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Ancient Teeth Take A Bite Out of Life With Debut Album, Deathbed

Guitarist Adrian Mottram discusses his cross-country recording project of epic proportions.

by Johnny Stewart

Photo by Darrin McGill

Considering they’re spread out across Canada with members in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg, Ancient Teeth is a surprisingly functional band.

A supergroup of sorts, the anthemic guitar rock quartet combine their many years of writing and touring experience to create something fresh and memorable. Lead singer/guitarist Adrian Mottram (Sights & Sounds, Seas) began crafting songs for the band back in 2020, drawing on musical influences from Futures era Jimmy Eat World and 90s alt-rock band Hum, balancing loud and epic elements with a gentle and personal approach. 

The lyrics and music on Ancient Teeth’s debut album, Deathbed, are a cathartic outlet for Mottram. Celebrating the birth of a child juxtaposed with losing a loved one provided inspiration for new collaboration. “The sorrow of losing someone close to you, that was a tremendous influence and driving force behind the lyrics and feel of the songs,” Mottram tells RANGE. 

Fuzzed out guitars overtop a bed of atmospheric synths form a tapestry of epic sonic proportions. Songs such as “Close to you” and “All That You Are” standout as album highlights, but the whole album comes alive as it unfolds as one concise piece of music. Jahmeel Russell (Kittens, Actors, Kenmode) lends his signature bass sound to Mike Duffield’s (Beams) drumming to create a rhythmic heartbeat. Meanwhile, Chris Hughes (Moneen, Seas) and Mottram’s driving guitar work blends the best moments from 90s post punk/2000s indie.  

According to Mottram there are already plans for a second album, going into the studio to record with beloved Canadian rock and roll producer Ian Blurton (Change of Heart, C’mon). We had a chance to sit down with Mottram to ask him a few questions about bringing this cross-country recording project to life.  

How did Ancient Teeth become a band? 

We became a band when Darrin McGill (our audio engineer) took the photo of us outside of Union Sound Co. in Toronto as we loaded our equipment out after the Humanizer recording sessions on December 17, 2021. Before that, it was a growing project with Chris (Hughes) and myself to work out things happening in our lives. 

How would you describe your sound?

Heavy, melodic, and naturally flawed. It has nuances of all of our inspirations, and it is constantly changing. 

You guys are spread all over Canada; how does it all work with those vast geographical distances?

So far, it has not been complicated or a setback. When I booked the studio time to record Deathbed, Jahmeel was busy with his other band, Actors, so he laid all his bass parts in when he got home. Thankfully his schedule opened up, and we can finally have a project together that is growing beautifully. 

When Chris and I were playing in Seas together we adopted this functional operation where he would reach out to a bunch of people in our close network when we had shows, and whoever was available would show up and play. Sometimes we would have two drummers, three guitars and two bass players. Sometimes it was just Chris and a drum machine. I believe it’s a healthy model. Therefore there is less pressure than the conventional model of ride-or-die stress. These guys seem way into it, and I couldn’t have gotten here without them. They’re all pros, and their support is breathtaking.

What is the origin of your band name?

I saw a video on Instagram of an alligator biting a pumpkin, and I thought to myself wow, look at those Ancient Teeth. I messaged the guys and said how about Ancient Teeth and they all said yes. So there you go.

Got any dentist horror stories that you care to share? 

One time I cracked my molar on an olive pit and went to a dentist on Queen Street in Toronto. The nurse declared I might need a root canal, my body was shocked, and she started gassing me. They accidentally administered too much gas, and I was in paralysis for a little longer than expected.

What are some bands that you have been listening to lately that influence you creatively?

Skeletress is Chris Hughes’ other project. He wrote, engineered, and mixed a fantastic album last year. I listened to it almost every day until I reconnected with Andrew  from Comeback Kid and got his latest record, Heavy Steps, and listened to that until we started mixing Ancient Teeth. I’ve been up my ass with that until the new Pillars of a Twisted City came out, which is always so incredibly raw and brutal. I would love to be able to produce their next record and get a studio full of all the right tools to document their music.

What was it like to work with James Trechker and Ryan Dahle for your mixing and mastering?

The mixing process was terrific. At a certain point in 2021, Chris and I had started moving so quickly completing the second record, that in order to keep up with the inspiration, we needed somebody to take what we had done and finish it. I met James through digging into the last Hum record. I had approached both Tim Lashes and James at the same time to work on this, and James and I just clicked immediately. He knew exactly what was to be done and delivered. And as soon as we finished mixing Deathbed, he went right into mixing Humanizer. Ryan was a great touch as well. He has such a refined sound and studio for this type of music, and it was nice to have these songs pass through his ears. 

What was the lyrical songwriting process like for this recording?

You know, it was written in tandem with the music. I would sing a melody as I was writing the music, then retrace my steps listening to the voice memos trying to uncover what I was saying. Most of the time with the writing, all the phrasing is there, and I slowly bring each word into focus to find out what I’m trying to say. There was one song, “A Way Out,” that just wouldn’t come together, so Ryan Dahle introduced me to Jordy Birch (Pure) to help nudge me forward. That was a fantastic experience as well. And he has been a part of both records passively. Regarding the content, my wife and I endured some extreme life events, and I had to make this record of being able to process it all healthily. I am very proud of it.

What are your plans for 2023 once the album drops? 

We have some full band shows lined up for the spring. We have made a game plan for a third record, which I have written that I want to record. Chris and I have been talking about a concept for a fourth record. Playing shows and recording is just what we will be up to indefinitely.