In 2020, The MIC spoke to Asbury Park's Connor Bracken and the Mother Leeds Band after they released their record, Nightbird Motel. This week Stef from The MIC sat down with Connor Bracken to talk about what the band has been up since and to and hear all about their latest single, "Root"!
SJ: Hey Connor, welcome back! We're so excited to talk about what you've been up to.
CB: Thanks for having me! You know me, I'm always up to something!
SJ: Last we spoke, you had just released your last record back in 2020, Nightbird Motel. How did the pandemic affect the band and/or the record's release?
CB: Well, that entire record was already recorded, so luckily, we didn't have to do that in isolation. It was the release that was difficult. We kept pushing it off, but eventually, we decided we just needed to get it out there. The music had to be heard, and we had to stop waiting for the perfect moment to come and release it. We were taking a chance releasing it mid-pandemic, but in the end, I'm happy we were able to give people something to listen to while in lockdown. The feedback from everyone has been amazing, and eventually, we still got to have our big release show!
SJ: What has the band been up to since then?
CB: We've been VERY busy! Throughout the entire pandemic, I was writing, and the band taught me how to make demos. Before that, I would just bring whatever I had written the day before to rehearsal, and we'd work it out in the room. Now I get to make a mini version of every song that comes to mind, and I probably make too many now.
Between recording demos and finished songs, we've also been touring a lot this year. We've mostly focused on the Northeast, and it's been a blast. We've played completely new places and have also returned to old haunts. I have to say; these are some of the biggest and best crowds we've seen yet. It's been a beautiful experience.
SJ: That's really awesome; the fanbase seems to be growing tremendously. I thought it was a great idea that you chose to release live singles, including cover and your originals up until the release of this record. When the tracks came on my Spotify Release Radar, I immediately felt like I was at that venue with you guys and all your magnetic energy.
CB: Aww, thanks! I'm happy the vibe came through the recordings. I have to thank the folks at House of Independents for being some of the best to work with and Matt Riffino for mixing those recordings to match the room and experience. He really is a wizard. OH, and the amazing audience we had that night. They are the ones who really bring the vibe out. Without a great audience, we're just four schmos playing loud guitars.
SJ: Let's dig into your latest single, "Root"! How did this track start? Does one member come up with ideas to present to the band, or do you work through a more collaborative process?
CB: So for this one, I sort of proved that I like to work linearly. After I released Nightbird, I realized that I had tracklisted all the songs in the same order that they were recorded in. "Root" was the first song written after Nightbird Motel. I wrote it on a Sunday morning at the desk I had just set up to start writing again. While Nightbird was being released I had moved, and the pandemic had hit, so I took a brief break from active writing. I sat down and just started playing. It was a song that wrote itself, and I enjoyed every line that came out of it. Originally it was just loose Stones-y sounding chords, but through my newfound love of demoing, I came up with a bunch of quirky guitar parts that I think make the song shine. After that, I let it sit until the band started playing together again. I believe it was around September 2020 I showed it to the band.
SJ: It seems like this newfound way of recording demos has also affected your songwriting. What is the story behind the track?
CB: I typically don't know until after I finish the track. When I write, it's typically a stream of consciousness, and then I examine it. I'm unsure if I'm discovering what I'm writing about or finding meaning in something I wrote that is open-ended. I like to think it's a bit of both. That way, these songs can mean anything to anyone.
In "Root," I think I embodied someone I know. He's a real asshole, and in the song, he is blaming others for his problems which are obviously caused by his own doing. We probably all have a little bit of him in us.
SJ: The production quality of "Root" is top-notch. I know the track is produced, mixed, and mastered by Dan Malsch of Soundmind Studio, but did any of you guys have a hand in helping with the production?
CB: This is the first time Dan took over the producer role. He had a huge hand in Nightbird, but it was under the constraints of me wanting that record mostly live and doing up to five songs a day. This time around we took it one song at a time and focused on the actual listening experience instead of just capturing the band live. Both ways are great, but we showed off what we could do live on NBM; this recording itself is an experience, and Dan was a huge part of that. The guitars finally sound how I want them!!
SJ: I can definitely hear an Arctic Monkeys influence on this track, but your dynamic vocals are really something that I think sets your band apart. Do you have any specific vocal influences that inspire you for your sound?
CB: I don't know. I've sort of always wanted to make sure I brought my originality to my vocals so I never based it off of someone in particular. When we started out, I tried singing like some of my heroes and failed miserably. Honestly, my biggest influence is the environment I find myself in. Up to this point, we had always performed songs live in very small clubs with very shitty PAs, so I really had to find a style that soared above our loud instruments. There were no gigs to play on this song or arrangements to work out live in front of an audience, so I could approach singing differently.
SJ: What are the challenges you find, if any, creating more classic blues-inspired rock during a time when its popularity is no longer at the height it used to be? Does it make it more challenging to stay to your "root" s?
CB: Nah, I hate the "rock is dead talk." People have a ton of fun during our shows, and so do we. Just because it's not in the Top 40 doesn't mean there's no interest. There are no challenges to be found if you do something you believe in, and that's exactly what I'm doing.
SJ: I think you guys do a great job of keeping the spirit of rock alive, especially in the NJ, Asbury Park scene.
CB: Thank you! We certainly try. To be honest, I'm not sure it needs us to stay alive, though. So many great bands and fantastic folks are coming to see shows now (especially in Asbury Park). It really feels like we are a part of something bigger. I am not worried in the slightest for the future of Rock and Roll.
SJ: I love that optimism, and honestly, I think rock is just as alive as ever. So what's next for the band? Summer touring? EP or album?
CB: All of that is super secret, and I can't say anything, but there may be more singles and tours coming. Who knows!? I guess you'll all have to follow us on social media @motherleedsband to find out!
SJ: Well, we're loving this single and can't wait to hear more of what you guys have in store!
CB: Y'all at The MIC are so wonderful. Thank you for spreading the word and showing us support! See you at a show soon!
LONG STORY SHORT: “Root" rocks. Stream it.
Stream "Root" below!
Written by: Connor Bracken
Guitar, Vocals: Connor Bracken
Guitar: Dee DiMeola
Drums: Rich Seyffart
Bass: Chris Dubrow
Produced, Mixed and Mastered: Dan Malsch at Soundmine Studio, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania USA
Single Artwork: Joe Ruff