Interview/Photos: Adult Mom Talks Their New Album, Safe Spaces, Brooklyn and More

Purchase, NY’s Steph Knipe has been recording and releasing music under the Adult Mom moniker for only a few years, but they’ve already made quite a splash in the scene. Adult Mom’s debut EP “Sometimes Bad Happens” was put out on cassette July 2014 by Miscreant Records to wide acclaim from mainstream press like Rolling Stone and indie blogs alike. 2015, however, is shaping up to be even bigger for Knipe, as Charlotte, North Carolina based label Tiny Engines recently announced signing Adult Mom and plan to put out their upcoming debut LP, Momentary Lapse of Happily. I caught up with Steph recently before they played a show in Brooklyn to take a few photos and talk Adult Mom, the new album, and what its like juggling a music career with being a full time college student.

This Has Got to Stop: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat! Where did the Adult Mom name come from?

Steph Knipe: I had just written my first song and I was like, what the HECK am i going to call myself? I thought about how I was always considered the “mom” of the group, always sort of taking care of someone and being the empathetic but tough person. I really liked the idea of being a mom, just the idea, and coming into my own as an 18 year old. Then I remembered my friends tumblr URL was “adult mom” and I was like, that’s it, that’s really sick, and I sort of stole it but with her permission. Does that make me a tumblr artist?

THGTS: You’re still an undergrad student at SUNY Purchase, correct? What are you studying? Is it hard to balance Adult Mom with being a student?

SK: I’m in my third year at Purchase! I am an anthropology student with a double major in media society and the arts (sort of like a cuddle pile of sociology, media studies, gender studies, and DIY).

It’s difficult to continue to feel lively about my academic work, because school is draining and expensive. But id like to think that my schooling informs my music in some way, anthropology has definitely made me a better writer in general. But it has been immensely difficult to feel in love with Adult Mom and then have to give up a lot of Adult Mom related things to finish my degree…although my professors have been so supportive! One of them calls Adult Mom “mom jeans” all the time. It’s weird as hell.

THGTS: Purchase College has made a name for itself through its burgeoning music scene, sprouting artists like yourself, Mitski, Crying, LVL UP, among others. How would you describe that scene to an outsider?

SK: Because Purchase is really insular, and that’s good in some respects, it builds a really great music family where everyone is in and out of each other’s bands and building things together. But it’s maddening at times. It is the same faces all the time, again that can be amazing, but it can also be a bummer if you don’t feel like you “fit.” Brooklyn bums me out too, though.

THGTS: What about Brooklyn do you like/dislike?

SK: There are only a few really great people that I love in Brooklyn, shouts out to Portals, the Miscreant, Silent Barn, The Epoch, etc. But man, I think the Silent Barn is one of the only good things about Brooklyn! Brooklyn is expensive, there’s a lot of issues with displacement and gentrification and whitewashing of areas through DIY, and there’s a lot of apathy. I feel weird about it. I guess I’m not really answering your question I’m just talking shit. I think I just have a lot of qualms with the apathy that is so present in Brooklyn that is so not present at Purchase and other places.

THGTS: You’re considered to be outspoken in regards to your identity both through your music and on social media. What do you feel is your role in being an advocate for the populations which you identify with, and why is that important to you?

SK: Is it outspoken or is it just me being like, generally vocal? I don’t know I think there’s this weird thing all the time that non binary people and queer people are seen as outspoken about their identities when really I think I’m just like, talking about it. On that note I never want to be put on a weird pedestal as the queer savior of souls; I for sure advocate for marginalized identities and groups but I want to communicate that we can all be vocal and a little more comfortable and happy about our identities. But it’s a process that takes so much time to get to and I would never tell other non binary or queer people how to live or be. We all do our best and I’m heart warmed that people find solace in my vocality.

THGTS: What are your thoughts on the independent music scene in 2015 in general? What’s right and what’s wrong with it?

SK: Oh. Just about everything. Everything is always a balance of really amazing things happening and then really fucked up things happening. Like, one of the things I don’t like that has been happening in punk and indie is this immense lack of accountability. Everyone wants to advocate for safer spaces and amazing things like that and then there’s rapists and abusers booked in these venues. And it’s really hard to feel like the scene is this great big pile of love when your abuser is sitting in the audience watching you play songs about how he fucked you up (this has happened to me).

I think a lot of people in the scene are really afraid to speak up about injustices, a lot of people are blissfully unaware and that also has to do with cis white men still running things. And straight and cis folks in general. It has been incredibly hard to feel safe in any space as a trans person and it’s really rare that I find solace in particular venues, the Silent Barn is one of those rare spots. I just want people to be less apathetic, I want these gatekeeping, scene-running ding dongs to stop just saying that they are allies and actually act on that. There’s just this string of “it doesn’t affect me, so I don’t care” type of bull. Scenes are inherently bad and hierarchical anyway, scenes are created to maintain small communities and are exclusive in their nature; so that has a lot to do with it. I don’t like being part of a “scene,” I’d much rather float around and see what’s up in every community because that’s more exciting to me.

If I only wanted to be involved with my friends I’d just stay on the internet or something, I’m trying to find something more expansive than that, I’m trying to create a personal utopia with music and DIY. It’s all hard. But a lot of people are doing really incredible and important things, and that makes me feel warm and excited.

THGTS: Huge congrats are in order on having Tiny Engines put out your upcoming album this summer! What can you tell us about that process and what to expect on the album?

SK: So we had just finished the album and had gotten the first pass of mixes and were sending it to a bunch of labels that we had known, and then my friend who is on Tiny Engines was like, “Hey this is really good, I’m gonna send it to Tiny Engines because they really like your music.” Will from Tiny Engines emailed me and was like, “This is fucking sick” or something, and then we talked on the phone about the music scene and stuff, and then he was like, “Yeah, we wanna release this!” I thought about it for a day or two because we were talking to a few other labels, but then realized that Tiny Engines were the best people and nicest people and were the most enthusiastic.

SO. That’s how it happened! It’s been really amazing so far and Chuck and Will that run Tiny Engines are the nicest and most supportive people. The album itself is sort of an artifact in some way of all of the trauma I have had to go through in the past couple of years. It’s about abuse and recovering from abuse and falling in love and then recovering from heartache. It’s about how these things are temporary lapses, which doesn’t make them less real, it just means that they pass, and the process of those things passing is incredibly important.

THGTS: Thank you, Steph! Anything else you’d like to add?

SK: My favorite dog is a Newfoundland.

Momentary Lapse of Happily comes out this Summer on Tiny Engines records. Catch Adult Mom on tour this Summer.

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My face when I saw this in the mail:

This is beautiful. I was not expecting to get this so quickly so I was super surprised and excited when I saw it on my dinner table after work! I had to bust out my camera and take photos of them immediately.

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