Mothers are a difficult band to pin down. Hailing from Athens in Georgia (home to such indie alumni as REM and B-52s), it started out as a personal project for Kristine Leschper before she recruited a full band to record their excellent debut album When You Walk A Distance Way You Are Tired which came out to quiet acclaim earlier this year. Trying to describe the music they make is slightly difficult too, by turns it can be beautiful, stark acoustic numbers, and then change on a discordant guitar chord into an altogether heavier beast, or even pretty straight forward indie pop. It’s this that makes the band so beguiling, and makes their album an essential listen (indeed, it’s very high up on my best of 2016 so far list, it’s really wonderful).

Tonight the band is on their first headlining tour of the UK, and the upstairs hall in Gulliver’s in the Northern Quarter is suitably buzzing in anticipation for Leschper and the band. They kick off with ‘Copper Mines’, probably the most straight forward ‘indie rock’ song from their album, and a great place to start. When Leschper gets to the breakdown and repeats ‘never mind, never mind’ over and over, it’s hard not to think of Nirvana and their MTV Unplugged session, which this could have fallen straight out of. ‘It Hurts Until It Doesn’t’ is spectacular, and is the first song that really shows off Leschper’s incredible voice as the song turns from fuzzy cascading chords (propelled by her excellent lead guitarist) to almost a solo song, Leschper with her eyes closed, lost in the pain of a relationship she needs to get out of, almost whispering the heart-breaking closing lines ‘I don’t like myself/When I’m away’. It’s an incredibly tender, personal moment, one that’s almost hard to watch this close up, as the song obviously comes from a place that must be incredibly hard to share on a nightly basis.

Leschper and her band are a mesmerising watch throughout the night, and none more so than when they launch into a heavy cover of Glenn Fray’s ‘The Heat Is On’ (‘do you guys know this song?’ she asks, to a collective ‘yes!’, ‘it’s so awesome’ she responds), which is a left-field choice but one that proves to be an inspired one, it’s a lighter moment in an emotionally heavy evening. ‘Lockjaw’ is probably the most awe inspiring moment of the evening, with Leschper’s poetry on full display, comparing herself to ‘a napkin in the rain’ and leaving us with the stark imagine of ‘I cut my tongue out/seeing yours would speak for the both of us’, evoking more emotional heft around an obviously toxic relationship from the past; again, it’s almost uncomfortable, but it’s impossible to look away. ‘Burden of Proof’ shows us Leschper’s fragile self-belief, as she tells us ‘everything you touch turns to gold/everything I touch turns away’, and is the line that pricks my tear ducts into action, it’s just so personal and devastating to hear and watch someone sing like that in this proximity.

It’s not a complete downer at all, the band around her are brilliant and the songs live have been transformed into something altogether heavier than on record. The songs like ‘Too Small For Eyes’ and the incredible ‘Nesting Behaviour’ that rely on strings for some of their emotional punch alongside the lyrics are omitted tonight (due to a lack of a string section I suspect!), which is a shame as they are some of the best songs on the album, but it’s a minor quibble in what is a very special night. I feel like Mothers are my band, a band that I have discovered and loved instantly, but now I want to share them with the world, they deserve a bigger audience. Listen to Mothers guys, you won’t regret it.

Mothers  Official | Facebook | Bandcamp