Philly progressive rock gets a new kid on the block: Drexel University’s Mother Leeds.
If you don’t know already, Philadelphia is legendarily a progressive rock town. Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull won their first biggest audiences in Philly. Gentle Giant and Renaissance were a thing here when they didn’t get traction anywhere else. The Hooters were once a progressive pop band called Baby Grand. And my first concert ever was with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, complete with a spinning, upside down drummer and a synthesizer player throwing knives and axes into his oversized keyboard. Those were the days. To that illustrious list, we add Drexel University’s lo-fi, lo-fired, progressive band, Mother Leeds.
First started by vocalist-guitarist Jack Guerrieri, drummer Nick Espersen and bassist Sam Ansa in 2017. No way, a power progressive trio like Rush. But with a warm vibe of harmony vocals and ruminative lyrics aside from their textural, intricate riveting rhythms, and screechy guitars. Mother Leeds just dropped its debut album, “Before the Fall” with cover art from Aaron Monro and production and mixdown by Alex Fichera.
To that, all I can say is that it’s brain salad surgery time, close to the edge where these three guys are concerned. Solid, soulful progressive is Mother Leeds. Devil horns up.
dosage MAGAZINE and I spoke with Ansa, Espersen and Guerrieri about the Mother ship and all things Leeds.
A.D. Amorosi: Please tell me how you guys wound up together as an actual band, as opposed to being just classmates.
Nick Espersen: We all met through the Entertainment and Arts Management program at Drexel University and our involvement in the Philly DIY music scene. I moved to Philly after I got out of the military in 2017. Jack was literally the first friend I made. After getting to know each other, we discovered we had similar music tastes and a passion for playing. We decided to take that connection and start creating music ourselves. For over a year we had multiple bassists come in and play with us but we never found the right fit. After about a year and a half, we finally found Sam who was the missing piece of the puzzle. I think the hardest thing for most bands that are starting out is that everyone is an individual and sort of stands alone in the creative process. It takes a while for everyone to mold into a cohesive unit. I don’t think that has been a problem for us. We all clicked immediately and we’re always on the same page.
A.D. Amorosi: Beyond classes and lunch breaks, what did you three share, musically, influence-wise?
Jack Guerrieri: Nick and I connected over our love for Rush, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Pink Floyd, and other artists. The music we write is heavily influenced by these bands. When jamming, we’ll find ourselves saying, “Hey, that groove sounded a lot like Tool or Incubus…” We incorporate the sounds and styles we grew up listening to within our music. Our goal is to simply make music, have fun, and share our sound with the world. We never had dreams of world tours or signing with labels, we’ve never even had that conversation. We just want to put our stuff out there for people to connect to. At the same time, we do it for our own enjoyment. It’s most important that we stay true to ourselves first and foremost. Therefore, we don’t like limiting ourselves and classifying our music under a single genre. We like to explore different creative outlets that allow us to express ourselves differently each time we write.
A.D. Amorosi: How did songwriting and production get shaped and shared so as to come up and out with something so rich in progressive detail on “Beyond the Fall.”
Sam Ansa: The songwriting was finished over the course of three years between Nick and Jack. We didn’t have the resources to record at a professional studio. So we turned my basement into a recording studio. I bought all new mics and mic stands and learned how to do recording engineering. At first, we were learning as we went. But we got the hang of it quickly and ended up getting eight songs recorded. We had our friend Alex Fichera of Psychic Agency, mix and master all of the songs. And he did a great job. “Before the Fall” is our first album and since we have yet to play a live show, we’re still figuring out how to get the music to the people. For the most part, the feedback has been great and we have an awesome following of supportive friends, family, and fans.
A.D. Amorosi: Progressive rock is, very often, a dour place. Not so with Mother Leeds. Give me something fanciful and fun, fact-wise, about you three.
Jack Guerrieri: Fun fact, Sam is part of another band called The Poms. And about a year before we even knew each other on a personal level, their band needed a guitarist. Their singer reached out to me and asked if I wanted to audition. I went over and jammed with them but decided it wasn’t going to work out because I was too busy with other endeavors. It’s funny, the fact we’ve played together in the past and didn’t even know until a few months into Mother Leeds rehearsals. It really shows how tight-knit the music scene here in Philly is.
Nick Espersen: From front to back, this album really is a journey through our past experiences. It is a timestamp of where we all were in our lives when we wrote it. “Bred to Indulge” starts the album off with a lot of anger, confusion, and angst. It is from the point of view of someone who realizes consumerism and everything they’ve been conditioned to believe isn’t the pinnacle of their existence. There’s something more. Something unexplained. Something behind the curtain. Further on in the album, you’re given perspectives on heartbreak, self-realization, or self-acceptance. And the discovery of one’s relationship with the universe. Overall, we want our songs to be relatable but up for interpretation. We want the listeners to come up with their own meanings of the concepts we try to portray.
Sam Ansa: Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and to check out our music on just about every streaming platform you can think of. Thanks for tuning in.