MTV Meets: MOTHXR
Fronted by former Gossip Girl star Penn Badgley, there’s more to MOTHXR than meets the eye…
By Holly Rubenstein
In February, a Brooklyn band named Mother (now known as MOTHXR) uploaded a song called Easy to SoundCloud. No information or press shots were provided, yet within a week the sultry, sophisticated, genre-defying track had accumulated tens of thousands of listens and smashed the top 10 of bloggers’ favourite, Hype Machine. The suggested mystery behind the identity of the band was wholly unintentional – “We were just sending the link to our friends to check out, who then sent it to their friends” – though when it transpired that the band was fronted by Penn Badgley, formerly Dan Humphrey of Gossip Girl fame, intrigue unsurprisingly intensified. Combined with Jimmy Giannopoulos, MOTHXR’s bass player and in-house producer-of-the moment, the band’s reign of cool is set to be unstoppable.
MTV UK: How did the four of you come together as a band?
Penn: Jimmy and I became friends years ago over a summer skating and listening and talking about music. I think we knew from pretty early on that we wanted to make something together, so we recorded a smattering of songs, and it just came to be that we had time and space to do it properly last October. We had Darren who plays keys and bass, Simon who played guitar and once the four of us got in the room together it grew into what it is now. In the first five days we had recorded five songs. With this group the way we create is experimental, in the moment, so that writing and recording is the same process.
MTV UK: How would you describe your sound?
Jimmy: It's boutique. It’s real. We like using specific mics and specific analogue synths. We experiment with sound.
Penn: All the lines and rules in music regarding genre are dissolving. What we're doing now makes a lot of sense to us.
MTV UK: Were you surprised at how quickly Easy racked up plays?
Penn: I think everything these days should be taken with a healthy grain of salt given how banal the most viewed videos on YouTube are.
Jimmy: You know how on Twitter you can have a million followers? And you can follow a million different people? I kind of wish social media went like this: you only get to follow five people a month. Then you could really sift through, see that these people mean it and it would actually matter.
MTV UK: Why are you called Mother (now MOTHXR)?
Penn: That was actually a straight up joke, then about a minute later we thought it had a nice ring to it, and we didn't have any better ideas. But we've changed it to MOTHXR, because if you try searching for Mother ‘Easy' or Mother 'Victim' on Google it comes up with some pretty strange results...
MTV UK: What are you looking to say with your records?
Jimmy: We want everyone to look at us the way the UK looked at Iron Maiden, Joy Division, Small Faces, T. Rex, Zombies, Clash. They are really f**king cool bands, man. Bands where you can feel the vibe, and you can feel that band.
Penn: They were doing what they were doing. They were less concerned with what people wanted to hear and making a sound they wanted to make.
MTV UK: Do you think that your individual success gives you the liberty to be more experimental and less concerned with the outcome of the project?
Penn: I guess in that sense it's not so intentional. But we're only doing what we want because what we found is exciting and it makes us want to do it more.
Jimmy: There's a lot of passion in this. It's hard to look at any of that other stuff when you're just excited about something.
Penn: As formless or as casual as our approach may seem, the reason we're taking it every step of the way like this is because we don't want to give it away unnecessarily, for instance to a label. We've been self-releasing because the alternatives haven't been as fun or attractive or creative. We're not being precious with it - in fact, far from it - but we're keeping it honest in this way, and pure.
MTV UK: Penn, have you found the Gossip Girl association hard to shake?
Penn: It is what it is. To be honest it doesn’t really concern me that much and I don’t think there’s anything to shake. It’s just sharing more with more people. If anything, it gives us an additional platform. And if the platform looks a little neon pink at the moment, we can own that, and shape it however we like.
MTV UK: Are you excited about playing in the UK?
Penn: We’ve always wanted to play there. The scene in the UK has always been fresh, exciting and has a lot of different elements to it.
Jimmy: We’re going to go out there deep with the gang, supporting our man Har Mar Superstar, who lives down the block.
MOTHXR will be performing in the UK this month - dates below – and you can listen to them on SoundCloud
Friday 12th September - London, Brooklyn Bowl (w/Har Mar Superstar)
Saturday 13th September - Brighton, Sticky Mike's (w/Har Mar Superstar)
Sunday 14th September - Bristol, Exchange (w/Har Mar Superstar)
Monday 15th September - Leeds, Wardrobe (w/Har Mar Superstar)
Tuesday 16th September - Manchester, Deaf Institute (Headline Show)
Wednesday 17th September - London, Boston Arms (Headline Show)
Thursday 18th September - London, Sebright Arms (Headline Show)
Friday 19th September - Birmingham, Temple (Headline Show)