Kristine Leschper on Being a Solo “Chamber Prog” Artist and Bringing Her Live Show Back Home to JB’s (4/30)

“It feels like a reclaiming of self, or an assertion of self.  Releasing music under a moniker was always a way to distance myself,” says Kristine Leschper, previously known...

“It feels like a reclaiming of self, or an assertion of self.  Releasing music under a moniker was always a way to distance myself,” says Kristine Leschper, previously known as the person behind Mothers, but who last year released her official solo debut, The Opening, Or Closing Of A Door, courtesy of ANTI- (previous home to Mothers).  “Mothers felt like one aspect of my creative life,” she tells me, whereas she feels that recording and performing using her own name is a way to connect all of her artistic outputs, which includes performance art, installation, and other forms of visual art.  And of the actual sound of Kristine Leschper, “the solo artist,” she tells me, “I don’t remember who coined this term, but I was trying to figure out how to frame the music, and someone described it as ‘chamber prog’ music, and I’d never heard that before…  I just felt that ‘chamber prog’ was a really concise and interesting way to describe the music.”

I’m chatting with a particularly comfortable Kristine Leschper, who is currently on the road, touring the songs of The Opening, Or Closing Of A Door: “I’m so fucking good, I don’t wanna rub it in.  I am taking this call from a Hammock in Chapin, South Carolina.  It’s a day off from tour and we’re at a friend’s lake house.”  However, that’s not to say that the shows themselves haven’t been going well, and something that Leschper had been eagerly anticipating.  Leschper played a record release show at Johnny Brenda’s last April, but admits, “It’s taken a while to get that music out on the road with a band.”  She tells me that she and her band played an especially exciting show recently just a bit south of the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection: “We were in Washington DC a few nights ago, and we weren’t able to secure a local act, and we didn’t have a lot of promotion…  But people started to filter in and there was this indescribable energy.  It wasn’t packed out or anything, but there was this energy in the room that created this shared experience for the band and me, and the people in the room, as well.”

Kristine Leschper — who’s been living in Philadelphia for a little more than half a decade now, coming from Athens, Georgia – is wrapping her upcoming dates with a hometown show at Johnny Brenda’s on Sunday, April 30th, which she’s really looking forward to: “I’m so, so excited about that show!”  “My live band, I couldn’t be more honored to get to play with these people…  I think everyone in this band is a really good listener, which I feel like is so important, to listen and respond and be dynamic.  The instrumentation is really dynamic,” she tells me of her current band, which includes our friend, and Great Time vocalist, Jill Ryan on flute, keys, and background vocals.  However, she admits that night-to-night the show does vary to a relatively great degree: “I feel like my show is a totally different experience every night.  I’m constantly surprised by what comes out, what happens each night.”

In addition to her own performances, Leschper is also excited about her support on this run of dates… which she also partakes in: “I’m on tour with Nina Ryser right now, who I’ve always been a huge fan of, and I’m playing with her live band and she’s playing with my live band, so we’re both doing double-duty, and we’re really excited for the challenge of being onstage all night.”  And, in addition to Ryser, serving as the opening act for the Johnny Brenda’s show is local “hyperfolk” outfit @, whose Mind Palace Music was recently praised by Hello Mary’s Stella Wave in a recent PHILTHY interview, and who Leschper seems to be just as crazy about: “The new record, it really, really blew me away.  It’s one of the first contemporary albums I’ve heard in a little while that just really rocked me.”  “To see a show and feel inspired by the music before you is really great,” she tells me.

Leschper — who regularly plays a pretty wide variety of barrooms, clubs, and DIY spaces — tells me Johnny Brenda’s is a pretty great combination of things that she likes about venues: “I’ve played really stellar shows there.  I think that space is a really good mix.”  “Something I think about a lot is the commodification of art and music and am I being commodified?  Sometimes in a more proper venue, things feel transactional in a way they don’t in DIY spaces,” she says, but admits, “A drawback with DIY shows can be the limitations of the equipment they have, due to lack of funding…  I think that each of those types of spaces have their own pros and cons.”  “I enjoy playing in all of these spaces.  It’s such a spectrum of good and bad,” she explains, but goes on to say, “With a more proper venue, it doesn’t always feed the soul in the same ways.  As I get older, I feel more interested in these communities and DIY culture.”

However, Leschper does confess that the last time Mothers played Johnny Brenda’s (for which we chatted in November of 2018) was a little bit awkward: “I remember feeling distinctly uncomfortable at that show, and feeling kind of cagey or moody…  What has changed between Mothers and doing this solo work is finding some comfort and acceptance with who I am…  I think this new music and new album overlaps with stepping into a better sense of myself and a comfort with myself.”  However, as much as Leschper is enjoying being a solo artist, she tells me that her immediate future is going to be focused on something else: “I’m gonna be on a farm for the foreseeable future, learning about permaculture, so I’ll be leaving Philly for a while.”  But she tells me that she’s hoping this will help to inform her on how she approaches making and performing music in the future, and that it shouldn’t be too, too long before you hear her new sounds: “I’m taking it a day at a time.  I’m starting to write new music, but I’m keeping things wide open.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.