Momma and the making of Household Name
“It just felt like it was seamless. I feel like we were just ready for it.”
A couple of months ago we got a small taste of what was to come from Brooklyn based alt-rockers Momma with the release of the single Speeding 72. Today that new chapter opens as their latest studio album Household Name enters the world via Lucky Number Music.
Produced by multi-instrumentalist Aron Kobayashi Ritch and mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Emily Lazar, it’s an album that demonstrates Momma’s growth as artists from their previous LP’s, whilst still sporting that signature Momma style and charm. It’s a release that aims to capture who the band is - musically and lyrically, as they move from recording in GarageBand to a recording studio, Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten refine their musical abilities as their sound becomes more polished. The record see’s the cohesive duo write from personal experiences for the first time, skillfully weaving references and metaphors into the fabric of Household Name’s overarching theme: the rise and fall of the rock star, and the tropes and tribulations that come with that arc.
In the build up to the LP’s release, we met up with Etta and Allegra to chat about what they’ve been up to the past couple years, plans for the future, and of course all things Household Name. Be sure to hit play on the new album and learn a bit more about it and Momma below.
It’s been two years since your last album, what’s been keeping you busy musically and non musically in this time?
Etta: The thing that keeps me the busiest honestly is working, and paying rent unfortunately. But I mean, it took like a year and a half almost to do this next record that's coming out on Friday. So I guess just that mainly.
I saw that you signed to Lucky Number Music - congratulations.
Both: Thank you.
How did that feel during a time of uncertainty with COVID and just the state of the music industry?
Etta: It felt really surreal to even be signing a contract during a time where we couldn't perform. Enough people wanted to bet on us that much, and believed in us that much. That was pretty surreal. Lucky Numbers seemed like such a good fit for a label abroad. Especially because I remember when we just had like, a few demos and we were shopping around and we were just talking to a bunch of different people and things like that. We had a call with Steve from Lucky number and he specifically was quoting lyrics from our demos and stuff like that, and telling us different stories that he got reminded of, asking us questions about it and things like that, and I remember going like he actually really likes this, it felt like someone really, really believed in us. So that was really cool.
You also signed before even finishing college, have you finished college now? What were you studying?
Etta: Yeah, finished, graduated.
Allegra: I've been graduated for a while, not a while but two years. So it was just Etta that we were waiting on. Yeah.
Etta: I took my sweet time, but I graduated so I’m happy about it, and I studied illustration.
How was the transition from working on GarageBand and having a very hands on approach, to going into a studio space and bringing a producer into the process?
Allegra: Yeah, I feel like it was a pretty easy transition. It was actually the same producer as Two Of Me, which is Aron who’s our best friend. So it was pretty easy and a lot of the demoing we demoed basically for a year before we even went into the studio, and that was in Aron's bedroom. So we have this really nice transitional period of basically just DIY bedroom recordings, which was awesome, and then stepping into the studio for the first time. We just felt really prepared and rehearsed, and I don't know it just felt like it was seamless. I feel like we were just ready for it.
Did you feel that this transition to recording in a studio space was important to kind of “step up”?
Etta: Yeah, totally. I mean, there's like certain sounds. Well, first of all, in terms of tracking drums, you have to find a good space for that, you know for Two Of Me for example, Aron had a connection with one of his friends who had his own studio to record drums and even though Aron’s home studio in LA is like amazing, I don't think he would want to record drums there. I think he'd want to go to a more professional studio space. So first and foremost, in terms of getting a really quality drum sound and being able to switch out snares and different things, I'm talking about as if I know exactly what I'm talking about but I have no idea on anything about drums. But I think that that’s super important in terms of getting into a studio, but then we were able to record certain tones for our guitars in a big studio using a Marshall stack for example, where you could get really heavy tones that added so much to the sound on the record. Specifically on a lot of, or like on specific songs. So yeah, the studio definitely changed the game and it felt super legit. It was cool to be able to go to a studio 10 days straight and just be like, really doing it.
The album is titled Household Name, and it’s about the rise and fall of the rock star, and the tropes and tribulations that come with that arc. What inspired this theme? And was it something determined before you had started writing?
Allegra: Definitely something we had decided before we started or I guess maybe after we wrote the first song, before we wrote the rest of the record. The first song that we wrote was Rockstar, which is I mean, that's basically the only song that’s like 1000% on brand. We like to write conceptually, and we had a concept of the last record, and we kind of were just talking about if we wanted a concept or what direction we wanted to go in. I think just a lot of media that we were consuming at the time like Tenacious D and Josie the Pussycats were really big inspirations for us. So we just started to go in that direction and kind of used it as a blueprint rather than like a full on “we have to stick to this concept” it just kind of guided us loosely.
Yeah, that kind of brings me to my next question - you list artists such as Nirvana, Pavement, Smashing Pumpkins and Garbage as inspirations, how did you find musically making something reminiscent of that whilst still making it your own and relevant in a modern music context?
Etta: It's interesting because like, yeah, it's so weird. I don't think we were trying to be reminiscent of those people. I just think that we are super inspired by them. Do you know what I mean? Like I just think that they naturally kind of find their way into it.
Yeah more like a subconscious thing.
Etta: Exactly. I think that we have our own way of writing and the way that we play our guitars and stuff like that, that's like, pretty different from those types of bands. But we love them so much, so I think that it's inevitable that they're going to seep-in in certain ways, whether that's like the chord progression or how we sing a melody, or whatever it may be. Yeah, so I don't know. I don't know if there was a specific route that we did with that. I think it was just pretty subconscious.
This is also the first time you’ve put inspiration from your own lives into songs, how did that feel? Was it quite nerve wracking?
Allegra: I don't think it was nerve wracking. I mean, I think it was good first of all. Second of all, there's not really a second of all. It felt good. I don't think it was nerve wracking. I think it was kind of just natural, it was just a formative period in both of our lives. So obviously, we were going to end up writing something that was more personal and it just felt like I don't know, I think the lyrics just flowed a lot easier when we were writing about specific moments or experiences that are personal lives opposed to writing stories about characters, you know. Literally lyrics were written and I think we wrote the lyrics to Speeding 72 in like 15 minutes. It just flows a lot easier when you're not thinking about it too much. Right Etta?
Etta: Most definitely, and especially I think there are moments when if we're writing lyrics together, there are moments we're just so on the same page and so excited about what we're writing that metaphors, or different words, or wordplay just works really easily. And I think that we also are good at being like, “I don't know about that idea, but we can get back to it” or like, “yeah, no, that's sick, let's keep on thinking about something along the lines of referencing a pavement song” or whatever it may be. You know what I mean? So yeah, we write really well together. That's like such a blessing.
That's amazing, it’s really what you want.
Your previous two albums are 10 tracks, the new one is 12, was that something that was intentional from the start?
Allegra: I remember there being a moment where we were like, “are we going over 10?” Because we had written 16, so we had a bank of 16 to choose from, and I just remember there was a moment where like, “are we doing a 12 track record? That's crazy, what!” But we just wrote as much as we could and then when the time was up, we were kind of like “alright, how many do we have” and there were 16 and then just what we ended up choosing and what we thought was ready and what we thought was like a cohesive record ended up being 12. I think if we had to cut, there was no way we were going to cut 2, right?
Etta: Yeah no, I remember having a conversation with an old manager of ours, where I think he was potentially suggesting 10 or something. And we were just like, there's no way, like we already cut four songs that we really like, how are we going to be able to cut another two? and that was the thing of like, okay, well, if we were going to write for the next record, we could either have six or four songs to kind of have as a jumping off point. Not saying that they're gonna make it on the next record, but like you know, where we can look back and see what we want to do or change. 12 songs was the best route, It seemed like the best way to tell the full story.
Will those songs be making it to your live sets?
Allegra: Yeah, they're not really finished yet, that's kind of why they didn't make the cut. So we definitely won't play them live for a while. I'd like to revisit all those songs though, I think they're all great.
Etta: I literally love all of them, one I got stuck in my head the other day, which is really funny. But yeah, I think the reason why they didn't, not even that they're like, unfinished, I think just like in the time constraint that we had, those were just the ones that felt like they needed more work than the rest. They weren't as polished. But they're like fully formed, the ideas almost there. So yeah, hopefully we'll go back to them and maybe you'll see a few of them.
Allegra: There was versions of the record with the songs on them. After everything was done, we all made our own sequencing and picked out the 12 or the 11 or the 10 that we felt was the record, and there was definitely versions being thrown around were there was b-sides on the record, but then they just ended up not making it so I don't think that they're like canned forever. For sure.
And along those lines, do you usually like to trial songs live or are they a complete secret until you release them?
Etta: We definitely play songs that haven't been released yet. Like 1000% we do that. But in terms of songs that we're trying out to see if we should work on them more, we don't do that if that makes sense.
Allegra: We've been playing a lot of the songs on Household Name for months before they've been out, but that's just because we knew that they were going to be out eventually.
Yeah that makes sense! Do you have any upcoming live shows/ tours?
Etta: We're gonna be gone for a little while at the beginning of August, we're going on tour with Snail Mail, which will be really fun. We'll do that for about three weeks and then after that we have a really short break for about two days I think, and then we're out on a US run, and then there's maybe something happening at the end of the year, but I don't think we can talk about it.
Am I allowed to ask if there are any future plans to head to Australia?
Etta: Oh, I hope so.
Allegra: Nothing set in stone right now but I think there's been talks about 2023, but nothing has been planned yet. But I know that that's definitely a priority for us.
Well, I really look forward to when you do make it over! Thank-you so much for chatting with me and congratulations on the album release Friday!
Both: Thank you.
Momma’s new album Household Name is out now via Lucky Number Music/ Virgin Music Australia.