Song Cycle: How Mother Mother's 'Hayloft' was made
During the pandemic, the song became the band's biggest hit — but 13 years ago, they had to fight to keep it
Song Cycle is a series that looks at how some of the best Canadian songs were made, and the surprising things that happened to them after they were released.
When Mother Mother released O My Heart in 2008, there's one song that almost didn't make it onto the album: "Hayloft," which also happened to be the band's favourite. At the time, it was considered a bit too strange, a bit too quirky for what was being played on the radio.
To start with, we hear 45 seconds of guitar riffs before the vocals ever kick in, and when the song does pick up, it's what Mother Mother vocalist and songwriter Ryan Guldemond describes as "Lego bricks of fierce energy with guitar and barking vocals."
As for those vocals, the lyrics don't intentionally tell any sort of story, per se, as Guldemond was more interested in the way the words would fit around the guitar riff.
"You start to get into phonetics, it's like, what does the mouth want to do around that angular melody?" he says. "What are the right phonetics to make this energy pop? 'Da da da da, ga ga ga ga,' things like that that are easy to produce.… 'My daddy's got a gun,' it was like, 'OK, what does that mean?'"
We always believed in 'Hayloft' so very much, and it never really got its chance to be seen or heard or felt at that time.- Ryan Guldemond
In the end, "Hayloft" found a niche audience (it was a CBC Radio 3 staple in its day) but you could also say that it failed to connect with audiences at large. That is, until more than a decade later, when a new generation of music fans who had probably never heard of Mother Mother started finding "Hayloft" on TikTok and making videos with it. The organized chaos of the social media platform is exactly what "Hayloft" needed to thrive.
"We always believed in 'Hayloft' so very much, and it never really got its chance to be seen or heard or felt at that time," says Guldemond. "I guess here we are now when things are a bit more anarchistic and free form and there's less rules and there's less gate-keeping. Now is a much better time for this song to be enjoyed by a large group of people than then."
Since the song was discovered on TikTok last summer, videos using "Hayloft" have been viewed more than 334 million times, and on Spotify it's become the band's most listened to song, with more than 227 million streams.
Mother Mother has also fully embraced its new audience and signed up for a TikTok account, which now has 2.2. million followers. The band also released a new album, Inside, and kick off a world tour in Vancouver on Dec. 2 that will see it play dates in Canada, the United States and Europe.
It's fair to say that Mother Mother has never been bigger, and it started with a song that almost didn't make it.
"There's a permission that has been granted," says Guldemond. "It's funny, a permission that you realise you never needed. You always had permission to make the music exactly how you wanted to make it. But you know, sometimes it takes a TikTok phenomenon with a song like 'Hayloft' that doesn't have lyrics until 45 seconds to blow up to remind you that you're allowed to just do whatever you want."
Watch the full episode of Song Cycle above, and you can buy or stream Mother Mother's new album, Inside.