Susurrus is a musical escape for badass moms
Band Practice is sacred.
This is especially true for a self-professed “mom rock” band. With four working mothers in the group, Susurrus’ rehearsals are a time for its members— vocalist/guitarist Becky Brown, keyboardist/vocalist MaryRose Lovgren, bassist Anna Adams and drummer Linda Dunn—to get a break from their busy lives.
Whenever the folk/punk/indie-rock four-piece gets together, the room is filled with laughter and in-depth conversation—about anything and everything: relationships, politics, work—but their rehearsals are more than just a supportive and fun gathering for the women. The time together also offers an opportunity for them to freely express themselves and act on their creative impulses.
“For all of us, our main job in life is managing other people’s emotions—in our families and our jobs,” Brown told the CN&R during a recent group interview. “What music carves out for me is this place to feel emotions that are not attached to anyone else’s. And I can feel, like, philosophical, or I can feel, like, horny, or enraged, or silly.”
Since its debut show in December 2017, Susurrus has performed a handful of shows at local venues. In addition to their jobs (three of them are educators, while Dunn owns her own pest-control business), Adams lives in Alameda and commutes for practice. But despite the infrequent shows, the band’s sound is polished, which isn’t a surprise given the fact that three of the members were active in the local music scene back in the 1990s/early 2000s. Lovgren played organ in the popular instrumental crew Antfarm, Brown was in Red Bluff-based Pan Pan with Adams and fronted her own Chico group, Royal Crown.
Just last month, Susurrus released its first album, the six-song Let Your Sisters In. The sound isn’t easy to categorize; the music is both catchy and fun, and dark and challenging, with evocative and intense vocals with lyrics that touch on politics, feminism and relationships.
For example, the album’s closing track, “Sisters,” is an anthem for female solidarity: “Let your sisters in/You don’t have to tame your flash to do that/Answer when they call … Doesn’t mean you’re small if you’re scared to do that.”
Though Brown is the band’s lyricist, Susurrus’ music is created collaboratively. “If you have an idea, no one takes it the wrong way,” Lovgren said. “It’s not a one-person show.” And they have a lot of love for one another, too. Brown said creating and performing in an all-female ensemble, especially with these women, has been like nothing else she’s experienced. “There’s no drama, there’s no ego,” she said. “I just feel entirely free in this band.”
Susurrus was formed, in part, as a way for Brown to cope after the 2016 election. “I was so full of fear and rage,” she said. “I needed to do something that was positive and creative and empowering.”
She reached out to fellow musicians and friends she’d long looked up to—Lovgren, Adams and initially drummer Shoko Horikawa (of Chico disco-punks XDS)—to form a new band. Dunn came aboard later, after Horikawa stepped down. Dunn has been taking lessons for seven years, and Susurrus is her first band.
The group’s name is an obscure word that means “a whispering or rustling sound.” Lovgren became enamored with it after stumbling across it in a friend’s book. “We lure you in with the idea that it’s gentle music by all ladies,” she joked. “Watch out!”
The “mom rock” label is tongue-in-cheek. But it also speaks to the fact that the mothers are trying to reach an audience they feel is under-represented in music.
“To me, it’s not like we’re singing about changing diapers and stuff,” Adams said to laughter from her bandmates. They are combating the perception, she continued, that youthfulness has to be given up at a certain point. “It can still be really vital and generative to be creative in a fun way as you age.”
Brown also frequently features feminist themes in her songs, and that is, in part, because she has daughters. In “Black Boots,” she sings: “All I wanted was more/Wanted to get off on the top floor/In an office downtown/Without clutching my gown/Like some dime novel paramour.”
“I want them to … approach the world with strength and confidence and be creative in it and be judged for what they can bring, rather than what they look like,” Brown said about her daughters.
The band members expressed excitement at the fact that their music is stirring up the interest of younger generations, too. While the women do vent about the demands of motherhood, they also reflect on how supportive their families, and their children, have been. Dunn was thrilled to share that her girls have posted pictures online of her drumming, with captions like, “I have the coolest mom.”