Punchland: I was wearing the band’s tee (the day after the show at Brooklyn Bowl) and somebody stopped me and said, “oh, my god! I thought your shirt said something else!” Is there a story behind the band’s moniker?
Ann Courtney: I was saying “motherfucker” and I flubbed and said, “Mother Feather.” It felt like an electric shock. It sounded magical, mythic, important, and a little bit bad.
Punchland: I was checking out Ann Courtney and the Late Bloomers and it’s like day and night. I was so surprised by how much you changed. I guess surprised is not really the word I want to use, it’s more like I didn’t know what to expect from ACLB’s sound and aesthetic, because Mother Feather is such a punch in your gut. Can you give us a time line on how that band ended and how Mother Feather rose? What are the main differences between those two bands to you.
Ann Courtney: I haven’t changed, I’ve emerged. I love the Late Bloomers. Being in that band taught me that you can be whatever you want, you should do whatever you want, and that your life is happening right now. Mother Feather was a conscious reaction to how dissatisfied and sick it was making me that I wasn’t doing what I knew I could be doing. I wanted to dance. I wanted to rock. I wanted to connect. Mother Feather was a call that would have been deeply irresponsible to ignore. I had to step up.
Punchland: I know Lizzie Carena was part of ACLB, but how did you meet the other guys: Matt Basile, Chris Foley and Gunnar Olsen?
Ann Courtney: Chris was the dreamy guitar player in a band called Thisway that may or may not have met Lizzie in a former lifetime when she was underage drinking one night in a bar. I met both Matt and Gunnar in the musical epicenter Rockwood Music Hall, where we were all of-age drinking. Matt was the force behind the LES comet-rock act Rich Girls and Gunnar was the beast at the kit in Grey McMurray’s soul-child Knights on Earth. Chris reappeared via Rockwood too, but this time he was shredding guitar in Black Bunny. I picked four beautiful humans whose musicianship excited me and that I wanted to be around. (Chapter 1–“Putting a Band Together for Dummies.”)
Punchland: The performance was very sexual. I felt like you touched my eyes and ears inappropriately. Is there such a thing as a collective sexual harassment lawsuit? If so, I’m interested in that. I’m not saying I didn’t like it, but I need to make some money off of you when you guys blow up. But, seriously. One of the main components, in my perception, is a message sent out to all women of how empowering and liberating it is to express yourself, however you like and be comfortable doing it. It’s almost cathartic. Is that the message or am I reading it wrong?
Ann Courtney: I love women. I think women are incredibly cool. My brand of feminism is I want to live in a world where women can be happy and free and fulfill their potential. While Pop Cock Rock Catharsis is for everyone, I think my perspective is very female and I’m proud of that. There’s definitely something extra in it for the ladies. They know it.
Punchland: You said you are from the Philippines and you went to high school in Pakistan. I found that to be so interesting, because I also grew up abroad, but in my case there’s a complete cultural disconnection. I grew up in Brazil with Brazilian parents, but you were raised by American parents in a foreign land. How did that shape you? What’s the influence of those cultures and the cultural oppression of being in a place like Pakistan where women don’t have the same rights as men?
Ann Courtney: My parents are both from Detroit but I went to school in Singapore, Islamabad, and Manila. Propriety and politeness were a big deal in my house. Maybe it would have been anywhere, but being overseas it felt like we had to be on especially good behavior because we were guests, and conspicuous as outsiders. It’s definitely informed my psychology. Mother Feather is the place where I get to act out.
Punchland: Do you feel any connection with these other places you grow up or was it just coincidental? Did you visit your relatives in America during that period or were you in complete isolation from this culture?
Ann Courtney: I feel mostly reverence and gratitude for having grown up overseas. I haven’t been back to Southeast Asia in a decade, and Pakistan in almost two. I’m sure things look drastically different from when I was there. (Yes, we took trips to visit family back in the States at least once every couple years to visit family and stock up on back-to-school clothes!)
Punchland: The live show seems at first to be its own thing. There’s that theatrical vibe. When I saw you live, there was all this energy pouring out of the stage and there’s all these layers of influence and a sort of convergence point that beams out of you, out of the whole band. It’s a unique equation in terms of all the rock star lexicon happening there. A sort of synesthetic experience where you see Mother Feather playing and you look like you, but you look like you look like Secos & Molhados, you look like Lady Gaga, you move like Tina Turner, you move like Marc Bolan, you look like you sound. Is that the intent?
Ann Courtney: The intent is to feel connected, empowered, free, and have the maximum amount of fun.
Punchland: Where do the costumes come from? Do you make them yourselves or do you have a connection with a fashion designer that is like-minded? Also, what dictates them? Do the aesthetics come first or the music?
Ann Courtney: Lizzie and I put our own looks together, but we’ve had amazing opportunities to work with designers like Lindsay Hearts, Xango Shola, and notably Suzanne Rae, who has been a fashion fairy-godmother to us. Suzanne totally understands our aesthetic even though it’s drastically different from her own line.
We spend countless hours searching for pieces, sewing, bedazzling, and rigging our outfits together. There are practical considerations (Can I do a high-kick in this? Will this choke me in a back-bend?) but at the end of the day Mother Feather is totally awesome, so we have to dress the part.