Q&A: And The Kids’ Hannah Mohan Talks New Album Friends Share Lovers
Friendship is often overlooked in music. Many artists sing about love and heartbreak, lust and sex, and even the love of family, but what about the family you choose? And The Kids extract the same meaning and emotion through friendship where most artists and outfits seem to be inspired by the ecstasy of love’s highs and the aching of love’s lows.
That strong evocation was apparent on last year’s debut Turn To Each Other, but it has grown more audacious and involuted on their sophomore effort, Friends Share Lovers. The Massachusetts outfit ripped the stage at our unofficial SXSW bash this year, mostly with tunes from their debut. But they also treated the crowd to a couple jams from Friends Share Lovers. Their debut was good, but there was notable shift in energy on stage between songs taken from their respective albums — not just different, not just better, but both in subtle ways.
Where friends were the ones to turn to the first time around, the incestuousness of friendship has taken its toll on the second. There’s no silly bickering, he-said-she-said speculation, or low blows on this album, though. Instead, there is careful, wise introspection which takes emotions and thoughts expressed to a transcendent level beyond pettiness and perceived wrongs. A split in the clique that the band members grew up in results in all of the raw, vulnerable, and candid feelings that result from a pulling apart, but the strength and resolve in facing those dissolving relationships and truly moving on from them comes across just as palpably.
A forced fissure among the band due to visa woes in tandem with the rift in the larger group has brought them closer together with a newfound confidence which resonates in their bolder aesthetic this time around. The drum patterns are more intricate, the guitar and bass intertwine tighter, Hannah Mohan’s lyrics explore larger truths as well as political and existential musings. The sound is bigger, more precise. They used such personal events to push and evolve their sound, channeling the heartbreak and confusion they were feeling to create an album that’s layered and complex. Listen to Friends Share Lovers in its entirety below, and scroll deeper for Mohan’s reflections on the album.
STEREOGUM: It seems this album is important in terms of your timeline because you’re on the verge of a leap, but you’ve chosen to go even more inward than your last album, even with the title and looking to the friends you grew up with for inspiration. So what made you want to look to the past and look inward while moving forward as a band?
HANNAH MOHAN: I think a lot of my inspiration really comes from relationships. Before I was probably just pretending some stuff didn’t happen and writing about other stuff. But I’m finally kind of further away from my old friend group now where I can talk about how — because there was friend group breakup and it was pretty impactful. So it’s nice to finally let it all out there. Because I felt like songs on the last album were about the same thing too, but I put it in different places. I kind of hid it better [laughs]. On this one it was like, no, this is what this is really about.
STEREOGUM: Not to get too tabloid-y with it, but I was wondering if there were some lines that those friends would pick up on and would know they were about them on the album?
MOHAN: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s more of an “us” thing or a “we” thing. I don’t think I ever point a finger any time. Or maybe I do. I don’t remember [laughs]. I’ll have to look at the lyrics again. I think they could look at it and be like, wow, that did happen, but I don’t think anybody would be like, “you bitch.” [laughs]
STEREOGUM: Looking back, it seems like there’s been a lot of personal growth musically for you and the band, and I just wanted to know how that personal growth influenced the writing on the album.
MOHAN: Well, it was pretty — not only was it emotionally impactful, it’s also that our keyboard player — a big part of the band, and a big motivating factor for And The Kids — was recently deported. So that actually had some physical impact on how we write, and some of the songs were kind of confused before she left the country so we kind of had to figure them out. Some of the songs were written while she was away, and in the end we would be going up to Canada a bunch and all writing together. So we had some songs on this album that were written before and then brought to Megan [Miller] and she wrote her parts for it. So it was more piece-by-piece, I think.
STEREOGUM: Did that bring you all closer together as a band? Because it seems like that was a solidarity thing with Megan having her visa problems, for you guys to go out there and record in Canada. Did that impact the album at all as far as your friendship?
MOHAN: Definitely. It made me realize how valuable our friendship is with each one of us, and how important we each are to And The Kids and our every song.
STEREOGUM: I had chance to catch you guys at SXSW this year at our showcase, and it was great. You guys had great chemistry on stage, but do you miss her while you’re touring and doing shows without her?
MOHAN: The more cooler things we get to do, the more we miss her. So whenever anyone’s like, how is it getting to do all these things?, I’m so glad, but it’s so bittersweet because I would love to be doing them with the person that was there from the start. She moved to the States, and we just dropped all of our jobs. We couldn’t afford a house. We lived in tents and practiced in a storage box, and she just sacrificed her whole life in Canada to come make it in the US. So for her to not be here for any of this is really sad. But we actually got a sample pad and we’re — Taliana [Katz] and I — both doing looping pedals now. We’re putting Meghan’s parts back in, so she can still be a part of us that way.
STEREOGUM: That’s awesome.
MOHAN: Yeah, we’re really excited to be debuting all of our new gadgets on this tour.
STEREOGUM: Do you think you’ll incorporate the looping pedals more in recording from the start instead of pre-recorded parts that you already know?
MOHAN: I don’t actually think so [laughs]. I mean maybe. I actually kind of starting writing something the other day and I was like well, this is a ukulele part and a guitar part, I don’t know how this is going to work. Sometimes when we do that, we’re kind of just like, let’s try this part on bass, let’s try this part on keyboard, but in the end maybe I just accidentally wrote two parts for myself and I’ll have to loop it. Which is cool, though. I love the challenge.
STEREOGUM: Speaking of touring and the SXSW show I mentioned earlier, I remember you had an inflatable deer that you were carrying around, and it seemed like there might have been a story behind it that you didn’t really tell while you there. It seemed to have some sentimental value. I just wanted to ask what that was about [laughs].
MOHAN: We’ve always loved props. We hold a place in our hearts for Andrea [the deer] even though she’s been fully dying because of rough crowds. But the story is that we had a day off in D.C. and we went on a walk in some state forest or something. I don’t remember quite where we were, but we were in the woods on a path, and we just spotted her and decided to take her on tour with us.
STEREOGUM: Do you guys often do that? Do you just kind of wander as a group?
MOHAN: Yeah. We like to see where we’re playing. It’s hard just going from place to place to place because we really love to travel and we really love to see the places that we’re going to play instead of just waking, playing a show, and then driving, or waking up, driving, and then playing a show. So whenever we can, we try to get out and see where we actually are in the world.
STEREOGUM: Going back to the album, a lot of your lyrics come from a personal place, but they have a very relatable, universal truth feel to them. How did you manage to find the larger meaning in your personal relationships that are in turn so relatable to many other people?
MOHAN: I try to really do that. I think it’s an easy way to share my feelings without being me, me, me, and sad, sad, sad. I just decided one day to not have “he” or “she” or “you” or “me.” I wanted to change all of those lyrics to “we” and “our.” And I love it when a lot of people sing on the album. I just love vocals so much. So I think that’s a big part of it. Whenever we would be like, okay we’re all going to sing this part, I’d be be like yeah, I need to change this to “we” and “our.” It just made sense.
STEREOGUM: So you wrote a lot with harmonies in mind?
MOHAN: Yeah. Sometimes they just come, but I really like doubling vocals. Sometimes I feel like it’s more powerful than harmonies, but I definitely keep harmonies in mind when I’m writing.
STEREOGUM: Who were you listening to most when recording album, and who do you think influenced the album most if anyone did at all?
MOHAN: I don’t know if there was one in particular. I think, as a group, an album that kind of changed us all was PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. I think that one definitely touched us all. Also we’re really into Feist [laughs]. I don’t know. It would be hard for me to say on my own. I just want to say definitely PJ Harvey for that. I’m trying to say one that we could all say because I could list a bunch of mine and people would be like yeah, but me not so much or whatever.
STEREOGUM: OK. Well now that you’ve clarified, what were some of your personal ones?
MOHAN: Recently, and over the past year or two I got really into Lady Lamb and St. Vincent and Suuns. I’m super into Suuns.
STEREOGUM: What are your favorite tracks on the album?
MOHAN: I think my favorite track — I go in and out of different ones, but I really like the way “Pennies, Rice” turned out.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, that’s a nice closer. It seems to be thematic for the album. It’s kind of like a good example of what you’re trying to say with the entire album crunched down into one song.
MOHAN: Yeah, right. I kind of didn’t realize that until later. The song is really about having the whole world at your feet and great people to share it with, you know, and being able to do whatever you want, but at the end of the day, really just overthinking choices and figuring out how not to hold yourself back because of making bad decisions.
STEREOGUM: That comes across. I wanted to ask you about a specific lyric you had on “Without Purpose.” You said “We try to unlearn everything we learn in history books/ Extinction means nothing when you take a closer look.” What does that mean to you?
MOHAN: Yeah, I think that’s a larger picture lyric. The extinction part — I didn’t really think about it when I was writing it, it was more afterwards that I was realized what it was about. It’s really about just how much shit we put ourselves through as human beings and it’s like, we put everything else through shit too, but somehow we are so strong that we manage everything, and we just manage to stay alive. And the “unlearn everything in history books” thing, I think that’s more of a political thing from me. It’s just you don’t realize until after school that you graduate or you do whatever and you leave school and look back and you’re like, what was even in my history book? It was all specific, there’s nothing about anybody else except for these settlers and these white people. It’s just one point of view. So I feel like our whole lives now after being out of school is just unlearning everything that we learned.
STEREOGUM: Oh, also, on “Picture,” I heard some French if I’m not mistaken?
MOHAN: Right, yeah.
STEREOGUM: So was that a byproduct of recording in Canada or was that something you’ve always wanted to do?
MOHAN: I’ve always kind of wanted to put a little French in. Taliana is actually fluent in French because her mom’s Swiss, and Meghan being from Canada, she speaks French as well. I have French Canadian roots in like my great-grandmother only spoke French. So I think it’s nice to also, about the relatability thing, just to remember that everybody has the same — they go through the same things, and sometimes you’ve got to translate.
Friends Share Lovers is out 6/3 via Signature Sounds.