INTERVIEW WITH CLARE CUNNINGHAM OF THUNDERMOTHER
Date: October 19, 2015
A WRITER FROM A RIVAL WEBSITE FIRST GOT ME TURNED ONTO THUNDERMOTHER LAST YEAR AND I WAS EASILY HOOKED BY THE AC/DC LIKE GROOVES FROM THE ALL-FEMALE QUINTET’S DEBUT ALBUM ‘ROCK ‘N’ ROLL DISASTER.’ THUNDERMOTHER HAVE JUST RECENTLY RELEASED THEIR SOPHOMORE ALBUM ‘ROAD FEVER’ WHICH SEES THE FEMALE ROCKERS TAKE A HARDER MUSICAL DIRECTION WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, DELIVERING WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT FROM THEM. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THUNDERMOTHER’S FRONTWOMAN, CLARE CUNNINGHAM, TO DISCUSS MANY TOPICS INCLUDING THE NEW ALBUM, THE NEXT UPCOMING RECORD AND THE CHALLENGES THAT AN ALL-FEMALE HARD ROCK BAND CAN ENCOUNTER.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Road Fever’ has a harder direction than ‘Rock N’ Roll Disaster’ and it seems that the band has strayed from the AC/DC sound that it had on the debut album. Do you agree and if so, was that intentional?
Sleaze Roxx: That it’s a bit different.
Clare Cunningham: Yeah. We wanted to get away from the very AC/DC thing. Obviously, AC/DC are huge influences and we love them but we do get a lot of comparisons to them so we thought that it might good on this album to do something a little more punchier, a bit more rock and roll, to give it a bit more of a Motorhead feel. Yeah. It was in the plans to have it, you know, a little bit different but still maintain the classic ways as well. I think that what we kind of discussed for the third album already would be probably to bring it back again to the simple simple classic rock and roll thing so not to disappoint anybody [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: Really? So you’re going to go back to the sound of the first album? Is that what you are saying?
Clare Cunningham: Possibly. Possibly. I think it’s nice that we have a little punchier raw thing. We figured that we might reach out to some new people this way too because you know, everybody loves AC/DC. I think it’s nice to have an ode to them but it’s also nice to include, you know, rockier harder things and gather people that are new fans which was kind of the thinking behind this album. But yeah, possibly — I think because nothing beats that kind of four chord classic, you know, just natural thing. So I think that the plan will be to bring it back a little bit maybe for the third album but we have to see [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: I am actually surprised because your new album has received, from what I have seen, a lot of very good reviews [including from Sleaze Roxx]. So it surprises me to hear that you would be thinking of going back to the band’s original sound from the first album. What do you think?
Clare Cunningham: Yeah. I think we have. We got a lot of great reviews. We were really really — we were a bit worried because we were like “Oh God. We have really steered away from the style of the first album so we may lose a lot of fans.” But in fact, I think that it went to our favour. I don’t think that we would do a full album like the first one. I think that we would have a few more tracks that are more AC/DC sounding on the next one perhaps [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: You also had a pledge campaign for your second album. I was wondering why you decided to go that route given that you are associated with Despotz Records?
Clare Cunningham: Yeah. We actually decided to go with the pledge campaign because we had seen a lot of people we know, bigger artists, using this theme. Obviously, in the rock and roll industry, money can be quite tight [laughs] as everyone kind of knows, or at least we do! So we really — for the funding of the album, we thought “Well, how about we try to do this and we give our fans something as well.” And it was a good idea because it got interest into the album before it actually got released. You know, I think that it really helped towards the promotion of it because people were preordering it before it was available and you know, we figured after we had the meeting with the main girl that ran the Swedish site here, that it is actually a really good thing not only to fund your album but a lot of promotion world-wide. Everybody — even fans in the States can get signed copies, different merchandise… It seemed that we could give our fans things that nobody else could buy anywhere else. And it’s just nice to be able to do the campaign to support the music and promote rock and roll.
Clare Cunningham: Yeah.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think that that impacted the songwriting in any way?
Clare Cunningham: [Laughs] It’s funny that you would say that you’ve actually heard that it was a rush because everybody else is like “Oh. You had years!” And we didn’t you know. I tell you, with Thundermother, all we have known is stress and last minute and… [laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Clare Cunningham: We actually work better when we have a little bit of pressure and we don’t have so much time because I think that’s when your creative mind goes into overdrive. So, for example, our last song on the album — “Rock N Roll Sisterhood” — is written by us all. Originally, Filippa [Nässil], the lead guitarist, had brought it to us with lyrics and I thought that the song might work better with these lyrics so we wrote it together and then we recorded it. And the month that we recorded it, we realized “OK. We’re not very happy with this.” So we went and had a quick drink. It was like midnight and we sat down.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Clare Cunningham: I know. We literally just had no time. Got the brains going. Got a few lines and literally, the next day when I arrive into the studio, we still hadn’t finished it the way we wanted and we were literally writing lines minutes before going in [laughs]. But actually, the foundation had been put down. All the music had been put together. The last minute thing was getting it — trying to get it rehearsed. We had maybe two rehearsals in total for the album and we kind of, lyrically, I had to come up with some stuff for some of the songs — half of them were written, half of them were not. But yeah, on a whole level, it was kind of a very rushed job. But you know, I always say that if you spend too long analyzing, over analyzing things and recording, you actually lose sight of what is being recorded. Your ears don’t hear anymore. So sometimes, it’s nice when it’s just brand new and it’s done and there you go [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of “Rock N Roll Sisterhood” — it seems that there are sort of some girl power or woman power type lyrics for the songs on the new album. Would you agree and if so, was that intentional?
Clare Cunningham: Yeah. I think the main one being “Rock N Roll Sisterhood.” That’s kind of our empowerment song for our ladies. Of course, because as five females, we do deal with a lot of different — more in countries other than Sweden — Sweden has a very high equality rate here so it’s not so bad but you know, there are certain people that don’t like ladies in rock and roll and we are not really accepted for that. So we kind of wanted to release something that showed that we are a sisterhood, that we stick together making rock and roll, and that was definitely intentional. I don’t think that any of it is worked towards the empowerment of women but we are always trying to get it out there and just inform the fans.
Sleaze Roxx: That was going to lead into my next question. Can you give me some examples of issues that you face as an all-female rock band?
Clare Cunningham: Yeah, sure. Mostly, it has to do with mindsets. People don’t believe that we can be as good as we are and then they get very surprised when they see us live. So there is that. There is also — venues are really good. They want us so they respect us already. It’s more the workers in the venue that sometimes you know, they’ll be like “This is how you plug your guitars in the amps.” And we’re like, “Fine. I didn’t know.”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Clare Cunningham: Or we get to a venue where there are people with bad attitudes and we always know who they are straight away because they don’t want to help or they are kind of, not intimidated, but they are just kind of — we just don’t get that respect really. But on the whole, it is OK. You know, there are one or two, and they unfortunately, you know, are bad for the rest of the guys. I have to say that we are trying our hardest and we do our best. There are always going to be naysayers. You just have to laugh it off because what’s the point in getting all angry and worked up about it, you know? My attitude is like, you know, I think that not everyone is going to love you and not everyone is going to respect you. It is fine. It’s a work in progress I suppose.
Clare Cunningham: As far as videos are concerned, we’ll probably do a video for “Rock N Roll Sisterhood” rather than “Deal With The Devil” because I think that will be our next single and I think, for us, it would be a lot more fun and easier to actually do a video for that rather than “Deal With The Devil.” And it gives us a little more time because right now, we haven’t got any [laughs]. But I think that right now, the plan is to do another video and right now, it will be “Rock N Roll Sisterhood” I would guess.
Sleaze Roxx: Thundermother has already been out on tour a little bit. How did the first leg of the tour go and would you have a fun story to share for the readers?
Clare Cunningham: Yeah, sure. It was our first nightliner tour so that was really a trip [laughs]. Five females on a bus with fifteen other guys. A funny story would probably be for the fact that one of those — I am not sure as no one has admitted it — put toilet paper in the toilet that is not allowed to have paper in it. So we were not able to use our toilet on this tour bus. You can imagine the smell [laughs]. It was a really fantastic tour and one that we look back on, even now, with fond memories. I think it was great to get to a few countries that we had not been to — Germany, Austria, Switzerland. You know, it’s one of those things as a touring band, you try to gather fans as much as you can in different places and it really did work this time. It was really really really good, yeah.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you have any plans to tour the US and Canada in support of the new album?
Clare Cunningham: Oh, you betcha [laughs]! I have! If nobody else has, I have [laughs]! I want to be other there like you wouldn’t believe — we all do. We are all so excited for the States. You can’t even imagine. If the label calls us and says that we are going, I’ll probably die before I get there of excitement [laughs]. But I think that the likelihood is probably next year. But it will all depend on really maybe getting the right support because we’re not really going to hit the States as an unknown band, as a headliner act. So I think the best job for us will be to keep an eye out and try to get on a decent support tour so that whomever we tour with is known. Because the worse thing as an unknown band is to go out and do a headlining tour in countries that you are not known yet. I can only see good things happening when we get over there because we are very much about the live show. So what you hear in the recordings is obviously high energy rock and roll but you got to see it live to really appreciate the high energy [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: I can’t wait! So how do the band dynamics work because you have Filippa who is sort of the band leader and she has produced both albums. How does the band dynamics work with her?
Clare Cunningham: Yeah, well basically, Filippa is the centre of it all since she created Thundermother five years ago. It works really well, you know, because initially we all came in around 2013 — myself, Linda [Ström] the bass player and Tilda [Stenqvist] the drummer. Giorgia [Carteri], the other guitarist, has been in the band since almost the beginning actually — I think — so herself and Filippa have always had that nice rapport together with the guitars. And when we all joined, it was kind of like, you know, it was like “These are the songs” and it was very much kind of Filippa’s baby but we’ve grown together now as a band and we all produced the second album. It was really nice because we all got to get involved more on this one. And lyrically as well because I did not get to write anything on the first album due to the fact that it had been written so I didn’t have any input really into it but this time, I have. I think that it works really nice in that we have really good dynamics, we know each other so well musically and we are very open to each other’s new ideas. Yeah, we work really well as a team so we are looking forward even to the next record already [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Last question for you — what are your three all-time favorite records and why?
Clare Cunningham: Ooooohhh [laughs]. Well, I am going to have to say — because it was my first record I ever bought or had. It was a tape actually. It was Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill.’
Sleaze Roxx: I like that one!
Clare Cunningham: A lot of people will be like “Really” but you know, I was eight years old and that was my first record. Even now, even now I have it on my player. You know, it’s so funny because I think that Alanis was like 19 then and that is going back more than 20 years so I think that it says a lot of ‘Jagged Little Pill’ that it can still be played on radios and still going strong today. She had her shit then. She knew what she was doing so that would be one. Ummm. Ooooh. The second… Probably, you guys won’t know the Irish artists but I listen to a lot of country and Irish actually. So there is an album by Christy Moore who is one of my favorite Irish artists. He is just like one of my all-time favorite Irish artists. So, he would be another. And then, well, it would have to be AC/DC really. Just to pick one album is so hard. Hmmm. God! Because I have got quite a few! You know, like I love the ‘Back In Black’ album but I do love the Bon Scott thing, their earlier stuff as well. It’s just absolutely amazing so I think that it would be unfair just to pick one [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: How about you pick two? One from each era.
Clare Cunningham: That’s true. We could do that. So probably — I wish I had time to… [laughs]. Let me think. AC/DC… Let’s do ‘Jailbreak’ with Bon Scott.
Sleaze Roxx: Good pick!
Clare Cunningham: And ‘Back In Black’ for my other because you know, we saw them actually live in Stockholm. When was that? In April? Brian Johnson — he is something else! The energy is just phenomenal and I think for the guys, for the ages that they are, and the energy that they still create… You know it’s insane. It’s really hard to pick but I think that these would probably be my favorites. Long live rock n’ roll [laughs]!