TikTok fans give Vancouver rock act Mother Mother a sudden boost in popularity

David Friend
·4 min read

TORONTO — Ryan Guldemond says he believes luck, good timing and “a little pixie dust” led to his band Mother Mother catching fire on TikTok in recent weeks.

The lead singer and guitarist for the Vancouver rock act says he was surprised when, seemingly out of nowhere, three tracks from their 2008 album “O My Heart” spiked in popularity on the music-fuelled social app.

The songs started to find noticeable traction on the platform in August, and have since become the soundtrack to thousands of videos, many featuring teenagers dressed in cosplay or goth clothes and makeup.

The phenomenon is powered by the young-lovers-scorned track "Hayloft," which led many creators to film themselves lip-synching to the frenetic refrain: "My daddy's got a gun, you better run."

Clips tagged with "mothermother" have been viewed more than 65.5 million times on the platform as of Wednesday afternoon. That's helped push the band up the rankings of Rolling Stone's Artists 500, which monitors the most-streamed artists across the world. Mother Mother sits at No. 413 in their third week on the chart.

The Juno-nominated band's "Arms Tonite" and "Wrecking Ball" are two other songs from their 2008 album that have found new life on the app.

While many TikTok music trends are driven by hashtag-friendly "challenges," which encourage users to put their own spin on choreographed dances or copycat pranks, that wasn't the case for Mother Mother's decade-old songs. Figuring out why their catchy rock hooks suddenly took off is a mystery even the band hasn't cracked.

"The pandemic certainly helped this app explode, and how that relates to us, I really can't tell ya," Guldemond said from a Vancouver studio where the band is finishing a new album.

"We just fell into that mix somehow and it's worked out in our favour. We're pretty humbled by the whole gig."

The band started noticing "peculiar growth" in their digital activity earlier this year, Guldemond said, so they turned to services like YouTube to investigate further.

Viewer comments were starting to pour in with more frequency, and some of them expressed surprise that "Hayloft" wasn't a new song, but one that was released when they were hardly in grade school.

He said eventually the band traced the activity back to TikTok, but they've only truly understood the scope of their online revival in the past couple months.

Mother Mother sits at No. 11 on the September edition of Rolling Stone's Breakthrough 25 Chart, which tracks the fastest-rising artists each month.

Guldemond suggests it's another sign the "gatekeeping" of the music industry is being dismantled, in favour of what truly resonates with listeners.

"It's reminding us that success is born from people being moved and souls stirring," he said.

"Seeing the commerce completely stripped from the creative experience via this app and this younger demographic is so inspiring. It really just recentres you as to why you do it in the first place."

TikTok has become a useful tool for both established and budding new musicians to find popularity with younger listeners. Last month, Fleetwood Mac soared up the charts when a man posted a clip of himself skateboarding and drinking cranberry juice while listening to their 1977 hit "Dreams."

Other Canadian artists have seen their profiles raised as well. Montreal pop-punk band Simple Plan's 2002 single "I'm Just a Kid" sparked a throwback challenge earlier this year where people recreated their childhood photos as adults.

Pop singer Carys, born Aviva Mongillo from Markham, Ont., became a breakout success on TikTok last year when her song "Princesses Don't Cry" was shared widely on the app.

Guldemond says he's been humbled by the windfall of support Mother Mother has seen on TikTok. It was enough to inspire him to enrol the band on the platform so he could contribute his own videos and interact with fans.

"Even though there are generations between me and the band, and this fan base...the gap really shrinks if you just be yourself and connect at the source, which is the music," he said.

"We're making the effort to reply, like their comments, and in one way or another tell them that you see them and appreciate them."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 28, 2020.

David Friend, The Canadian Press