Momma Are Ready To Be A Household Name
The Brooklyn indie band is aiming for real-deal rock stardom with their excellent new album. Read our interview and watch their video for new single "Speeding 72."
The story behind Brooklyn-based Momma’s forthcoming album Household Name is more relatable than it is original. Vocalist and guitarist Allegra Weingarten was coping with a breakup by falling down a Nirvana hole, fixating on them because she “just needed something to obsess over,” she reflects over Zoom in April of this year, a while after that Nevermind binge.
That was the start of a concept beginning to unfurl. It became more clear when Weingarten, fellow vocalist and guitarist Etta Friedman, and bassist and producer Aron Kobayashi Ritch all watched the 2006 comedy movie Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny, in which Jack Black and Kyle Gass set out on a mission to start the greatest rock and roll band of all time. They decided to do the same: “Let’s just take these massive rock records that were huge and #1, and use them as the blueprint,” Weingarten recalls about the process. Some of the music they were taking into consideration is directly referenced in the songs; “Hummer” by Smashing Pumpkins is mentioned in “Rockstar,” while “Speeding 72,” out today with a video by Zach Stone and Madeline Leshner, references Pavement’s “Gold Soundz” — one of the underground’s best young guitar bands guided by two permanently feuding alt-rock lodestars.
“We were also harping on the idea that bands can blow up overnight and romanticizing that,” Friedman says, “which kind of helped push us to want to write the best record we could and showcase who we actually are. I think this is a really good representation of the music and the sound that we actually want to make.”
Momma, to be fair, have been making infectious, addictive alt-rock for a bit now, from their lo-fi 2018 debut Interloper to 2020’s stunning breakthrough Two Of Me, which contains haunting anthems like “Biohazard” and luscious drifters such as “Double Dare.” “Rockstar,” fittingly, was the first track the band wrote for Household Name, and its slick bombast is not necessarily surprising; it’s just the next step for their music that was already getting ridiculously better, and the other tracks mirror this progress. “Speeding 72” is a soaring anthem that encapsulates the invigorating, invincible feeling of being young; “No Stage” is an ambitious song that aims for the kind of success that lasts: “If I’m famous for the night/ I’ll be lonely all my life,” a worried voice intones on the bridge. The theme of rock stardom often becomes a vessel for exploring more personal topics like fear, heartbreak, desire, and disillusion. It’s an intense, melodramatic album, as symbolized by the red station wagon blurred by fast motion on the cover art. Weingarten also thinks the imagery fits because “this is a summer record, and it’s a road trip record. It’s a record to listen to in the car with your friends; it just felt really warm and inviting and fun,” she says.
Embedded in the texture of these songs is a nostalgia for a cooler time in music — when social media didn’t exist, vinyl records were the main way of listening to albums, and rockstars were… an actual thing. “This is a world that doesn’t exist anymore,” Weingarten says. “It’s not in our reality as a band, but also as listeners of music, it’s just not something we’re probably ever going to experience. But there’s a little glimmer of… but what if? What if this record could do that? What if it did go #1?”
Ironically enough, our conversation takes place a couple of weeks after Machine Gun Kelly’s album Mainstream Sellout came out. The entire concept of that record is that MGK is a rockstar, and gets a lot of hate for it: “I heard the feedback, I’m a poser/ With a guitar and a choker,” he shouts on the title track. On one hand this guy is the living, breathing evidence that being a “rockstar” caricature isn’t cool anymore; there’s no charm or intrigue in his reckless behavior, which is often so forced that everyone can see through it, and his music takes no risks to make up for his shitty persona. But Mainstream Sellout lacks the self-awareness that is key to Household Name. In many ways, Momma’s album is almost an accidental parody of Mainstream Sellout. When I bring this up, they laugh at the coincidence but also defend the impact that the former rapper has made in mainstream music. “I definitely think that Gen Z is listening and wants more, like, pop-punk guitar idols to look up to,” Weingarten says. “I don’t know if Machine Gun Kelly necessarily gets my stamp of approval, but I think he does have a big hand in that.”
Speaking of rock stars who’ve permeated the mainstream and inspired Gen Z: When the band unleashed the lead single “Medicine,” a mischievous yet eerie track with hypnotizing deadpan vocals and playful riffs, it gained traction and received recognition from Fall Out Boy icon Pete Wentz, who posted it to his Instagram story. “That was really fucking crazy,” Etta Friedman says, still shocked. Weingarten says: “I remember going out after and I was like, ‘Let’s take shots for Pete Wentz!’ I told the bartender, like, ‘Pete Wentz just posted my band.’ She was like, ‘Okay…'”
Along with getting approved by the emo hero, Momma also just got home from a tour with rising sensations Wet Leg. This lineup makes a lot of sense; while Momma kick off their facetious journey to create mayhem in the rock and roll world, Wet Leg seem to be in the middle of doing that same thing, almost by accident, with their viral hit “Chaise Lounge.” (Wet Leg’s album just debuted at #1 in their native England with the second biggest first-week numbers of the year so far.) “It was kind of like our first big-boy tour,” Weingarten says, explaining that they’d only really performed DIY shows before. This time they had laminates, and they learned a lot about what life is like on bigger stages: “Don’t lose your laminate. Don’t post pictures of your laminate,” Friedman lists.
About the latter, Weingarten explains, “It’s a general rule that you’re not supposed to do that… like at all. I think we did not know.”
“Well, no one told us,” Friedman reasons. “So yeah, we fucked up a little.”
But Momma are not so interested in following rules, anyway. Despite starting out by making a blueprint of influential rock records, they reject the proposition that there’s a formula that goes into a good rock song. “I feel like it’s attitude or vibe over formula usually,” Ritch contemplates. Weingarten adds: “I think just not overthinking it and making sure that it’s genuine in some way. It doesn’t matter if it’s the same three chords all the way through, like most great rock songs are, just as long as it feels purposeful and honest,” she pauses to laugh, and then mumbles, “Fucking corny…” But Ritch agrees: “It’s really easy to tell if you’re faking with a rock song, more than other genres for some reason.”
“I think that’s the point of rock though,” Weingarten theorizes, “is that there’s no formula. There are so many different rock songs that appeal to so many different people. My boyfriend plays guitar, and he’s the one that’s shredding in the car to weird My Bloody Valentine songs. And I’m like, ‘This doesn’t have a hook, so I can’t listen to it.’ But then I’m the one that’s like, ‘I love this 2-minute-40-second Pixies song because it’s really catchy and it’s the same chords all the way through.’ It’s different for everyone.” She pauses to laugh again, knowing what she says next is going to be corny, but saying it anyway: “And that’s the beauty of it.” That’s the beauty of Household Name as well. By incorporating elements from a myriad of acts, from Nirvana and Veruca Salt to Pavement and Liz Phair, there is something on the album for all rock fans. Whether or not it miraculously charts at #1 and turns them into stars, it proves the persistence of rock with or without glamor and celebrity.
01 “Rip Off”
02 “Speeding 72”
06 “Tall Home”
09 “Callin Me”
11 “No Stage”
12 “No Bite”
05/06 – Leeds, UK @ Headrow House %
05/07 – Glasgow, UK @ Road To The Great Escape
05/10 – London, UK @ Brixton Windmill
05/12 – Brighton, UK @ The Great Escape
05/13 – Brighton, UK @ The Great Escape
05/14 – Manchester, UK @ YES
08/12 – Providence, RI @ Fete Music Hall !
08/16 – New Haven, CT @ Toad’s Place !
08/17 – Asbury Park, NJ @ The Stone Pony !
08/19 – Richmond, VA @ The National !
08/20 – Norfolk, VA @ The NorVa !
08/21 – Charlotte, NC @ Neighborhood Theatre !
08/23 – Orlando, FL @ The Beacham Theater !
08/24 – Tampa, FL @ The Ritz Ybor !
08/26 – Birmingham, AL @ Saturn !
08/27 – Knoxville, TN @ The Mill & Mine !
08/28 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall !
08/30 – Bloomington, IL @ The Castle Theatre !
08/31 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre !
09/02 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall !
09/03 – St Louis, MO @ The Pageant !
09/04 – Columbus, OH @ The Athenaeum Theatre !
09/06 – Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre !
09/07 – Millvale, PA @ Mr. Smalls Theatre !
09/09 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore !
09/12 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall #
09/13 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground #
09/14 – Toronto, ON @ The Drake #
09/16 – Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village #
09/17 – Minneapolis, MN @ Turf Club #
09/20 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza %
09/21 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios %
09/23 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop %
09/24 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo %
09/25 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room %
09/27 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar %
09/30 – Austin, TX @ Mohawk – Indoors ^
10/01 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links ^
10/02 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall – Upstairs ^
10/04 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl ^
10/07 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s #
10/08 – New York, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg #
% w/ Illuminati Hotties
! w/ Snail Mail
# w/ waveform*
% w/ Pardoner
^ w/ teethe
Household Name is out 7/1 via Polyvinyl/Lucky Number. Pre-order it here.