Having kids, starting a day job and moving to the suburbs marks the end of many musicians’ creative lives. For Jennie Mather, who has two children and works as a recovery-room nurse at Kaiser Permanente, these were all big changes — but they never stopped her from pursuing music.
Mather’s latest band, Weathered Statues, is one of her best projects to date. Fleshed out by guitarist Jason Heller, drummer Andrew Warner of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, and bassist Bryan Flanagan, the group released its debut album, Borderlands, on the Finnish independent label Svart Records on April 27. Weathered Statues will celebrate the release with a hometown show at the hi-dive on Friday, May 11.
For Mather, the album is an important benchmark in her musical career, proof that art can support life — and that life doesn’t have to be sacrificed for art.
Mather and Heller started their first band, Hyacinth, back in 2000, when they were both employees at Wax Trax Records. Heller, who played with Crestfallen and other projects, was already well known in Denver’s music scene.
As for Hyacinth, “it was a very short-lived band,” Mather says. “We had four total shows, and we never recorded. The only recording we have is from the soundboard from a show at the Bluebird.”
Through Heller, she met her husband, John, who was also in Crestfallen. The two quickly hit it off, romantically and musically.
Together with Heller, they formed Puzzled Panther. Around that same time, Jennie became pregnant with their son Gage. After he was born, the couple parted ways with Heller and tried to figure out how to continue playing music.
“After I had my first child, we moved down to Park Meadows,” Mather says. “It was hard to get a babysitter, and I realized that the only way we could actually be in a band together is if we practiced at our house, so we built a practice space in our basement. We double-walled, put up double drywall and put some dead space in the ceiling — so if you’re outside, you can’t hear it at all. Neighbors have no clue.”
In 2009 they started the Nervous with bassist Flanagan and drummer Chuck Coffey of SPELLS, playing jangly throwback garage punk, releasing an EP, and leaving the confines of the suburban basement to play feverishly around Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Denver. Eventually, the band replaced Coffey with Brian Polk of Joy Subtraction and, later, with Josh Stratton of the Great Panic.
In 2014 the bandmates traveled to Portland to record with Stan Wright at Buzz or Howl Studios and toured the West Coast — a challenge with children, of which they now had two. “We brought them with us,” Mather says. “Gage was ten and Ian was eight. They had to go with us in the van to the Boise show. We dragged them along, but they did so well. John’s stepbrother lives in Seattle, so after that first show, we drove there, he came and got them, took them home with him, then later put them on a plane and sent them home.”
In 2015, after playing with the Finnish band Kuudes Silmä at Club Scum in Denver, the group used the connection to tour Europe, playing shows in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Finland and the U.K.
“We did half the tour with Kuudes Silmä and the rest with Dirty Protest,” Mather says. “We played some of the coolest squats in Europe. Some of these places were amazing, and also super-gross and slimy. There were rats all over the place. At the shows, people were throwing us around and dancing. It was so much fun!”
Shortly after returning to Denver, Stratton left the band, and John and Jennie debated whether to continue on with the project.
“There were times that, especially when you have kids, it’s hard to get along,” Mather says. “We went through some difficulties with our older son, and it was really taxing on our relationship. We never fought about the band, though. It was like therapy. What I loved about the Nervous is that it was very cathartic. If I had a terrible day, I could just scream in people’s faces, and I’d feel so much better.”
Despite this realization, the couple decided to part ways musically and play with other acts.
In 2016, Mather again joined forces with Heller and recruited drummer Warner, bassist Neil Keener and guitarist Chuck French (of Git Some and Planes Mistaken for Stars) to form Cloak of Organs, originally a heavy doom-infused band brightened up by Mather’s presence.
That act released a self-titled EP in June 2016 and played a handful of shows before scheduling conflicts hastened its demise.
While Mather bemoaned the false start, she, Heller and Warner quickly regrouped, adding Flanagan on bass, and formed Weathered Statues in 2017. It didn’t take long for the four friends, who had all played in various projects with each other, to find their footing, with Mather at the helm.
“Since we started our first band together, I’ve been in awe of her singing and stage presence,” Heller says of Mather. “She’s just a naturally gifted vocalist and frontwoman. She really got to demonstrate that in the Nervous, which was one of my favorite Denver bands ever. She stepped in and instantly transformed Cloak of Organs for the better. Also, I credit the creation of Weathered Statues to her. Plus, she’s hilarious. She’s just as likely to bust into an old show tune at practice as she is a Depeche Mode song.”
Mather, whose voice continues to progress and mature with each project, has charted new territory with Weathered Statues. Throughout tracks like “Corpse Candle” and the standout “Heather,” she combines the punk bombast of the Nervous with a soulful vibrato and texture that make Weathered Statues fun and danceable despite its gloomy veneer.
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The group recorded Borderlands at Module Overload Studios in Denver, and soon after signed with Svart, aided by Mather’s connections to European musicians. The team at Svart largely pushes doom and other heavy-metal acts, but was drawn to Weathered Statues’ brand of pulsing gothic dance music and Mather’s strident vocals.
This is the first time in her career that Mather has released music on an international label. In late 2018, she’ll return to Europe to tour with her new band, but not at the expense of her job and family. Music, for her, is just one of many things that define her.
“I’ve watched a lot of people try to go ‘all in,’ and it looks really hard to actually make a living. Some people are all in and they’re just struggling to get by,” she says. “I’m glad that they’re able to do it, to live as musicians, but I also love my family and medicine. I think everyone assumes when you have a family or you have a job, you’re in a bar playing covers. It feels really good to feel like I’m being creative. I just really love being able to play.”
Weathered Statues album release
With Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Echo Beds, Friday, May 11, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $10, 303-733-0230.