In the spotlight – ALTERED BY MOM is an alt-rock/indie duo from Toronto (Canada) consisting of Gina Kennedy and Devo Lougheed, that combine a knack for infectious melodies and classic songwriting with a quirky sense of humour and a tongue-in-cheek post-grunge aesthetic. They sound like Alanis Morissette, Oliva Rodrigo and Sloan chowing down on a party sub in the security line at YYZ. We sat down with Gina and spoke about their new single ‘Waiting on a Sign That’s Already There’ and the EP that’ll be out June 30th.
How did you get into music in the first place? Do you come from a musical home or was there a specific band or artist that peaked your interest?
“I’m from Nova Scotia where music is just part of the fabric of life. I’ve been playing music since I was very young. There was some music in my external family, but my parents don’t play any instruments or anything. My mom did have great taste in music though and she was really great at exposing me to strong female leads like Lorrie Morgan and Shania Twain when I was young. So I really clung onto that.”
You have been releasing music together as Altered By Mom since 2016. Can you talk about how you got together and the vision for the project?
“Devo and I have been friends for a long time and are now a married couple, but we started playing music as friends. We met because we had all the same mutual friends (laughs). I actually had my left arm run over by a car before Altered by Mom was born, and was devastated that I would never be able to play music again. That was around the time Devo and I started writing songs together. He showed me these awesome unreleased songs he had, and I spent almost everyday playing them on the bass, which was the best physio ever. The doctors were stunned at how great it was for my mobility and I got about 98% of my movement back. Once I discovered these tunes, Altered by Mom was born and we’ve never looked back since.”
What do you admire most about each other as people and as musicians?
“I can only speak from my point of view but I really admire Devo’s positivity. He’s the most fun person to be in a band with, and is almost never cranky – unless he can’t have a coffee. He’s also my biggest cheerleader and really inspires me to go for it creatively everyday. As a musician, he has this amazing ability to play everything flawlessly. He’s one of those uber talented people who can pick up any instrument and play it right away.”
I figure there must be a story to the band name?
“Ah yes, the golden question! (laughs) We’re giving away all our secrets here. So we like to say that we’re all a little altered by mom, but the real story is that, Devo was in that crisis mode that every artist experiences a few times in their careers where you suddenly want to throw it all out the window and just get a regular job. So, he sent a resume to his mother (whom I adore) for a look over and she replied “Alteredbymom.doc”. He never even opened the email, he knew right away that was the name of our new band.”
What do you think sets your music apart?
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We love to let the audience know that you’re allowed to have fun. Our songs have very singable hooks that get stuck in your head but there’s also an element of humanity that you can relate to. We’re like that person who goes to a party and pets the cat. Our live shows can get pretty unhinged and we just want everyone to know that our party is a safe space where you can be yourself, no ego required.”
How would you describe your songwriting process?
“We approach writing music in a few different ways. Oftentimes we’ll each write songs on our own and bring them to one another as a complete idea where we work together to polish it up. Other times we start from scratch and write a song together from the ground up. We also love co-writing as something to get us out of old habits and we’ve had some great luck with that. For example the song ‘Gwendolynne’ we wrote with our good friend and prolific writer Ron Hawkins, and we just love it.”
What sparks your inspiration to write music?
“Life, really. Writing songs is about stories and sharing the human experience with one another. Whether it’s your own story or someone else’s at their core, songs are really just another way we connect with one another on a deeper level.”
You released one original song per week for all of 2020. That’s a total of 52 new songs. How hard was it to stay motivated to keep writing? Did you learn anything new in the process?
“That was such a fun project. We started writing before the pandemic happened, but during the lockdowns it was actually a great source of inspiration and a creative release for both of us. Personally, I really honed my skills as a songwriter, and we got to collaborate with some amazing people all over the world including Nigel Pulsford (Bush X). Once we got to song #46, there were definitely moments of “what are we going to write about now?”. But overall it was an amazing experience, and really solidified what we wanted our band to sound like going forward. Once it was done, we both took a few months off of songwriting, but now we both feel more creative than ever.”
What’s the backstory and influence behind your new single ‘Waiting on a Sign That’s Already There’?
“Touring Canadian musicians are no stranger to the Trans Canada Highway. Once, on a gas stop somewhere in the rural expanse between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, we met a somewhat hilariously out-of-place southern belle working the till. Making small talk about the weather, we asked if she thought it was going to rain. She replied “I’m just waitin’ on a sign”. Almost immediately, black clouds rolled in, lightning flashed, thunder cracked, and we got soaked on the way back to our vehicle. For the rest of the tour we joked about “waiting on a sign that’s already there”. That lyric became the foundation of a message of hope and reassurance to people going through difficult times. The song offers support, comfort, and self-assurance to someone who is feeling overwhelmed or isolated. The lyrics are a reminder that everyone experiences pain and sadness at some point in their lives, and that it’s okay to ask for help. While we hope the song’s lyrics are universal and relatable, it is also influenced directly by our own struggles with depression and anxiety. We wanted to offer ‘Waiting on a Sign That’s Already There’ as a message of hope to ourselves as well as to others.”
You have an EP coming out 30th June. What can we expect?
“Big guitar riffs, chorus’ that’ll get stuck in your head and really fun songs. The overarching theme of this new EP is that sometimes you just have to trust the process. Things will happen and come to you when you’re ready for them, and not a moment sooner. We’re both really proud of this (snack size) piece of work.”
If you could have a song collaborated with any band or singer, who would it be and why?
“We would love to collaborate with Aqua, because we love to say we’re Canada’s Aqua. We have similar funky styles, although more guitar driven overall, and they really know who they are as a band. I’ve had the chance to see them live and they absolutely rip as a band. I would also love to have a music hang or write a song with Melissa Auf der Maur as she’s Canadian, a fellow bassist, and was in one of the best rock bands of all time.”
Where do you see the band being in a couple of years’ time?
“We would love to start growing our fan base in europe. We’re actually working on that aspect right now, so we’re hoping to get over there in 2024, plus we’ve got a few more musical offerings to come in the next few months, so keep your eyes peeled for those!”
What’s on the horizon?
“Lots of summer shows! We’re headed out to the East Coast of Canada and across the country this fall!”
What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?
“It’s really hard to choose as you have great taste in artists! But we really like the track from HOL – ‘Lipstick Muse’. The big anthemic drums catch you right off the top. When the vocals come in it gives a big Beabadoobee vibe, who I love. We really pride ourselves on our harmonies as a band, and they slay the harms in the chorus of this tune. Maybe we can play a show together sometime!!”
What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?
“OK so for a bonus track, you gotta check out our pals Hyaenas. They rip and everyone needs to know about them, here’s their tune ‘Another Level’.
Altered by Mom’s EP ‘Ahem’ is out June 30th!
Written by: leancool20
Ahem Alanis Morissette alt-rock Altered By Mom Aqua canada cooltop20 Devo Gina Kennedy HOL Hyaenas indie Lipstick Muse Lougheed Melissa Auf der Maur Nigel Pulsford Sloan Toronto Trans Canada Highway Waiting on a Sign That’s Already There
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