Originally published on ColumbusCalling.com (Nov.5, 2018)
Maybe I’m jaded. Okay, I am. Very rarely does a band make me a convert after hearing just 10 seconds of a song but that’s exactly what happened when I clicked on a link sent from Single Mothers’ publicist in early 2015. The guitars reminded me of mid-90s Bad Religion and when Drew Thomson started his half-singing/half-spoken word thing, I knew there was no going back.
Shortly thereafter, Single Mothers, from London, Ontario, rolled into Columbus for a show with fellow Canadian punks, The Dirty Nil and it was a raucous affair as the “kids” were bouncing Double Happiness with reckless abandon and flying elbows. It was a thrill for an old guy like myself to both watch the bands kick out melodic punk rock while dodging arms and legs.
In 2017, Single Mothers followed up 2014’s ‘Negative Qualities’ with the impressive ‘Our Pleasure’, an album that, while maintaining the punk rock aesthetic material of earlier recordings, introduced some really radio-friendly songs that should have earned airplay on CD102.5.
There was little-to-no mention of Single Mothers returning to the studio so shortly after releasing ‘Our Pleasure’ but 2018 has seen two releases from Drew Thomson – the only consistent member of Single Mothers since it’s formation in 2008 (with a few years off while Thomson took a job prospecting for gold!). Under the new The Drew Thomson Foundation, the singer released a 4-song EP (‘Stay’) in May and then the tight and efficient 9-song Single Mothers full length, ‘Through a Wall’, in September.
For the second time this year, Single Mothers will return to Columbus (the first was in February with Enter Shikari and Milk Teeth) for a show on Wednesday night at The Basement. Doors are at 7pm and tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door.
I caught up with Drew via email this weekend. Here’s what he had to say.
How out of touch is the idea of a solid recording and touring lineup in 2018? I mean, everybody knows the Beatles were, and forever will be, Paul, John, George and Ringo. But it seems like Single Mothers is more like you and whoever is available to hop in a van for a few weeks/months at a time. Is that just the way of life for a band like Single Mothers?
With Single Mothers – and most things in my life, I feel a pull between not doing enough and trying to push myself to do more, and also not giving a shit and wanting to burn the whole thing down at the same time. Some days I’ll get up and want to write and release 3 albums this year and the next day I’ll start flipping through the classified ads looking for a job and want to quit music all together. Within that realm of construction/deconstruction lives a delicate balance for something to grow, more like a vein climbing horizontally across a wall – than a stem, straight up and flowering. Our vine will never properly flower, but it will grow crooked across that wall until either it or the wall it’s clinging to crumbles.
When I’m in a state of construction I take shows and tours and book studio time and start making moves – once that state slips and I want to quit and hide in a hole somewhere, the plans are already made, the wall is there all the vine needs to do is not die, so i start making calls and finding out who is available and wants to record, who wants to tour, etc. The ‘touring’ Single Mothers and the ‘recording’ Single Mothers are rarely the same people – but it’s the same band. It doesn’t work for everyone, it certainly wouldn’t work for the Beatles, but it works for us, for me – and I hope for everyone else involved in this project would say it works for them, too.
You certainly don’t hold the record for most people to come in and out of a band (that honor *might* go to ’80s hair metal band LA Guns … check this shit out) but do you think you could name everybody who has played on an album or been on stage under the Single Mothers name without cheating and looking it up?
I think I could – but I’m not going to try it. There have been something like 23 variations of the band so far and there will be more I’m sure.
My first exposure to Single Mothers was in 2014 via the “Half Lit” video and … damn … I think I listened to it 10 times in a row. Now, I’m not a young man and felt pretty old when I saw you play at Double Happiness with The Dirty Nil in 2015 – that room isn’t (well, wasn’t … it’s closed now) a good one if you’re looking to avoid a crazy pit full of kids throwing arms and legs around but I somehow avoided getting bloodied and bruised. I’m wondering, do you have a general sense of the average age of your fans?
We have a pretty wide spectrum. I get a lot of younger kids messaging us, buying the merch etc.. like 17/18 year olds but we also get a lot of people at the shows on the other end of the stick that seem to like the band and the more ‘old school punk’ approach to the live show (their words). I’ve always tried to write to my peers, but I also sometimes feel like a 17-year-old and other times feel like i’m 88, maybe that comes out in the songs, I don’t know.
One of the many things I love about Single Mothers is the vocal delivery – not sure if it’s really singing or spitting out lyrics but I never get sick of it. While musically, you sound nothing like the Columbus-based band Two Cow Garage, you remind me of their singer, Micah Schnabel. I HATE asking the old “influence” question but is there somebody you listened to when you were growing up that inspired the way you sing?
I’ve been inspired by bands like Bear vs Shark, The Hold Steady, The Streets etc.. all those bands hold a special place for me. Growing up I was really into Everclear’s ‘Sparkle and Fade’ – back when I was like 11.
I reviewed ‘Our Pleasure’ for The Big Takeover magazine and I called out the lyric “I like the older shit / Whatever happened to Single Mothers?” from “High Speed”. Was that written in response to some feedback your fans have given you over the years about how your material has changed? I thought it was brilliant!
The Big Takeover is great! That line was more a pre-emptive response on how I assumed some people would react opposed to how people had reacted – and also just a response to how music snobbery exists as a whole.
There was a few years between ‘Negative Qualities’ and ‘Our Pleasure’ and then … bam bam … a solo EP and another Single Mothers album in rapid succession. Any secret behind the burst of creativity in 2017/2018 or is that just the way things worked out? I feel like maybe some of the answers might be found in “Pace Yourself” from your solo EP. Is that autobiographical? Did you give up drinking?
I did quit drinking a couple years ago which has streamlined the ‘getting things done’ aspect of my musical life. As a band we’ve always written and enjoyed writing material but getting anything together was always a huge problem. It’s much easier organizing the band when you’re not hungover every morning.
I’m not hanging on your every move but I do follow you on Twitter and I don’t really remember reading anything about a new album in the works and was pleasantly shocked and surprised when all-of-a-sudden ‘Through a Wall’ appeared out of nowhere. Was it planned to be a surprise or was I not paying careful enough attention?
We didn’t really say anything about it before it was released, that wasn’t strictly intentional either, we were just really busy making the record. We recorded over the summer and released it (digitally) in September, and that turn around time is usually unheard of in the music industry.
Kind of going back to the first couple of questions … when Single Mothers rolls into Columbus next week, who will be in the lineup and what are their credentials?
We’ll be Peter Landi from NY on guitar, Riley Simpson from Toronto, ON on bass, Ross Chornyy from Toronto on Drums and myself Drew Thomson on vocals. Riley and Peter have been touring with us for a while now and this is Ross’s first tour with the band.
Can you tell me the artist, album or song that best fits the following situations:
* Driving to the grocery store – Probably a podcast actually, like Planet Money or some other NPR-ish thing
* A long drive (vacation, on tour, etc) – Pavement
* An album you throw on to make you smile when you’re already feeling happy – The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers
* An album that you love that you think very few other people know anything about – Commander Venus – Do you feel at home?
* When you’re feeling sad and depressed, an album that you listen to that conveys the same mood – Okkervil River – ‘Away’
* The soundtrack to your high school years – Lagwagon – ‘Let’s Talk About Feelings’
* An album that you’d like to cover from start to finish – The Streets – ‘A Grand Don’t Come for Free’