Our crack team of aspiring high school-aged music journalists — for this interview, Avery Panganiban, Ryan Wangman, Makele Clemmons, and Imaan Yousuf — met with Single Mothers on Sunday afternoon, following their set on the Blue Stage. These creative writing students channeled their musical knowledge and interviewing skills during the following Q&A with the band, talking rotating band members, gold mining, and not offending their real-life single mothers.
826 CHICAGO: Hi, we are 826CHI. How about you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
EVAN REDSKY: Ah, well, my name’s Evan, I play bass in Single Mothers.
BRANDON JAGERSKY: I’m Brandon, I play drums in Single Mothers.
MIKE PETERSON: I’m Mike, I play guitar in Single Mothers
DREW THOMSON: I’m Drew, I sing in Single Mothers.
REDSKY: And, yea, we’re from London, Ontario, Canada. Yeah.
826 CHICAGO: Is this your guys’ first time at Pitchfork?
REDSKY: Yes, but it’s not our first time in Chicago. Chicago’s actually one of our favorite cities, so it’s just good to be here, especially for Pitchfork.
826 CHICAGO: Have you guys played around Chicago before?
D. THOMSON: Yeah! Yea we’ve played Schuba’s a couple of times. We played earlier this year. It was the first time we ever actually sold out a show in the States, so that was… or, the first time in Chicago at least, so that was really exciting. We’ve always had a pretty good connection. They were one of our first shows we ever played in the States, it was Chicago, so.
E. REDSKY: Think it was one of the biggest shows of that tour, was in Chicago. It was great.
826 CHICAGO: I know that you guys have been through a couple of members. Is there a reason for that, or…?
D. THOMSON: I’m an asshole, so it’s hard to keep people around that like me long enough to tour with, so that’s—
E. REDSKY: That’s it. This lineup has been the longest. It’s been a few years, so.
D. THOMSON: This has been at least, like, four years with Mike and me, and then Evan and me. Really, when I started the band, it was more just as like an open door policy, if you could come to practice, you know you could come and be in the band until you couldn’t show up to practice, or if you could play a few shows here and there, so. We went through a lot of members at first, but really the core has been this for the longest that any other members have changed out. So this is how we consider the band, and have, for a long time.
826 CHICAGO: So, if I remember correctly, this album was, your most recent album, was like three years in the making. So can you take us through the process of how it was to create that album over such a long period of time?
M. PETERSON: Alright, so we started writing this thing a couple years ago. We moved to Montreal to do it. We wrote a bulk of songs there, didn’t really work out. So I guess we moved all over the place, and were just kind of scattered, and eventually when we kind of got it together enough to maybe think that we could record the thing, we went out to LA, and during that recording process, about four days in, our one drummer, our older drummer, quit. And so I play drums on the record, and then that wasn’t good enough. And then we got another drummer and then we hated that session, so we ended up getting Brandon and he played his first show with us on a UK tour. His first real show with the band was in Brighton, but eventually after that we decided to, like I said, scrap the entire session and go with our good friend from our hometown in London, his name is Simon, he was the one that recorded our first EP, or our second EP I guess, the self-titled, and we did the album there with him. And we must have gone through maybe 30 songs, and I guess a member, and another member that was in and out, and then eventually the album came together.
D. THOMSON: We pretty much went all around North America to realize that we should have just gone home and so we just did it at home. Which made more sense, from the beginning.
826 CHICAGO: You guys are all dudes. How did you pick the name Single Mothers? Does that mean anything to you guys?
THOMSON: Single Mothers, yeah it was the name, I came up with it a long time ago, and I kind of like was joking around about it with my mom, and we all, first off—
E. REDSKY: We all came from Single Mothers.
D. THOMSON: Three out of four of us have single parents and have been raised by single parents. When I told my mom about it first, she didn’t really quite get it, and she sat me down and had a little talk with me and explained, “You know, this could be taken as offensive… you’re almost taking my struggle with you and making a joke out of it.”And I said, I’m not, and basically we came to a term where it was more like a metaphor for bringing something into the world, like a band or like a kid, or anything else that, at any time, you could abandon and just leave, and kind of go on with your life. But you stick with it because you care about it more than anything and it means the most to you, and it might be hard and it might be the worst part of your life and it might be the best part of your life for different timelines. But it’s the thing you care most about and you want to watch grow and that’s how I felt about this band and so we stuck with it and kept the name around.
826 CHICAGO: Well, my question’s actually for you. I know that you were doing some solo work and then you decided to reunite with the band. Is there a reason you decided to do that?
D. THOMSON: Well, the solo work always came after the band it’s always just been a side party, so. Single Mothers has always been number one for me, and just on downtime I write songs that are much worse than Single Mothers songs, so I just put them out by myself and then, yeah.
826 CHICAGO: So, what exactly would you describe as your band’s genre? Because I’ve read reviews of you guys described as post-punk, but do you agree with that?
E. REDSKY: Yeah, it’s whatever you think it is, for the most part. We all listen to drastically different music. Like, I don’t listen to post-punk, I mean, I’m aware of what it is, but I think we all, separately, have such varying tastes in music, and it might come off as some sort of punk through that filter.
D. THOMSON: Yeah, there’s this desire to categorize everything and so that’s out of the band’s hands, any band’s hands.
826 CHICAGO: So I’ve read that when you come up with your lyrics, and the band, a lot of the times it’s on-the-spot in the studio, so how does that affect the honesty in your songs, and what you do as a band?
D. THOMSON: It’s just like, whatever happened last week kind of gets thrown into… kind of like… I think there’s just an immediacy to all of our songs. Where it compliments the music, and I don’t think, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here with songs. They’re about our day-to-day life, and a lot of our friends, and a lot of the people we know. I think it’s just there are lines that might take a little, I might work on a line here or there but the general theme is just situationally based in… it’s cemented in our friend group and our lives so it comes up honestly because I don’t like putting effort into not being honest. It’s the easiest thing to do is just talk about… it’s harder to try and invent some circumstance than it is to just talk about what I’m going through at the time. So I think it makes it easier because I’m lazy. It’s lazy songwriting, it’s just what I like doing. Honesty and laziness are pretty much around the same place. It takes effort to lie about stuff, it’s much easier to live your life as an honest person, so whatever.
826 CHICAGO: I read some stuff online about you, between music careers, doing gold mining? What’s that about?
D. THOMSON: When we were still — before we had any records out or anything — we had still been a band for a few years, and I moved up north about ten hours from where we were situated and I was just out of money and I had an opportunity to go up and there was a gold rush going on in northern Ontario. And I couldn’t get a job at home so I just went up there. It was only supposed to be a few months to go up and get money and keep touring, but things always never pan out the way you think they’re going to, so I ended up staying for a few years. And Mike ended up staying in Single Mothers for a while and the band went through a few changes. And we almost broke up at that… we did break up at that point, basically, at some point, we announced that we had broken up. That job was fun but it’s very lonely so I came back to do the band.
826 CHICAGO: How much of the band do you think is driven by a personal feeling as opposed to career driven?
D. THOMSON: Well, we’ve never made any money, so I’d say it’s all personal.
B. JAGERSKY: Ah, yeah, it’s both. You ride the fine line. It’s sometimes, it’s just so excruciatingly awful living on the road, but then sometimes, you know, you play a show that’s like, there’s people singing along, it’s like, you just ride both those waves and somehow, five years later, you’re playing Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago.
D. THOMSON: Yeah, I think there’s a big difference between our personal lives and our touring lives, like we all have varied careers and varied jobs and we gave a lot up in the beginning to do this and it’s… there’s different, like, monetary outcomes and then social or cultural outcomes, like we get to go and play all these shows and meet you guys and everybody and everything else. I wouldn’t be able to do that gold mining, none of us would be able to do what we’re doing at home, so. I think it’s mostly just personal-based probably.
826 CHICAGO: Thank you, thank you so much for having us. It’s great to meet you.
D. THOMSON: No problem, thank you. Thanks a lot!