Kristine Leschper expands sound and perspective on sophomore album

Initially, Kristine Leschper wrote poems, not songs. But at a certain point she had some poems she didn't know what to do with. So instead of trying to publish a book — a process she knew nothing about — she began shaping the poems into songs.

“That felt more accessible to me — a way to see them to completion,” Leschper said over email.

Leschper, who dubbed her band Mothers, gravitated first toward stripped-down arrangements, like the plucked mandolin, sparse piano, intermittent strings and up-close vocal on “Too Small for Eyes,” the leadoff track on Mothers' 2016 debut, When You Walk a Long Distance You are Tired.

But on recent follow-up Render Another Ugly Method, Leschper and her band sought to branch out with new sounds, and they brought on producer John Congleton to help them get there. “I knew that John had worked on a ton of records, all extremely different sonically,” Leschper said. “I've never been interested in making music that is genre-specific, and going into the studio we were after something more like a Frankenstein-ian composite of music we like, from avant/prog rock in opposition to African guitar music to darkwave to folk/songwriter music.”

The sonic change corresponds with a move away from the first-person intimacy of the debut album to “something more like a camera than a mirror,” she said. “My first love was confessional poetry, writers like Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, so it was intuitive for me to emulate those sensibilities when I began to write. I can't express how important it was for me to find writing by women I related to as a confused and angry young person. It saved my life. It doesn't feel like a shift to me, but more of an extending outwards to include other styles of writing, due largely to having digested more literature since the first record.”

Still, there's thematic overlap between the two albums. “Too Small for Eyes” touches on the idea of feeling invisible, and on Render track “Beauty Routine,” Leschper explores the concept of being erased through ritual and repetition. “Brush my teeth as an act of desperation/Show me a beauty routine to erase me completely,” she sings.

For Leschper, writing and singing about those ideas can be curative. “Exploration and dissection of my wants, needs, shortcomings [and] fears is the only way I have been able to know myself over the years,” she said. “For whatever reason, I contextualize my environment best through abstraction and metaphor. Honestly, I think that it helps me to stay engaged with the mundane, and provides this room for playfulness and ‘magic' within the harsh — and sometimes boring! — reality of being a person floating through space.”