guitarist Chris Holey and drummer Gunnar Olsen – she decided to flip that approach right on its head.
“I wrote these songs at a time when I was struggling,” says Courtney, “and I needed to cast myself as the hero of my own story, but I wanted to have the best time ever doing it. I mean, fighting for your life is dramatic, but I was seeing a lot of music that was bumming me out and I was making music that was bumming me out, so I decided to change the story for myself. I wanted to be performing music that was going to bring me life and happiness, and I had this epiphany that I was bringing myself down by making sad music. And so I rejected that. It was making me unwell and miserable to sing sad songs. That’s not to say there’s not sadness or pain in these songs – there is – but it’s about the fight to be great and to find beauty.”
Mother Feather more than achieve that through their raucous, sultry rock’n’roll and their theatrical, glam appearance. Both of these things are captured in their essence in the video for the band’s eponymous anthem, a glamorous, shimmering song that captures the decadent and creative spirit that once permeated the city they call home. Although Courtney initially wrote the songs on the band’s self-titled debut album as a way to improve her own state of mind, as the band’s reputation grows, in part thanks to their notoriously energetic and fun live gigs, it turns out she’s definitely not alone.
“I still sing these songs to pump myself up and keep myself positive,” she explains, “but the connection that I have to our fans is something that’s making me realise – especially recently – that Mother Feather is bigger than me. Our fans are so excited and enthusiastic and giving of their time and energy, and they’ll reach out to me and tell me their individual stories of how much these songs that I wrote for myself mean to them and it blows my mind.”
The increased love and attention the band have been getting recently landed them a deal with Metal Blade records, who are releasing their record. That doesn’t mean, however, that the road ahead is easy when it comes to creating their art, not least because of where they’re based. Although New York was once a cheap and gritty city whose streets were flooded with artists and musicians, it’s become so expensive it’s now increasingly hard for them to just survive. That said, Mother Feather fearlessly and defiantly embody the lost spirit of the old New York – it’s present in their look, in their attitude and, most importantly, their music.
“I’ve known all along that this was magical and special, and I’ve told people from the beginning that Mother Feather is my destiny,” says Courtney. “But it’s such a struggle making music independently, especially here. I struggle seeing the changes here, but, to me, the dream of New York City is very much alive in my heart. And that’s partly what I’m fighting for. Every time one your favourite spot shuts down and a new condominium and a bank underneath it opens up, it’s just so heartbreaking. But I’m still fighting for New York City. I believe in it. I have no other place to go!”
Mother Feather will release their self-titled album on May 6 through Metal Blade. They’ll play a free show London’s Crobar on March 16. For more info, see their Facebook page.