Hailing from Scotland, Fair Mothers (FM) is a one-man-band Fair Mothers (also known as Kevin Allan). We had a chance to chat with the singer/songwriter about his new single ‘Harpy’, handling overzealous fans and much more!
OSR: Why did you choose a stage name to perform? Also, how did you come up with Fair Mothers?
FM: It feels necessary to have one as a buffer. Also, it’s poetic I guess, so it doesn’t set definite expectations. I thought of the name when we were getting my first album ready, which also needed a name. It occurred to me that I might have already written a good name somewhere in the song lyrics so that’s where I found them. I tell myself that I don’t pay much attention to the words, but it takes a long time to find the right ones.
I’m happy with Fair Mothers. One of the best things about it is that I can refer to Fair Mothers in the third-person as if it wasn’t me. I find that genuinely relaxing.
OSR: Who are you inspired by?
FM: In a positive way the effect of listening to Neil Young when I was young, which is still resonating away in me I think. Then, Stephen Malkmus. At our wedding when the ceremony started we first played ‘Up The Ramp of Death’ by Malkmus (my choice) and then ‘Questions’ by Buffalo Springfield (her choice). Recently, it’s been Wilco.
OSR: What was the background behind ‘Harpy’?
FM: It first appeared at a point when lots of songs were on the go and I didn’t have the time or inclination to do any recordings to pin any of them down. ‘Harpy’ had a very, very terse sort of backbone of three repeating notes in a waltz or polka rhythm that I could and did repeat endlessly. It must have driven my family nuts.
I struggled like hell with the lyrics because I felt from that simple structure there must be hundreds of corresponding verses, but they just would not emerge. Something just would not play ball. It was very interesting. I think now that instead of trying to find lots of verses I should have tried to find a repeating canon, like the John Johnson song ‘Yon Yonson?’.
OSR: Does it have a special meaning for you?
FM: It feels deranged to me and it strongly reminds me of a scene from The Waltons that freaked me out as a kid where a woman had a stroke, collapsing and maybe dying while her new record player was playing a lovely waltz. At least, that’s how I remember it. It really got to me and scared me that this woman’s body had lost its control while the rhythm of the waltz just kept on going. Now that I think about it, that’s probably why I like Joy Division as well.
So, for me, it’s just a tightly wound-up deranged song out of which Esther Swift spins a beautiful quick harp melody. The lyrics are minimal and seem to be about stuff that’s hidden, opposites and alchemy. They aren’t overly coherent, which is fine since the structure is so simple and tightly wound there’s no need for explicit or well-organised lyrics. Although, I now wish that I had worked out a repeating canon.
OSR: What can you tell us about the music video?
FM: It’s the creative work of Adam Stafford with David and Dickson from Vulture Party. Originally, Adam went after another song from the LP called ‘Magic Bullets for Dracula’. He had what I thought was a really weird and attractive idea for a short movie about a depressed Nosferatu vampire who’s hooked on pills that he pops each morning and get him, unnaturally for a vampire, through daily life. When I watch ‘Harpy’ I see it as a scene from the move that Adam didn’t make yet. So, to me, the ‘Harpy’ video is a futile vengeance hit on a vampire.
It’s odd though because I initially couldn’t see where Adam came up with the road movie idea. I looked at the song’s lyrics and it actually matches very well. There’s a strong image from the song of someone looking in a mirror incapable of seeing themselves as they are. It’s all autobiographical of course.
OSR: Where would you like to be this time next year?
FM: In July 2021 I would like to be standing next to Adam as he lifts another BAFTA for the core movie from our hugely successful multimedia Dour Fife’s Last Vampire franchise.
OSR: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
FM: Try out different tunings.
OSR: How do you handle overzealous fans?
FM: With respect.
OSR: What is the most stupid interview questions you have been asked?
FM: Ah, I don’t get asked to do many interviews so there haven’t been many opportunities for comedy questions. I wouldn’t mind at all. It’s not exactly a laugh a minute at the moment, so any stupid or amusing questions would be very welcome.
OSR: Do you have a message for our readers?
FM: Watch The Tweedy Show. Read Chomsky.