Turning the page with Kristine Leschper - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Kristine Leschper has been writing soft and thoughtfully composed music since breaking into the Athens, Georgia music scene in 2013 under the name Mothers. Leschper and her band quickly made a name for themselves on the strength of their achingly beautiful debut When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired. After touring extensively domestically and overseas, Leschper settled in Philadelphia to produce the band’s more experimental sophomore record, Render Another Ugly Method. Now an established Philadelphian, Leschper has shed the name Mothers, a change she describes as signifying a truer version of her music and vision, and put out the shimmering and atmospheric The Opening, Or Closing Of A Door on March 4th. 

The past few years have been pivotal for Leschper as an artist and a citizen, as she explained to WXPN. She chose Philadelphia to call home for the same reasons many other musicians do: the community of working artists is friendly and approachable here, as well as diverse and multi-talented. And there’s a legacy of musical innovation that’s palpable at times; Leschper nods to artists such as jazz visionary Sun Ra, as well as the founders of Philly Soul who “could never be compartmentalized” and stretched outside existing artistic boundaries. 

Kristine Leschper - "Blue"

In this new environment, Leschper has honed a new identity built on optimism and contentment that came from her relationships in Philadelphia and an improved sense of self. Mothers was a cathartic release for some of Leschper’s most uncomfortable feelings, harbored during a time of personal turmoil, and now that the old name is behind her, she’s made room for a positive change. “I have been in quite a transition myself, moving away from these ironic, cynical ways of thinking and moving into something I find a lot more energizing, which is looking for hope and trying to encourage people, trying to encourage myself,” Leschper says. “The name change is not only me sort of turning the page and starting something new, it’s also a way of setting an intention and saying ‘I am going to work towards making music now that is more in line with my worldview.’”

The Opening, Or Closing Of A Door, the culmination of Leschper’s internal searching, is bursting with love. It’s delicate and organic, burning slowly over thirteen zigzagging and eclectic compositions. Written and recorded mostly alone and at home, The Opening was Leschper’s first foray into production. She also learned bass and drum rudiments to fill out her demos, so that when the songs were shared with other musical collaborators, “there was already a very clear vision of where the song was going, and there was less room for it to wildly change.” Although The Opening is a deeply personal record for Leschper, she does recognize the invaluable contributions of friends and bandmates like Matt Aderack, Garrett Burke, and Sammy Weisman.

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A post shared by Kristine Leschper (@kristineleschper)

When asked about her home recording process, Leschper described a bedroom setting with minimal equipment, mostly a computer, speakers, and limited inputs. “A lot of people worry about not having the right equipment, or not having the right things to be able to do what they want, and it’s so possible to make music and art without having all the fancy gadgets that you wish that you had,” she says. Since the pandemic, Leschper points out, she’s been listening to music more deeply, and that’s affected her recording process. She found that songs seem to build onto themselves like sculptures, or something physical to be viewed from all directions. “Sounds are vibrations in different frequencies, and you can think of them in this physical sense when you’re building a recording…these components are built on one another that drop out here and rise up in this area…it’s quite topographical.”

Leschper’s influences for The Opening, Or Closing Of A Door are scattered, but not disconnected. Her background as an art student in a studio setting taught her to be self-critical, and examine her work by asking, “Is this effective? How could this be more effective?” But her decision-making process is also led by a strong sense of identity and values; as Leschper points out, “I think when you’re following your own path, things kind of have a consistency to them.” One thing on the record that was important to Leschper is its effect on the body. Influenced by Afro-Brazilian music like samba and bossa nova, she says, “That’s a distinction I would make between this and other music that I’ve made: that there’s a real focus on how this music feels in the body-–how it makes you move, whether it makes you want to move or not.”

A more shocking influence on the record was Leschper’s connection to Mister Rogers that she discovered watching the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? “I realized how straightforward you can be with your intentions, because Mister Rogers’ audience was largely children, and he’s speaking in these very simple terms,” she says. Although The Opening is largely metaphorical and impressionistic, some of Leschper’s most poignant lyrics make a direct address to her audience, like on the album’s finale, “Thank You.” “I wanted a way to express my gratitude for people listening, and for the people who were such a big part of this time in my life.” In a live take she sings, “Thank you for being my friend / Things were much harder before you / My love is for you / My love is for me, too.”

Kristine Leschper - "Thank You" (Full Album Stream)

You can listen to The Opening, Or Closing Of A Door now wherever you stream music. Tickets for Leschper’s album release show at Johnny Brenda’s on April 9th are also still available, and can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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