Mother Tongue are:
David Gould – Bass, Vocals
Bryan Tulao – Guitar, Vocals
Christian Leibfried – Guitar, Vocals
Sasha Popovic – Drums
Mother Tongue was founded in Austin, Texas, in October 1990. Jesse Tobias (Guitar), Geoff Haba (Drums) and Christian Leibfried (Guitar) had already been playing together when they found their new bass player in David Gould through an ad in the newspaper. The band’s first name during the very early days was None More Black, a refenrence to the movie Spinal Tap.
“We really wanted a name that symbolized something deeper than your average name. Mother Tongue symbolizes the first language, communication through means other than words. Like with rhythm.” – Geoff
Mother Tongue’s first live show was at the Cannibal Club in Austin in March 1991. At that time they played mostly instrumental songs, which were heavily influenced by the local blues scene. Only sporadic chanting of Davo was found in the song arrangements and Mother Tongue was still looking for a singer, who suited the band and its unconventional sound.
“We tried out about 20 vocalists which ranged from the strange to the awful to the dangerous, including a felon on the run who kept changing his name during his audition.” – Davo
The band finished their first demo, titled Straight From The Soul Music, shortly after with Davo singing lead vocals. In early 1992 Mother Tongue moved to Los Angeles to provide a future for the band:
“We felt that LA would give the band a better chance to make it. Mother Tongue is more like city music, as opposed to what was happening in Austin, which was blues, rockabilly and hippie music. Austin, however, what an incredible band to become a place. We rehearsed for hours and hours on end and played two hour shows. We saw incredible blues musicians like Buddy Guy, James Cotton, John Lee Hooker (this is where Mother Tongue got the dynamics from drop down) and the lifestyle in Texas was definitely more relaxed and easy.” – Davo
They played their first local concert at Al’s Bar in downtown L.A., which is where Bryan Tulao, who had been friends with Davo since his childhood days, first saw the band live. Many more live shows followed and Mother Tongue was quickly gaining traction and establishing themselves in the music scene as one of the most dynamic and explosive live acts around.
During that time the band played weekly residencies in a club called The Central, which was later renamed Viper Room. One evening Ian Astbury from The Cult saw the band live there and was enthusiastic, as were major record companies, which increasingly courted Mother Tongue. Ian then put Mother Tongue in coctact with their A&R Manager and the band ended up signing with Epic Records, a subdivision of Sony, in 1993. At that point Jesse Tobias suddenly quit the band. A mutual friend, who was also friends with Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, brought Anthony to a Mother Tongue concert to check out their guitarrists as possible replacements for Arik Marshall. Jesse left soon after to join the Chili Peppers. It was a bitter blow for the band, who had just started to record their debut album. Although Mother Tongue tried out several guitarists, it ended up being a friend, who would join the band. Bryan had been jamming with Christian for a while already and when the rest of the band joined in, it quickly became apparent that Bryan would become their new band member.
Mother Tongue chose Mario Caldato Jr. to produce their debut record.
“We were going to do half of the record with Jim Rondinelli and half with Mario Caldato Jr. We liked the sound of the Beastie Boys and Matthew Sweet records. By the time it got to doing the actual record our new A & R guy was sort of producing and so were we but it was chaotic. A definite case of too many cooks and wasted money.” – Geoff
After they finished recording Mother Tongue embarked on their first national tour with Kyuss and further shows throughout Europe. Meanwhile Epic showed little patience and effort in promoting a very uncommerial album that didn’t include any radio friendly songs. Mother Tongue played with great bands – Rage Against the Machine, Pavement, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. – but sold very few albums. They quickly slipped from being a ‘hot signing’ to being an un-priority and tax write-off for their label.
“Basically everybody was selling us an image of ourselves. They gave us this big hot-rod and we were all like: Fuck yeah, this is gonna rock! We’ll start this thing, hit the gas, we’re gonna split! And it even had the engine sounding good, so we sat down, pushed on the gas and it performed like a Subaru.” – Christian
A second tour in Europe, in support of Ian Astbury and The Cult, in winter 1994 offered a new perspective, after a feeling of disappointment had slowly taken over. These tours were the foundation for the close bond between Mother Tongue and Europe. Far away from the fickle and jaded american audience, Mother Tongue was able to gather a loyal fan base that would continue to believe in a band that actually no longer really existed:
“The band then was pretty fucking tense back. We did not really hang out with each other outside of playing onstage. We loved each other, but everyone in the band was dealing with the stress of wondering what the fuck is going on with our band. Davo would take off by himself to go do his thing, write, shop, stretch, be alone. Christian would deliberately wake up before anyone else so he could split and avoid having to hang out with us. I would hang out with Geoff and go sightseeing or walking around whatever town we happened to be in. We would really only come together onstage and that was fucking intense, a straight out fucking exorcism through music of what we were all feeling. Usually those shows were pretty heavy and dark, cause that was the Head we were all in. The conflicts within the band were increasing, egos and resentments were burning hotter as the tour went on.” – Bryan
Once back in Los Angeles, tension continued to build up. Doubt and uncertainty, disappointment in sales numbers, a label and a manager who showed less support with each passing day, intensified the conflict. Mother Tongue pretty much went into hiatus. Davo became engaged to his current wife and founded a family, Christian was couch surfing with different friends and Geoff went back to Austin to his family.
“The time with Sony was a lot like our lives in general: Exciting, stressful, turbulent, chaotic, destructive, desillusional bizarre and ill planned.” – Davo
Mother Tongue started to play local shows again after a while, but things just weren’t the same anymore. The band had lost its innocense and had now almost reached a standstill:
“We were doing demos for new songs to play and to eventually record for our next record. A lot of these songs were pretty fucking dark, some were absolutely beautiful, but our perspective was all fucked up We were all pulling in different directions and bringing in our “own” songs, and some of those songs would be treated with very a strong lack of enthusiasm, which of course started a fucked up argument and battle. The band just was not flowing, growing, working, dealing, feeling, playing together. We’ve since listened to songs that we had done for demos from that dark period of the band and there are some great songs, but at that time we could not see it, because we had soooo far our heads up our asses ridiculous. It’s a shame. With the band basically pulling apart and imploding due to innumerable reasons, the thought of us breaking up started coming to the surface. And to make things more fucked up, my father died very unexpectedly, Davo’s sister in law was murdered, Geoff was going through an intense emotional tornado and the band’s roadie and Christians very close friend, who had an exellerating heroin habit, stole all of our vintage 1960’s and 70’s Strats and Fender Jazz Masters, our vintage Marshall amplifiers and most of our effects. That was pretty much the last straw that spun me into the darkest depression of my life and the band draped in a suffocating cloud of darkness.” – Bryan
The inevitable break-up followed in 1996.
“We play intense music, we have intense relationships with each other. When we broke up it was just heavy, like any strong relationship broke up it hard. It was not because of problems with Sony, we definitely broke up because the band could not write music anymore and we just were exhausted with each other.” – Davo
After they disbanded as a band, their individual paths went apart for a while. Davo and Christian later began to play together again, formed a group and called themselves The Seeing Eye Dogs. They only played a few gigs in Hollywood before the band split up again. Christian was also playing with his then-girlfriend in a folk-rock band called Hummingbird. Bryan played gigs with Olivia Barrish, a local singer. He was intrigued by the idea of working with Dave Jerden, who was to produce the album and had already worked with Jane’s Addiction. However, shortly after the recording began, the band broke up due to the drug problems of some members. Davo and Bryan were also playing a few shows with Jason Yates, the guitarist of a former local funk band called Momma Stud. They called themselves Stranger had gotten a solid local following after a few live performanesYet once again there was disagreements within the band, depression and personal dramas, which led to a lot of member rotation and a change in direction towards a dark, melancholic pop rock band that now called itself Vehicel, only to break apart shortly after. In 1998 Davo also played a small supporting role in the Miramax film Swingers.
“I’ve played in other bands, but even when I was not in Mother Tongue anymore, I was still in Mother Tongue. I could not get away from it.” – Davo
In the almost three years that followed, nothing cam close to the feeling that playing in Mother Tongue provided for them.
“Bands are gangs. They are. Well, at least what Mother Tongue – us against everybody and anybody who was against us, and always there for each other. Our weapon was music.” – Bryan
It was ultimately a longtime friend and local promoter who provided the initial spark for the band’s reunion, by talking them into playing a single show in 1999.
“It was definitely a bit awkward setting up, making little jokes, catching up a little bit with each other. When we all had our shit set up, we were like: Uh, what should we play? We just started jamming. This may sound so fucking corny and stereotypical, but from the very first few seconds playing together, we all just started smiling and laughing ’cause there was that undeniable magic we felt together playing, it felt so good. The first song we played was ‘Damage’, and that’s when we knew that the chemistry we had playing music together was very powerful, special and unlike any other experience we had playing with other people. We all agreed to do this show together, as long as we were all enjoying it and having fun.
I remember the night of the show, I came home and checked my phone messages. There were all these messages from people I had not talked with in ages who were calling to see if it was true that we were really playing. The show was at this club called ‘Dragonfly’, and I remember pulling up and seeing a line of people waiting to get in, and I thought to myself: Hmm, I wonder what band is opening the show and drawing all these people? When I walked up, I realized that those people were there to see us. It was a shock. All the people that had given up on the band years earlier and had ignored us and dismissed us were there that night giving us so much love. I would have to say that I have never felt such tangible magic like I felt that night. It was truly one of the most amazing experiences I have ever felt playing music. It was like Davo, Christian, Geoff and I were swept up into a tornado playing together. It really sounds fucking corny, but there is no way to describe the intense feeling we felt playing together that night. It was really one of the greatest shows ever.” – Bryan
This evening was a new beginning for Mother Tongue, a second chance. The new-found motivation, however, was relatively quickly replaced by the harsh reality. The band had no real prospect of a new contract with any label, the funding of even the immediate future of Mother Tongue was uncertain and also sparked well known disputes and Geoff continued to be at the center of them more often. The struggles within the band eventually led to Geoff and Mother Tongue parting ways. In the following years he travelled through the country and was involved in a wide variety of musical projects:
“There were lots of bands, most of them for a demo or something, some longer lived. I did music for Lexus commercials, I played with the Breeders for two weeks, did restaurant jazz gigs. For me LA was surreal but nothing very constant. Austin is a fantastic music city. I still think I’ll be back for good in LA, so I’ve hesitated to start anything in Austin and also have been very busy. Through all of this I’ve been recording my own stuff which has not been applicable to these situations, so I’m still looking for the right players. If I go back to LA, I’ll start with the restaurant gig crew and see where that goes. My home recordings are half music and half sound assembled, usually one or the other. I want to do more in the next live band than just drums, that is to run these sounds underneath, play keyboard and run some visual stuff like projections. Ideally I’d like to find musicians who could improve in a situation like that and play compositions as well As far as other stuff I did that got released, there was The Great Atomic Power, TVI, Slojack, Twenty Cent Crush, Sugar Bitch, Fairuza Balk, Los Super Elegant, the soundtrack to a few films, those commercials, the New York and Chicago Blue Man Group shows and some others I’ve forgotten.” – Geoff
The drummer position became a continuing issue for Mother Tongue. The first one to try was Chris Cano. He recorded his first album in 1996 with Mind Heavy Mustard, but left the band after their first tour to play in a band named Zelda. His latest project before joining Mother Tongue was an alternative rock band called Skycycle.
“Chris was the total opposite to Geoff. He was the kinda guy who would say: If I start a song at this speed, I end it at that speed.” – Bryan
It turned out that his interests were really more about being a session musician, or in other words, making as much money as possible with as little effort as possible. After a few concerts together and the first round of studio recordings for the upcoming second album they parted ways. The remaining half of the songs on Streetlight was then played by Gabriel Roland, aka Front Row.
“They asked me to come on board and check out these new songs, like ‘Nightmare’ or ‘F.T.W.’, that were just unbelievable. For me it was as if I was going to Musician Disneyland, like being in the Dead Kennedys, Sly and the Family Stone, Public Enemy, Jane’s Addiction and the Doors all at once. For any musician to be in any of those bands would be amazing. Multiply that by five and it’s the sickest shit ever.” – Gabriel Roland
Mother Tongue then found a new home in Noisolution, a small label from Berlin. After Robert Carranza (Beck, Supergrass, Jane’s Addiction) and Mario Caldato Jr. finished the final mix of their recordings, Mother Tongue’s second album Streetlight was released in March 2002, alongside an extensive tour in Europe with Kasey Chatila taking over the drummer position. Both the album and the tour became a great success for the band.
“I’m personally very proud of this album. We felt that the only way a second Mother Tongue record was going to be made, was if we made it ourselves. We learned how to do so much and we had to learn the hard way, but it’s honest. There is a long story behind every note on that record and I’m very happy with its triumphs and also some of its shortcomings. We made this record at all hours of the fucking night out of our minds delirious with fatigue and caffeine. When you’re in this state, things take on a different meaning. ‘Streetlight’ symbolizes the making of this album at night. It also symbolizes the themes of the songs, dealing with city life and city society issues. We tried to shed light on these things and also to come to a more hopeful and optimistic place in doing so. I think that Mother Tongue, despite what many people think, comes from very a ‘in the light’ place.” – Davo
Since Kasey Chatila, however, has his own band, called Gasoline Angels, Mother Tongue was still looking for a new drummer to join the band. They eventually teamed up with Sasha Popovic, a native Australian.
“I had to learn like 27 songs within six weeks up to a certain standard. And especially when playing with Mother Tongue… these guys are amazing musicians without a doubt, they really push you to the limit. It was definitely a very quick experience to sort of lock in and be in the band, becoming a part of who they are and what they are. It all happened really quick, we became instant brotherhood.” – Sash
For a band that was rarely on the sunny side of life, Sash was and still is one of the brighter experiences. Mother Tongue returned for a second tour in late 2002, during which the bond with their new drummer was manifested. Less than a year after Streetlight and just five months after their last tour, Mother Tongue then released their third studio album. Completed in record time and again produced by Robert Carranza, Ghost Note was launched in June 2003.
“We spent quite some time on tour working on new ideas and used our sound check time to work on new arrangements. We really could not wait to get into the studio as soon as we’re back. Songs like ‘Missing’, ‘That Man’ or ‘Alien’ are already older, others are all new and some were written and finished literally while recording them. It was exciting to go through this creative process, as our previous albums have always been involved with too much stress and disappointment. We’re all very proud of the result.” – Bryan
The following tour marked a new high point for the band, with numerous sold-out headlinging shows and international festival slots.
“Europe, and especially Germany, is very a beautiful, wonderful and magical place for us. This is home for Mother Tongue. The United States is a completely different experience. I wouldn’t even know how to compare it.” – Christian
For their next record Mother Tongue decided to take more time. That, however, turned into a much longer test of patience for both the band and fans than originally anticipated:
“We know we’ve said we’re close to finishing the new record, and we are, but things have taken some turns and stalls, and to be honest it’s been pretty frustrating. Frustrating in the fact That we are not touring this spring. Frustrating that this record is taking longer than we had planned. Frustrating that Christian’s beard shavings have been stolen and the hair will not be able to be pressed into each new CD. But On the bright side, the last couple of months have been one of the most exciting, creative and productive writing periods the band has had in many years. Just to set the record straight, over the past year we have written, recorded, experimented, finished and scrapped an entire record and the songs we felt will make it onto future MT records. While we were waiting on mixes the band had a writing explosion. We wrote a batch of songs we felt were so strong they had to be on the record, and that changed everything. We have never taken our time to write, experiment, and do pre-production. So this time around, that’s what we’re doing.” – Bryan
Conflicting schedules, various obstacles and a series of unfortuante events that lead to a split with their new label, pushed a new Mother Tongue album back into the indefinite future. Mother Tongue are no strangers to uphill battles though, and they embraced their new status as a completely independant, label free entity and released their self-funded EP Now or Never in 2004. The accompanying tour featured sold-out shows almost every single night. A second, untitled EP was released and sold on their 2006 European Tour.
In 2008 Mother Tongue finished their fourth studio album Follow the Trail. The band had found its missing link and like-minded comrade in producer/engineer/mixer Noah Shain (Orson, Endless Hallway). After multiple suggestions by ex-Journey frontman Steve Perry, the band finally set up a meeting. From there, both Noah and the band knew immediatly that they were on the same page, to create an album that would lay all excuses and defenses to rest.
With minimal promotion, word of mouth noteriety and intense over-the-top, sweat blood live performances Mother Tongue has steadily built up a fiercely loyal fan base throughout Europe. Their ‘give all, every show, no matter the consequence’ approach to performing has gained the band an undeniable respect and noteriety as one of the most exciting live acts to witness. Mother Tongue has existed, grown and forged forward with a fierce integrity, die hard work ethic and unwavering vision. The future for Mother Tongue?
“Keep making records. Keep playing shows. Getting closer and closer to the fire. Burn with more intensity.” – Davo