Mother Superior woulda been the absolute coolest band in my high school: three dudes, all knife-sharp on their chosen instruments, laying down a brutal version of a post-Cream/GFR bloozoid guitar boogie. They woulda been hosting bong-a-thons in the basement of my friends’ homes when their folks were away; heroes to one and all, they’d have been the subject of every reverential cafeteria aside, they woulda ruled that waterbed on the floor, tapestries hangin’ from the wall. They got that Seconal stomp down pat, they sound like a prelude to a Quaalude.
Hanging out at Mother Superior’s rehearsal room brings it all back home. The trio is rehearsing for a show at the Whisky, and their set is basically a showcase rundown of their new disc, Deep, which was produced by heaviness aficionado Henry Rollins. Deep is more of the same strange brew that ripped my ears off last year when I first encountered these guys: churning, roiling, picture-perfect takes on what many consider rock’s true golden age, the early ’70s.
“We get that all the time,” says guitarist Jim Wilson. “‘Hey, you guys are so much like Sabbath or Purple it’s unreal.’”
“Someone told me we were just like Robin Trower,” says drummer and die-hard Kiss lunatic Jason Mackenroth. “I’ve got a ton of records in my collection, but no Trower. Maybe I oughta get some.”
This brings mild chuckles from his bandmates, the kind of insider laughter that comes from years of being tight musically and personally. Mother Superior started life as a poppy, Beatles-inspired outfit back in their native Delaware, but upon arriving in L.A. and pitching up under their current title four years ago, they’ve since grown massive musical testicles, and are all the better for it. The band clamped on to a classic hard-rock, Brit approach like a pit bull on a postman — an hour with Mother S. is like a textbook romp through the pantheon of Angloid strutters and their Nixon-era American counterparts. You’ll hear snatches of Rare Earth and Mark Farner in the Detroit-friendly vocals, musical tidbits from Vanilla Fudge, Aerosmith, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Humble Pie and every pre-Pistols London ax trick in the book.
Sure, we’ve seen Lenny Kravitz, the Black Crowes and God knows how many others pillage the temple of ’71 hard-and-heavy, dress it up in faux-Gypsy patchouli-drenched finery and make like it’s hip to be hippie-dippie. But Mother Superior seem like the kind of gents who’d no sooner plonk down two yards for a velvet jacket and slacks on Melrose than they’d throw their hands in the air at a drum ’n’ bass orgy. These are just three dudes playing their cherished version of the old-school white-boy blues, and doing it very well.
The band’s approach hasn’t won them a lot of support from the besuited weasels who make or break careers in L.A. “We’ve been approached here and there by the labels, but we don’t take them
seriously,” says Marcus Blake, the band’s bassist and supplier of Jack Bruce–like high harmonies. “One week, it’s ‘Guitars are out,’ then we’re ‘on the cutting edge of guitars coming back.’ I can’t even keep track of it anymore.”
Mother Superior has made a name for itself without much support or visibility. The band’s debut disc, Kaleidoscope, sold out its initial pressing in stores all over the country. One thing in the band’s favor is that guitarist Wilson does his day-toiling at Aron’s Records and knows the indie ins and outs like the back of his hand, experience that enabled him to score his band national distribution. While the album did best right here in L.A., “It sells a lot in Reno, Philly, couldn’t tell you why,” he says with a grin. “We’ll just keep churning them out on our own. Why wait for other people to help you when all they do is slow you down?”
“We’ll do 20 records and then retire, then reunite,” says Blake, obviously a student of rock history. “Then the three solo discs, like Kiss.”
The mind boggles. But more intriguing is the trio’s relationship with Henry Rollins, whose production of Deep (along with master engineer Brian Kehew) is modern enough to make the band unretro but sufficiently keen-eared to capture the
dynamics of the ’70s power trio. So
enamored of Mother Superior’s superior rock skills was the singer that he’s hired them to back him up on an upcoming solo disc. His main request? “He wants us to come up with shit that’s totally in the Thin Lizzy groove,” says Wilson. “So we’ve been working with him on that.” Jeez, Mother Superior attempting to simulate another legendary guitar act from the early ’70s? Easy as (Humble) pie.