Ann Courtney is the voice and soul of Mother Feather, a self-proclaimed “pop cock rock” band hailing from New York City. Despite having been around since 2009, they’re only now releasing a full-length debut, the self-titled record out later this month via Metal Blade Records. This may come as a surprise to some, as the band are anything but metal. “We’re not a metal band, we’ve never been a metal band,” Ann explains. “Bryan Slagel [founder of Metal Blade Records, who gave Metallica their first break back in 1982] knew exactly what he was getting into. Metal Blade does primarily put out metal, but they do also put out hard rock, and it’s pretty exciting to be at the farthest end of the spectrum, because we stand out immediately, as many YouTube comments have pointed out.”
“I think it’s great and it’s sort of metal in a way,” she continues. “One of the biggest themes of metal is being an outsider, and so it’s sort of ironic isn’t it that by not being metal, we’re the outsiders. I think it’s interesting how everyone thinks Bryan is doing something so subversive, but really he’s just an authentic fan of Mother Feather. It’s really exciting and cool, I’m glad to be the black sheep and the underdog, and that actually gives me a lot of fire in my belly.”
Mother Feather grab your attention before they’ve even started playing, but the abundance of eyeliner, glitter and latex that form the band’s look is more than a simple aesthetic. “I started the band because I felt there were all these sides of me that didn’t have a place to exist and thrive. It was kind of a high bar I was setting myself, and I still have to rise to that bar. I have to be physically well to do these shows, I have to be strong, and limber and it’s vocally very challenging. Now, I realise that Mother Feather has become bigger than me. I’ve seen how pure the response is from fans, and how much things mean for them. It’s turned into a bigger responsibility.”
The album largely comprises material from the band’s previous two EPs. “Even though the songs represent work that was done over a number of years, they’re still absolutely relevant. There’s definitely a connection between all of the songs, I guess the connection is me, and my heart that is bleeding through all ten tracks. Sometimes they’re feelings I’m trying to remember again. I think there’s a lot of angst in these songs, and they’re kind of a key for me to unlock a lot of powerful feelings.”
The angst and power of Mother Feather wasn’t a chance decision however, as Ann explains. “I wanted to have a rock band. I knew I wanted riffs, I wanted it to be a guitar-based, heavy band. I was thinking about pop music when I wrote a lot of these songs, but I had a guitar to write them. The guys in the band, Chris [Foley, guitar] Matt [Basile, bass] and Gunnar [Olsen, drums], bring a lot of classic rock influences too, especially Matt and Chris, their background is stuff like Kiss and AC/DC. They’re just so studied, I write these songs that I think are pop songs, and then they come through the filter of the band and come out as something else.”
The theatricality of Mother Feather is something that’s always been a part of Ann’s life. “I became a musician in NYC. I came here to study theatre and to go to university, but I always made music. I became disillusioned with acting right at the end of my college education which was terrifying. It was in my senior year of college that I picked up a guitar that belonged to my roommate Lizzie [Carena, keyboard and vocals], and just spat out a big batch of songs. The whole thing grew out of that experience.”
After discovering music was what she was meant to do with her life, but before Mother Feather was even a thing, Ann fronted Ann Courtney and The Late Bloomers. Yet the project seemed to be in a different world to the one she’s living in now. “There was a period in my life where I thought it was cute to be self-deprecating or to hate myself. I think I grew up, and also it was making me sick to sing these songs about how I hated myself. You can repeat something enough times that you start to believe it. You can create something until you become it.”
Despite the pressures of living in New York City, be it downtrodden peers or the living expenses, Ann persists and thrives in the city that never sleeps. “I’ve been in New York since 1999. When I moved here I was a student, I grew up overseas and moved around every few years. I didn’t really have a place that was my home, and I didn’t really have anywhere to go back to when I first moved to New York. It was the first place I chose to live myself. It was an absolute thrill when I first moved here. I didn’t want to close my eyes for fear I’d miss something.”
Ann hasn’t just found a home in NYC, but also in Mother Feather, who she says is not a façade, but the real her. “Mother Feather songs are 100% truth, it’s all from my heart. I never wanted to sing anything on stage that’s not true. Sometimes the songs I’ve written to inspire myself or pump me up, are still truth. It might not be truth on a Tuesday morning when I wake up in a bad mood or something, but it’s all straight from my guts and heart.”
She’s hopeful that this honesty will resonate with new fans when her band embark on the Warped Tour across the US this summer. “I’m really excited about meeting and making new fans, and meeting some new Mother Feathers. The kids are sworn devotees, and I’m just completely excited to meet a lot of young people who are in their prime. The best time to discover music is when you’re a teenager. The music I listened to when I was a teenager is still the stuff that fucks me up the best,” she laughs. Mother Feather are shamelessly authentic and sincere, and they don’t care who knows it.
Taken from the May issue of Upset, out now – order your copy here.