Mothland bridges art and performance

The booking company’s inaugural performance went off without a hitch

A frenzy broke out at La Sala Rossa during the final song of Paul Jacobs’ rollicking set on Nov. 17. “This is a new song,” introduced Jacobs in his deadpanning drawl before launching into a fuzz-laden, garagey jam performed in his instantly recognizable style.

As the song came to a close, the band, in a move that would have put a smile on Bo Diddley’s face, dropped their instruments and picked up maracas, launching into a bouncy percussive jam. Inviting the crowd to join them, the venue’s large stage rapidly filled up with entranced concertgoers dancing and clapping to the rhythm. The sense of community was overwhelming and made even the most isolated people feel part of something.

Mothland is Montreal’s newest booking company, and Jacobs’ sold-out showcase, part of the M pour Montréal festival, was their grand debut. Formally conceived in the summer of 2017 by a handful of stalwarts of Montreal’s local music scene, Mothland serves as a loosely extended arm of Distorsion, an annual local psychedelic music festival entering its third year. While they stress their relaxed organizational structure, the Mothland founders admit that, if somebody were to be considered at the helm of the organization, it would be Marilyne Lacombe.

“I actually wake up in the morning,” Lacombe said, poking fun at her colleagues when we met for lunch at Casa del Popolo the afternoon before the show, we were joined by Philippe Larocque and Nasir Hasan, invaluable members of the Mothland family. “I’ve been working in festivals and music for a while,” Lacombe added.

Lacombe is the co-founder of Montreal’s annual Taverne Tour festival, which will be holding its third edition in February. She also played a key role in sending Sunwatchers and Paul Jacobs to this summer’s lauded Emergin Music Festival in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., as part of the Distorsion showcase. Her responsibilities at Mothland, however, are entirely different. “She once vulgarised it well,” Hasan told me. “Distorsion is buying; Mothland is selling.”

Fueled by their unassailable love for music and slight insanity, Mothland is run by the people, for the people. “The idea behind this is to bring better music to more people,” Lacombe said. “It’s really about building bridges between scenes.” In order to achieve this, they emphasize their quasi-communist approach to artist management, which vehemently veers away from the corporate, impersonal attitude they feel often dictates how other booking companies manage their artists. This requires staying active in the scene and working closely with their artists. “We’ve got a family vibe,” Lacombe said. “There are no boundaries. We all do everything together.”

A mainstay in Montreal’s excitingly diverse underground music scene, Jacobs has been sharing his unique brand of grunge psychedelia for over four years. Though he rose to fame as a one-man band, he recently made the switch to a more conventional full-band format, which emphasized the overblown textures displayed on his most recent LP, Pictures, Movies & Apartments. He also acts as a third of Mothland’s original core of artists, alongside the other two groups that shared the bill that night at La Salla Rossa—New York-based virtuosic jammers Yonatan Gat, and Atsuko Chiba, a local group whose calculated experimental sound defies words.

Mothland’s roster is unique in and of itself, composed of over a dozen artists hailing mostly from Montreal, as well as New York, Memphis and Detroit. “Basically all the bands on Mothland were bands that we were working with quite a bit already before [the company’s creation],” Lacombe said. Though the roster is an eclectic one, with artists from all ends of the sonic spectrum, they are all ultimately allied by what Lacombe calls “the psychedelic approach.”

“For us, it’s not a sound—it’s an approach,” Lacombe said. “It could be the content, the lyrics or how you present it.” This emphasis on diversity and the importance of the “psychedelic ideology” also explains their decision to include visual artists on the roster.

M for Montreal’s showcase, especially Yonatan Gat’s set, surely embodied this approach. With the band gathered in the centre of the room surrounded by the crowd, the venue suddenly shapeshifted into a sort of psychedelic arena. The crowd itself morphed into something unrecognizable. The rough-and-tumble spirit, which had accumulated during Jacobs’ set, quickly turned into a mesmerizing serenity which took over the audience. As the Yonatan Gat trio sailed through a dizzying set of pulsating psychedelia, the audience began to notice the more elegantly dressed members of the crowd swaying to the music. Though the audience had just noticed these people, they had been there the entire show, floating along with the night as it subtly contorted.

While the trio did not necessarily top the previous performances, they managed to completely transform the night, proving that the proper space is all it takes to build something beautiful. And supplying that space, is exactly what Mothland is doing.

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