Orphan Mothers: the Internet electropop romance for our time

MUSIC by Charles Cassino


Orphan Mothers
Friday 1

The origin of Regina electropop duo Orphan Mothers is like a band version of a modern-day love story: the two musicians forged their musical union in that vast nether-region of digital romance — the Internet.

Eden Rohatensky and Jon Neher had known each other, or at least about each other from mutual friends, for over a decade, but hadn’t crossed paths musically. Their sonic union began on Twitter.

One day, Rohatensky tweeted “I like Purity Ring a lot.”

“Alright, I guess we are in a chillwave band together now,” responded Neher.

It was a match made in electropop heaven.

Two years later, after numerous songwriting sessions and near-endless bottles of wine, the duo have unveiled their debut EP, Hindsight, which bubbles with percolating beats, intricate wordplay and a mood that bounces between chilly and playful. It’s both darkly introverted and sparkling with energy.

Still, it’s a small miracle that the two are able to make music together. Both have their hands full: Rohatensky is busy with multiple projects including Eden the Cat and Witch Lips, and Neher contributes to Nick Faye and the Deputies and plays piano at Casino Regina on weekends.

“It’s rare when we are actually writing together in the same room,” says Rohatensky, who adds that both she and Neher also contribute to another project called Oiseaux.

“It’s super weird that way but given how busy we both are it’s like we’re long distance,” says Neher. “The song ‘Towers’ was our first collaboration, and there was a lot of time where we weren’t doing a lot, and then we had to get in gear because we had a date behind it.”

Hindsight — which was recorded in Rohatensky’s basement — is full of icy, nuanced songwriting that runs the gamut between gentle and ominous. With both members involved in so many other projects, the sound is a cumulative effort between two musicians who draw on unexpected influences.

“You never know where inspiration will strike from,” says Neher. “One song was composed from a jazz song. I’ve been really enjoying blending harsh technology and smartphones and our bodies. When we have a voice like Eden’s it’s an interesting dichotomy to play to.”

Orphan Mothers plans on touring in May and will appear at the Gateway Festival later this summer. The band also hopes to release remixes and cover songs while expanding their live show.

“Jon has been pushing me to play keyboards to get a bigger sound,” says Rohatensky. “He’s taught me a lot about music, so when we get on stage it’s a respect thing where we give each other the space to do what we need to achieve.

“We’re also working on combining more visual aspects with our live set,” she adds. “We’re hoping to be able to add projections at some point — something that people can watch with the music. I’m not a great dancer, and it’s only so entertaining to watch someone play on a computer.”