The average person lives approximately 27,375 days. Each day is broken up by conforming to unrealistic expectations set forth by a broken society, all while being hypnotized by screens as life deteriorates into beige-colored microchips. To break free means to shove stereotypes aside and think deeply about our limited time on Earth. For moms, that means fighting misogyny to build a community that expels society’s narrow view of motherhood. Surrogates of change, the trio Governess were born from this idea andareset to release their second album, Zero, May 18th on Sister Polygon Records.
Erin McCarley (drums/vocals), Kieca Mahoney (bass/vocals), and Kim Weeks (guitar/vocals) formed Governess in February of 2014, waiting until mercury retrograde was over to have their first band practice. They had their first show in the spring of 2015, a little more than a year later.
The trio—who all live in the same neighborhood but didn’t know each other before they became mothers—met through their children. As they grew to know each other, they realized they had a similar sense of humor and ability to talk honestly about the darker sides of motherhood. The band started as a drunken wish after seeing a horribly sexist band live and, within a week, their anger over the performance inspired them to form Governess.
Anger motivated them to form a band, but McCarley, Mahoney, and Weeks were still plagued by more underlying existential questions: Should I do this for myself? Do I have the time do this for myself? Can I do this for myself?
Weeks recalls how she spent nights in her laundry room learning guitar on the lowest volume setting, so as not to wake anyone. The time she took to learn a new instrument became a cleansing and clarifying experience for her, she says. Mahoney never felt that she would choose purposely to do something like this just for herself, so she instead focused on the commitment she made to her bandmates. McCarley has been a practicing musician since the late ’90s, so it made sense for her that her next band would be one with moms. Still, for all three, the decision to form a band together was a choice.
The connection of being mothers in a band together allows them to be completely supportive of each other. They know they are always one sick kid away from not practicing, and everyday the band exists, it’s a miracle; a testimony to their need to express where they are in life at this moment, as mothers. As such, the kind of music they come together to make is extremely important to them.
Governess spends the most time on writing lyrics—a shared process—which sometimes brings up raw feelings. “Control Top,” a song from their self-titled first album, ends with the lyric “How can a full home feel so empty?” McCarley explains that this song was the only one the band didn’t create together. The song, which she wrote, was inspired by a spirit’s three-day occupation in her house. She brought home a Mr. Rogers record and it started skipping on the line “I’m so fancy.” Thinking it would make a really cool sample, she began to work on “Control Top” while being challenged by a spirit that she describes as a woman from the mid-20th century.
A newer song from Zero—which was produced by Jason Barnett—is “Space Garbage” which challenges the audience to consider deep geological time and the scope of the universe as we all exist simply as space garbage. Zero is an album that evolved to include references to decaying organisms and automated thinking. As McCarley further explains, we are all animals and natural beings but we’ve recently had a massive invasion of computer-chip technology into our lives. There’s a push-pull dichotomy between the two that we are all caught up in and, in the end, we think we are the center of it all when in fact we are but a very small part.
As their thinking evolved on Zero, so have their roles. Weeks plays keyboard, Mahoney adds ukulele, and McCarley contributes guitar flourishes. Zero presents a new genre of “bummer pop” that will have you moving your head while scratching it at the same time. It’s about getting angry but also overcoming and not wallowing in the things you lose as you grow older.
Governess’ label Sister Polygon has been instrumental in supporting them in their new freedom. The band has collectively worked with many people in the music industry in the last two decades, and Sister Polygon is everything they could want in a label. Governess has full artistic control as Sister Polygon doesn’t want to own or influence their art in any way; they’re responsive and stick to their word. As moms, time management is key, and to work with a label that’s as deadline-oriented and responsive as they are is a perfect match. “Sister Polygon doesn’t have any issues with our touring restrictions; they saw what we were about and what we wanted to give voice to and were supportive immediately,” McCarley says.
While Governess has no time to mess around, they do appreciate a good outfit. Their aesthetic pushes the boundaries of a uniform to create a physical representation of their mantras. They have big plans for their outfits for their release show on May 18, that some may consider to be—hint—“trashy.”
Governess is a band that prioritizes both music and mothering with an urgency that makes the days, hours, and minutes they use surpass time. They express the beauty and darkness of motherhood as both co-existing and sometimes being the same thing. Their honesty gives way for listeners to consider the space we take up and how our own hours could be spent—what will we do with our numbered days?
“Space Garbage” is available for pre-order at Sister Polygon Records. Governess plays a record release show on May 18 with Cool People at Comet Ping Pong. 10 p.m. $12.