It's bizarre the things that you'll get up to while awaiting that highly-anticipated phone call that never seems to come. You know: checking that the telephone jacks are firmly in place, checking that you've hung up the receiver properly, etc. Okay, so maybe I don't always follow that routine, but I had no choice on one recent Tuesday morning, as one of my favourite guitarists and songwriters, Jagori Tanna (Jag, for short) of I Mother Earth, was scheduled to call.
Dialing in from Portland, Maine, where the Toronto-based group was playing that night, Jag wasted no time in bringing me up-to-date on all relevant Mother happenings: "Since the release [of the excellent Scenery and Fish CD] we've been touring the States, pretty much, and we did Canada earlier on. We went out for awhile with Stabbing Westward opening for us in Canada, and we opened for them in the States." With the band's latest album receiving abundant video and radio play north of the border, I asked the orange-haired guitarist ("It might be blue when we play Vancouver") how the Stateside response has been up to this point. "I haven't checked recently, and you know, I don't even care really right now," he replies. "I'm just looking forward to getting home, rehearsing for the [next] Canadian tour, and just goin' out and doin' it."
I Mother Earth are set to embark on a co-headlining Canadian tour with, um, Moist, that will see the cross-country jaunt begin here in Vancouver (at the Pacific Coliseum, January 20) and end with four sold-out dates at the Warehouse in Toronto. "Oh, it'll be great," exclaims Jag. "We're really looking forward to it. We all know Moist, we dig them and they're into us, so it should be good. Daniel [Mansilla, percussion] is out with us, and we'll be doing a lot of jamming. We're getting, like, 65-70 minutes to play, which is great, 'cuz we're used to some opening situations where we get to play maybe five songs, so..." Any chance of getting the opening slot on the Rush tour later on?! Laughter. "Everyone always says that," replies Jag. "That would be awesome, obviously. Unfortunately, they're doing their An Evening with Rush thing, so it's not possible right now."
Like many Canadians who place bands such as Rush or the Tragically Hip in a rock 'n roll echelon all of their own, I find the Mothers to have a similarly distinctive and defining quality to their work that separates them from your typical modern rock band, Canuck or otherwise. Sure, it's early (aside from 1996's Scenery and Fish, the band has only one other release, 1993's stellar Dig), but I have to believe that I Mother Earth are in this music thing for the long haul. "Oh yeah, the flavour-of-the-month status of some bands is of no interest to us," comments Jag. "As musicians, we're more interested in releasing albums over a period of years -- I hate singles."
Finally, with the rise of the neo-hippy rock scene with bands like Blues Traveler, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Widespread Panic, etc. (not to mention Carlos Santana's prominent influence on Jag himself), does Jag notice any common ground between his band and this growing "less alternative, more musical" aesthetic? "Nah, we basically want nothing to do with the hippy thing. With us, it's more of a morality thing. It's not about taking, say, the notes and stuff from the music of the era, as much as it is the spirit. It's just about your reasons for making music and keeping to that level without necessarily becoming all 'rich and famous.' We definitely stay with the music end of things."
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