Interview: indie creator Mothé sits down with Groove Girl
Groove Girl sat down with multifaceted indie artist Mothé, AKA Spencer Fort, to breakdown their journey as an independent artist. The California-based musician has crafted a bold persona and musical perspective through a meshing of alt, electropop, and punk influences.
The start of their journey as a musician began with an injury preventing a gymnastics career. From there, music became their main release. At first, with piano lessons. Then, onto self-teaching guitar. “When I was 16, I picked up the guitar and I was bad at it, and it was really exciting to be bad because I didn’t know what I was doing. There’s gonna be all these weird things that I run into like a complete accident. So I just got really into the electric guitar.”
I kind of rediscovered music when it was able to exist in less rigid formats.
After their first experience with freeform music, Fort started considering the possibility of music as a career after being invited to stagehand a festival in high school. Here, they experienced their first live show with very epic proportions. “I watched The Flaming Lips play. They had a massive production that I watched from the stage, and I was like, I need to do this.”
From there, Fort began playing in bands, then found out about promoter work. They followed that musical avenue for seven years, booking shows for small touring acts. Fort also let touring bands crash at their house after house shows. Disguising concerts as parties, little houses of 30 people turned to a hundred.
Two years ago, Fort left their hometown of Houston to start playing more on stage throughout Los Angeles, California. “I was in, like, three bands at once. I just liked playing shows, that was always the thing, the playing. So any chance I would have to get on stage or play some music, I was just gonna take it.”
Fort played three, four or even five shows a week, switching between bass, keys, guitar and sometimes even saxophone. As friends grew to find fame in the alternative scene, doors opened. “When I moved to LA, I got a friend who invited me into a writing session, and she introduced me to this studio where they had a bunch of people coming through. That turned into like, something that I kind of liked and didn’t like.”
One of the most draining parts of writing for others was in the note process from industry producers. “They’re like, can it be more ambient urban? And you’re like, what the fuck is that? And it’s like, I’d like to write these songs, and I’d be so stoked on them, but then I would get email feedback with just a bunch of fake buzzwords. I started backing off in only writing with and working with people.”
As the pull to create for others became lessened, Fort started drifting toward crafting their own sound. Before creating Mothé, Fort’s most successful personal project to date was in a two-piece band Moth Wings with former drummer Luke Gonzales. But as those bands came and went, Fort slowly began turning toward their love for singular artists as an inspiration for their sound.
“The idea of Mothé as a solo artist came to me as a result of enjoying Lorde and Prince a lot, and seeing how cool those people are. I kind of realized that one of the downfalls of being in a band is that you can’t have such a concise persona for your craft. When I realized that I wasn’t really going to be in a band anymore, that it was just going to be me, I wanted to really commit to that.”
Fort went all in to creating a persona that he loved, using their identify as an anchor for the music.
“In my daily life, I feel relatively understated. I have, like, six outfits that I wear, and I don’t talk much. Mothé is just this person that I don’t get to be, the more extravagant version of myself. I’m non-binary, and I don’t feel as comfortable expressing more feminine sides of my personality in loud ways. But when I’m Mothé, I have a perfect excuse to throw on that insane dress, or just be a dancer in that moment. I get to be this dream version of myself that I’m otherwise not confident enough to be.
It’s still me. It’s just the loud parts of me for once.
After crafting a personalized image, Mothé began creating songs. Citing musical influences such as David Bowie, Joy Division, and even wanting to “merge The Cure and LCD Soundsystem” for a time, Fort now looks toward the ’80s and ’90s as an inspiration. Repackaging those sounds of an era in a more modern way, Fort leans on analog production processes in their sound. Along with the music, Fort has intention behind the lyrics.
“So with “Dancing on an Empty Floor,” specifically, since it’s the most recent single, I kind of have the vision of this woman dancing in this giant, empty ballroom, and being afraid of her. Like, I was super attracted to her, but she’s also pretty dangerous, so I know I can’t get too close. But I enjoy watching.”
With crafting alternative tracks, Mothé felt their aesthetic didn’t fit a lot of the other artists on their label. Industry friends agreed and helped them start their own label to support other niche artists. Thus, Slowlab Records was born.
Mothé began officially working under the new label over quarantine, recording an entire album in a studio outside of El Paso, Texas with producers and friends at Sonic Ranch. Soon after the session, Fort released a teaser of one of the songs on Tik Tok, and it blew up overnight with hundreds of thousands of streams.
“I made a video that happened to have “Debt Collector” in it, I just kind of posted the teaser on a whim. The next thing I knew, it was just a bunch of people freaking out on the app like, when is this coming out? And I was like, I guess in a week. It’s coming out as soon as possible. So that’s how it started.”
After a career spanning 9 years, the feeling of being recognized as Mothé meant a lot. “I’m only 24, but I’ve been doing this for a while. When a song like “Debt Collector” comes out and it gets received so well by everyone, that is one of those defining moments emotionally, where the last 10 years feel like a blink. It’s this weird type of youth that you get from a song like that.”
For Mothé, the pull to continue to create is within the constant discovery of music. “It’s a very hard industry. The thing that motivates me to keep doing it is that it’s just managed to stay exciting this entire time. If I’m bored of what I’m doing, I’ll find something else within music to re-spark my interest. And sometimes it’s as simple as buying a new guitar pedal, or not listening to music with drums for a month. It’s got to be worth it because you’re gonna be excited again.”
There’s also a magic in being able to create memorable experiences for audience members. “When you’re a teenager, and it’s the first time you’ve ever been to a live show, and you’re just losing your shit and screaming all the words, helping create an emotional environment where kids get to do that is amazing. I get to just relive that part of my life over and over.”
With years of experience in both the industry and the stage, Mothé has gathered some advice for aspiring artists.
“I get a lot of kids asking me, what do I have to do? I’ve gotten that question enough times that I can confidently just be like: I don’t know how I got here. I was lucky over and over again. Just keep doing it and stay persistent with it, keep doing it for the sake of enjoying it, because that is the most important part. The best thing you can do in an industry that’s so luck based is increase your chances. Increase your chances by making and putting out more music, or putting in a little more work, or going to that show that your friend is opening. Just keep showing up.”
Their debut album, I Don’t Want to Worry You Anymore, doesn’t have a set release date yet, but you can listen to songs from their EP here!