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Momma’s Alt-Rock Carnival Ride

California bandmates explain how their love of Veruca Salt and spooky sideshows led to their great new album, ‘Two of Me’

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Momma in Los Angeles in June 2020: CapittiFenton, Friedman, and Weingarten (from left)

Pooneh Ghana for Rolling Stone

Earlier this summer, Etta Friedman was visiting her family in Yerington, Nevada, when she crashed her cousin’s motorcycle and broke both wrists. “I let go of the clutch on the bike and popped a wheelie,” the 21-year-old musician says. “And then immediately went vroom! and went into the front of my aunt’s trailer and crashed directly into it.” Friedman was taken to the local hospital, where she was wrapped in splints. “They gave me this really old-school-looking baggie full of Percocet,” she adds. “I was like, ‘Very cool.’”

Yerington is a small town with a population of roughly 3,000 people. Friedman, who grew up outside of Los Angeles, has been visiting her relatives there for the last few years, along with her bandmate, Allegra Weingarten; the isolated locale helped inspire Two of Me, the recently released album from their band, Momma. “[It’s about] the glorification of a small town and all the secrets and gossip that happen — all these different intricate stories that can tie further into individuals facing their own morality and duality,” Friedman says. “We were really inspired by wide open spaces.”

Two of Me is a concept album, set in an alternate-reality town called the Bug House. “There’s a sense of community,” says Weingarten, 22. “But there’s also a sense of pause and limitations in what you can do, because it’s purgatory.” “Bug House” is also the name of the first song on the album, which opens with a distorted guitar riff as Friedman and Weingarten’s intertwining vocals enter: “Buzzing like bodies do/Muddled in masses/Lights out/Bug House.” The unsettling sound is meant to act as an introduction to the record: “We wanted it to feel like you were dwindling down somewhere by the end of the song,” Friedman says. “It was us being like, ‘Here’s your intro into all of these stories.’”

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With a sound that stems from the duo’s love of Veruca Salt and the Breeders, Two of Me is a welcome throwback to the Nineties, built on Friedman and Weingarten’s syrupy vocals that fuse together on each track. The highlight is the three-track sequence of “Stringer,” “Double Dare,” and “Carny,” which tell the dark tale of a news stringer on the margins of society. “If you’ve ever seen Nightcrawler or Shot in the Dark on Netflix, it’s about people that chase car crashes and film them and then sell it to news stations,” Weingarten says. The character encounters a fight at a fair (“Double Dare”) and then abandons his lover (“Carny”). “Said goodbye to my sweetheart, or he might’ve been,” they lament on the latter song. “Warping his portrait, he’s a sideshow kid.”

The title Two of Me derives from a line in “Habitat,” the hazy, hook-laden final track (“Humming habitat will open its ears/I see two of me”). “That song is loosely based on a day that Etta and I had, where shrooms may or may not have been involved,” Weingarten says with a laugh. “Not to say it’s a psychedelic song. But [we] had a spiritual moment, where we were looking at each other and Etta said to me, ‘I feel like being alone with you is like being by myself.’ I think that just speaks to our friendship and our writing style and how communicative we are with each other.”

Friedman and Weingarten met at Viewpoint High School in Calabasas, California. “We kept to ourselves a lot and had seen each other in the hallways,” Friedman recalls. “I just remember this one moment where we were like, ‘Do you listen to Alex G?’ We were both just like, ‘Oh my God, we’re both really obsessed with this artist. Maybe we should hang out.’” Friedman was in a riot grrrl band called Cattywampus, but found herself not relating to the music. She began uploading her own songs to SoundCloud under the name Momma, and asked Weingarten to fill in the guitar parts at a performance. “Once we started playing together, it formed a really natural way that we communicated with each other,” Friedman recalls. “Our creative relationship felt really powerful and intense.”

Friedman and Weingarten released their debut, Interloper, in 2018. After cycling through several different drummers, Zach CapittiFenton joined the band in 2017. “I think Allegra’s dad was drumming for Momma at that point,” CapittiFenton, 23, remembers. “I’d watched a video of them playing live, and I was like, ‘Who’s that old man ripping the drums?’” Going from a duo to a full band meant more ideas could be thrown around in the studio, particularly when they recorded Two of Me with bassist Sebastian Jones and producer-engineer Aron Kobayashi Ritch. “They took pressure off the two of us,” Friedman says.

Friedman and Weingarten were both exposed to music at an early age from their families. Each of them taught themselves guitar around the age of 13, while CapittiFenton took drum lessons. “People think I studied jazz drumming, ‘cause I don’t hit super-hard,” he says. “But I grew up listening to a lot of Radiohead. That’s where I got most of my influence from, because [Phil Selway] just knows the right stuff to play for every part. It’s never the most flashy, but it’s always the most thought-out. I really try to focus on what the guitars are doing, [rather] than insert myself in the situation.”

Momma in Los Angeles in June 2020.

Momma in Los Angeles in June 2020.

Pooneh Ghana for Rolling Stone

Friedman and CapittiFenton both attend college in New York City, while Weingarten recently graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans. They recorded Two of Me in Los Angeles over summer break last year. “We’ve always been under a time crunch because we’ve had school,” Friedman says. In February of 2019, the members flew to Los Angeles to open up for Gang of Four. “We were literally there for two days and then flew back,” Friedman says. “It felt pretty rock star.”

Lately, Friedman and Weingarten have been quarantining together, watching countless YouTube videos, drinking coffee, making puzzles, and working on a third album. “The upsetting thing is that we were supposed to be continually demoing, and then I broke my wrists,” Friedman says. “Weirdly, quarantine has put a certain amount of pressure on us to get things out.”

They look forward to the day where they can do a proper tour in support of Two of Me. “I can’t even wrap my head around [the fact] that people are listening to our music sometimes,” Friedman says. “Once we go and play live, it’s like, ‘Oh, cool. There’s a lot of people who are down to clown with Momma.’”

In This Article: Artist You Need to Know, Momma

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