Westword caught up with Farmer over email to find out more about Still No Mother, recording at home, and how the new album differs from his Monarch Mtn material.
Westword: What is the significance of the album’s title, Still No Mother?
Logan Farmer: We had a working title that I eventually decided against, and while I was trying to settle on a new name, I wrote the album track "Vessels," which has the line ‘Still no mother on our side, desertion." The lyrics can be interpreted in many ways, which I prefer to leave to the listener, but it’s essentially referring to the earth in the traditional Gaia, mother-nature sense. It felt like a perfect name for the album.
Can you expand on exploring climate-change anxiety using the framework of the American folk song?
Folk music is a strange thing to define. For most people, myself included, it usually conjures very specific images of acoustic guitars and tambourines, singer-songwriter types, but at its core, it’s always been the music of the people, something deeply rooted in struggle and resilience that is meant to serve as a contrast to more commercial or "elitist" styles of music.
I was thinking about Woody Guthrie’s music during the Dust Bowl, particularly his collection Dust Bowl Ballads, which is pretty much a proto-concept album about environmental catastrophe, and I started to think about the role of American folk music today, and how we’re currently faced with a similar catastrophe, but on a permanent and global level.
Initially, the plan was to write an album like Guthrie’s, a collection of songs depicting normal Americans trying to exist in a world ravaged by climate change, but it slowly turned into a collection about my own feelings of climate anxiety and impending doom, which is something that often happens during the writing process. I guess I’m not as disciplined as Woody.
Was there one particular song that was the seed for Still No Mother, or did the concept present itself first and the songs followed?
I keep a living document on my phone where I’m constantly adding lyrics and phrases that occur to me throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll open it up when I sit down to write a song, and I find all sorts of patterns and repeating imagery and themes. A lot of it is nonsensical, but occasionally I’ll find a somewhat revealing glimpse into my subconscious and get a clear path forward. I just try to go wherever those instincts take me, and in this case, it manifested into a concept.
Does living in Fort Collins inform your songwriting at all, and did you grow up there?
I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and spent years playing music there. I moved to Fort Collins in 2017, and while I can’t say it’s informed my songwriting in any obvious way, it’s a really nice place to live.
There seems to be a certain amount of intimacy in many of the album’s songs, something that might be particularly conducive to recording at home that is hard to capture in a studio. Would you agree?
I think that’s totally possible. I’ve only worked in a studio a couple of times, but I’m sure for some people there’s a social and financial element that can interfere with the spontaneity and comfort you get when recording at home. You’re not completely at ease if you’re mentally calculating hourly rates or trying to get a solid vocal take while a stranger is at the board eating potato chips.
That being said, home recording can be pretty torturous. Most of the time I’m just struggling to get things to sound remotely professional. I’m not a gearhead by any means. I have a simple setup that I enjoy using, but I’m constantly running into issues that wouldn’t occur if I were in a professional setting or if I had more interest in the technical side of it.
Why did you decide to release Still No Mother under your name and not under the Monarch Mtn moniker?
The name Monarch Mtn has never been very close to me. I’ve always used a moniker to maintain a level of separation between myself and the music, partly for privacy and partly as a way to keep my ego out of it. I think most musicians are inherently a little narcissistic — at least I am. So I hoped to avoid that by sort of compartmentalizing my identity, which felt unhealthy to me in the long term. Dropping the moniker and using my own name felt like an opportunity to finally embrace myself as the artist, to step out from behind that curtain.
How does Still No Mother differ from your previous releases as Monarch Mtn?
It’s a very dark and somber album, but I was definitely trying to be more playful with the production and melodies. I’m using less effects on my voice and laying more of an emphasis on organic textures and spontaneous recording techniques. Several of the tracks were done in a single take.
Pre-order Farmer's new album at Western Vinyl.