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Folk Not Folk, Motherfolk at Duck Room

Madisyn Siebert • Photos: Sean Rider

Most people start a band with hopes of making it big and skyrocketing their careers. While that isn’t the case yet for Motherfolk, it is where they are headed.

“I don’t think we knew where it was going to go or that we were going to be as invested in it as we ended up being in it from the start,” Nathan Dickerson (vocals and guitar) said to me when I got a chance to speak to Motherfolk before their show at the Duck Room on April 8.

The band has been around since 2014, when their self-titled debut album dropped. They’ve seen a lot of change since then—not only in age and maturity and adding band members, but even in beliefs, influences and overall sound. If you were to take their most recent album, the flower, and compare it to Motherfolk, you would be amazed that you were listening to the same band.

“We started out very true to our name. We called the band Motherfolk because originally it was very Mumford and Sons, David Brothers inspired,” Nathan explained. “And that goes back with the other thing too. Like if we had expected to be like make this a real band, we probably would have a different name,” he added.

Of course, a lot of this change in writing can be equated back to maturity and growing up, but the band also cites influences in their albums changing with them and the type of music they are listening to, from originally being very acoustic-based to now pulling in other influences, highlighting electric. Even growing the band plays a part in how their music has evolved, from their debut being just Nathan and Bobby Paver (vocals and guitar) performing all the music and vocals, to the flower being touched by everyone in the band, or as Ethan Wescott (drums) liked to say, “getting my grubby little hands all over it.”

Another large part of their music that has changed is the religious influence. They all grew up in Christian homes and attended Christian university; when I told them I understood the feeling, Bobby, without hesitation, said, “I’m sorry,” getting a laugh from the whole room.

Motherfolk’s first two albums discussed their relationship with God and trying to balance and grasp it as early 20-somethings. Now, none of them are Christian, and they are gearing themselves away from it. Some fans have a problem with that change. “We still have a lot of fans that are Christian. It’s a weird line to ride to be like, that’s not who we are anymore, but also not be like an asshole about it,” Bobby explained.

This was evident throughout the show, the crowd being a mixed group that varied in age, some clearly there to see the old Motherfolk they knew and loved, and others there to see them continue to evolve into the band they are wanting to be. The band, it being only their second show of the tour, stuck to all newer material focusing on the flower and Family Ghost. One thing that was surprising was seeing how much they stayed away from their albums Fold and Motherfolk throughout the night. They even chimed in saying they were not planning on playing it tonight, but they got a special request for their song “Salt Lake City,” their second-highest streamed song. I have never seen a band stray so far away that they wouldn’t even include one of their top songs in their setlist, but I also admire them for knowing who they want to be and hoping their fans join them on the journey.

Motherfolk, Blueberry Hill, Duck Room
Motherfolk at Duck Room. Photo: Sean Rider

Together, Nathan, Bobby, Ethan, Clayton Allender (bass) and Karlie Dickerson (keys) have great charisma and make you feel like you are an old friend from college shooting the shit with them. On stage, they carried this over, clearly playing and having the time of their life, not really having played a show since before 2020. They were finally seeing fans reactions to the flower and even got to tease some new music from their upcoming album, the bee, which we can expect this summer.

Even though the crowd was diverse, everyone still joined in on the fun, singing songs back to them, getting close to the stage and jumping around with them. They even had an ongoing bit with the crowd about the song “Free Bird” by Lynryd Skynrd and how they were not going to play it, even though the audience teased them for it throughout the night, even chanting “Free Bird” at one point.

This band likes to have fun, which is clear not only on stage, but by the Spotify bio that used to read, “We are Motherfolk, and so are you.” When prompted about this bio the band couldn’t think of a good reason behind it, and Ethan added, “I have not smoked enough weed to be able to bullshit this.” The bio is just another sign of how the band is enjoying being a band; they chalked their old bio up to shit-posting, like people do on their internet, but I would be curious to ask them about their new Spotify bio which just reads, “Motherfolk” over and over and over for about 21 times. Does this have some deeper meaning or was someone just shit-posting again? I guess the world may never know…

Their current tour is supporting their latest release, the flower, and as Clayton put it, “These songs are really about Nathan and Bobby just being little sad boys.” And that comes through on the album. It really shows this soft electronic, slightly folk undertone music that can be addictive to listen to. The album makes you understand the feeling of being stuck or sinking in place, and looking for that reason to get out of it. “Anchor” and “Head Above Water” really resonated these feelings.

This being said, their newest EP, the bee, has my prediction to give you the opposite feeling. To help you see the joys and want to pull yourself up from this place of wallow. Their latest single off the album, “All I Need,” is a great teaser that hopefully fulfills my prediction.

I also hope to continue to see them mold art into their music. On the flower we were able to see descriptive imagery on Spotify as the songs played, from people being covered in honey to the words “drink blood, listen to motherfolk” being projected.

“This time around we’ve been intentional about expanding the art from the music into a visual aspect as well,” Nathan told me. They aimed for imagery that was grotesque and unsettling, something to potentially put their listeners on the edge as they looked at the tiny clips. To me, these clips show the continued growth of the band and the direction they are heading.

Motherfolk may not be a big band, but they are putting thought, intention and a whole lot of work into their music, unlike like many other artists. From shifting their image, to balancing a divided fan base, Motherfolk knows how to get everyone to have a good time at their show, even if you barely know their music. Their new sound is evolving, and I can’t wait to evolve with them.

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