That Sly Mother Feather



Mother Feather is a band intent on using their powers for good, rather than for evil. Ann Courtney’s theatrical music project is all about feeling good and making the audience feel good. With the stage presence of Karen O and Lady Gaga, Ann Courtney’s costumes and organized dance numbers with fellow band member Lizzie create a dynamic performance. Ann Courtney is not afraid to flash her underwear to the crowd and show off her sparkly outfits (that are a mix of vintage clothes off of Etsy and slutty clubwear) and dramatic makeup. The band came together after the end of Ann Courtney and the Late Bloomers, bringing their pop-cock rock sound to the next level. With performances at the Bowery Electric and at Brooklyn Indie Fest, Mother Feather has become a staple for New York City’s underground music scene.

The glam band just released their debut EP in September and is now showcasing their talent at CMJ. We spoke with Ann Courtney in Soho about creating a band name out of cursing, her life-changing epiphany, and having the freedom to rock on stage.

ILANA KAPLAN: How did Mother Feather happen?

ANN COURTNEY: The band was a huge, massive epiphany for me. I was using all this super intense energy to hate myself. I’d be very mean to myself. I’ve always been super hard on myself. I got very sick of it, physically. I kind of harnessed it, and I turned it around into this band. It’s a very personal, powerful thing: a way to keep myself encouraged. And, using my power for good and not for evil. It’s a huge thing.

KAPLAN: How did the name come about?

COURTNEY: I was swearing. I was with someone that was also in a band. We had been talking about band names for him. He was talking about maybe changing his band name. We were going on this trip together, and I was swearing, and I was like, “motherfucker, motherfucker,” swearing over and over. It changed into “mother feather.” I was like, “That’s awesome. That’s what you should call your band.” Then I was like, that’s what I should call my band. During that trip, it was a magical time because I had this massive epiphany: What is Mother Feather? Who is Mother Feather? That trip, I realized maybe I wanted to change how I was doing things. I had this huge transformation where I was taking control of my health. Mother Feather is like embrace all of that stuff and rising new.

KAPLAN: You guys of remind me of Semi-Precious Weapons or Lady Gaga performances. Have either of them been an influence on your music?

COURTNEY: Lady Gaga was a huge influence on me, in terms of she came out of a hole on the Lower East side. What I saw was someone who believed wholeheartedly in what she was doing, and that was a very powerful thing for me. I saw a lot of bands at the Rockwood. I knew for myself that I wasn’t completely invested in my old band. The message was not something I believed in. It was very self-deprecating music in a lot of ways, though there’s a lot of great stuff that came out of that band. Lady Gaga is someone who was so totally committed to what she was doing. She’s fearless. One of the things, my frustration and the time when I was sick, my boyfriend at the time was like, “What do you want?” Then we sort of broke it down: “What do I want?” He was like, “Do you want to play at the Bowery Ballroom?” I was like, “Yes… but not with this band.” He was like, “Do you want to play guitar?” I was like, “No! I want to dance. I want to put the guitar down and I want to be free to dance. I don’t want to be tethered. I have this guitar I can’t really play, and it’s weighing me down.” My strengths are more as a performer and not as a guitarist. Our live shows are a huge, huge part of that.

KAPLAN: You have incredibly flashy shows. Do you always wear dresses where you flash your underwear to the audience?

COURTNEY: Well, the songs are larger than life. I want to feel totally, totally rad and the best version of myself. You can’t really do that in jeans and a t-shirt. Even as a little kid, I always wanted to get dressed up and prance around on stage.

KAPLAN: On stage, you have this “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. It’s really empowering.

COURTNEY: I started the band to empower myself. The worst thing about myself is how hard I am on myself, but it’s also the best thing. All of my songs, when I write them, I’m like, “Is this something I want to sing on stage?” Do I want to sing a song about how much I hate myself to a crowd of people? Or, do I want to sing a song about how awesome I am and how awesome you are? It’s living for the good. Using my powers for good and embracing that dark energy. That’s what “Natural Disaster” is about.

KAPLAN: Are you inspired by Karen O? Do you get that sometimes?

COURTNEY: I do. I’ve never seen her live, but I’ve seen live footage. When Ann Courtney and the Late Bloomers put out our full-length album, people would say, “Do you like it?” I would say, yeah, but I’d put on Fever to Tell or The Duke Spirit record, Neptune, and I would be like, “No, it sucks!” I can rock with the model of these records.