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|Years active||1987-1998, 2008-?|
|Associated acts||Sunny Day Real Estate|
The Mommyheads are an American indie pop band who played from around 1987 through 1998, disbanded for a decade, and then reformed in 2008. Starting in New York City as the brainchild of singer Adam Cohen (who later changed his name to Adam Elk to avoid confusion with Leonard Cohen's son, a musician also named Adam), the band produced a string of quirky and highly inventive releases on various independent labels, most notably Simple Machines. Their music has been compared to XTC. They relocated to San Francisco in 1990. The band signed to Geffen Records in 1997, producing a single album for the label before breaking up in 1998. They reunited to record a new CD in 2008.
- Adam Cohen (aka Adam Elk)—guitar, vocal, plus occasional mandolin, melodica, autoharp, piano (1987–1998, 2008-current)
- Matt Devin Patrick—bass, vocals (1987–1993)
- Jan Kotik—drums, percussion, marimba (1987–1989 or 1990)
- Jude Revely—guitar, dulcimer (1987–1988)
- Tom Kotik—bass (1987–1988)
(these last two appear only on the "Magumbo Meatpie" EP and its "Antipop" LP re-release.)
- Cyrus Sink—bass (circa 1988)
- Michael Holt—keyboards, vocals, occasional guitar (1990–1998, 2008-current)
- Dan "Oy" Fisherman—drums, harmony vocals (1990–1998, 2008-current)
- Eric Bonerz—drums (circa 1990 or 1991)
- Gary Wertz—guitar, vocals (circa 1990 or 1991)
(these two appear only on the live Thirsty Ears compilation.)
- Rick Wilson—bass (1993)
- Jeff Palmer—bass, (1993–1998, 2008)
- Jason McNair—bass (2010–current)
The first official Mommyheads record, Magumbo Meatpie, was recorded in late 1987. It was released in 1988 on the Sit and Spin label, which was run out of a NYU dorm room. It was produced by Granz Henman, who was attending NYU, and Joseph A. Kim, who was an Ivy League drop-out. The 7" vinyl EP featured 4 songs that were recorded by Sonic Youth's engineer Wharton Tiers and is now exceedingly rare. Three of the songs later appeared on the Fang records compilation LP Antipop: New York Underground Mix (1988). This Mommyheads was a quartet, listed as "Adam" [Cohen], "Jan" [Kotik], and "Jude" and "Tom" [last names unlisted] on guitar/dulcimer and bass, respectively.
Their first full-fledged release was Acorn, on Fang Records in 1989, featuring Cohen (vocals, guitar, other instruments), Jan Kotik (drums), and Matt Patrick (vocals, bass), and produced by Chris Rael (of NYC band Church of Betty). The songwriting was split evenly between Cohen and Patrick. Both of these recordings were released while the band members were still in high school. Rael's liner notes to the Acorn CD re-release allude to XTC, James Brown, and Pussy Galore as primary musical influences.
Early 4-track and live demos of Mommyheads songs were released in 1991 or 1992 as the Simple Machines cassette Swiss Army Knife. This collection of home made songs, written and recorded primarily by Adam Cohen, were eccentric but highly original and musically complex. At their core was a whimsical and bittersweet pop sensibility that would underlie most of their subsequent recordings. 4 of the 17 songs would be re-recorded on their "official" releases. Around this time, Simple Machines also released "At the Mall" on a 7-inch compilation EP, Pulley. Two tracks appeared on a live Fang Records compilation.
Their second "real" album, the psychedelic Coming Into Beauty, was released on Simple Machines records in 1992. This was a combination of sessions for two albums which followed Acorn,, the first one released informally on a cassette called Papoose. A move to San Francisco and a lineup change occurred during the recording of this CD; Jan Kotik left and was replaced by two members of NYC group the Connotations: Dan Fisherman (drums, backup vocals) and Michael Holt (vocals, keyboards). (Cohen had played percussion on Connotations tracks released on vinyl in 1987, and Holt and Fisherman had also played in a variety of Fang Records bands.) Before the release of the CD, this new lineup released a limited edition live cassette (Mommyheads Live) of a more recent batch of songs, on Fang Records, most of which never made it to their later CD releases.
Matt Patrick left and was replaced by bass player Jeff Palmer (formerly of Sister Double Happiness), around the time of the recording of the next CD, Flying Suit, in 1994 (Dromedary Records). Liner notes to the Tiny Idols compilation credit "the slick, professionally minded Jeff Palmer" with steering the band towards a more "mainstream" sound at roughly this point. Live performances from this period, especially in college settings, often included a fetid, bongwater-soaked towel. Songwriting duties shifted mostly to Cohen, with occasional contributions from Holt. Several singles and compilation songs were released in this period, as well. A fourth record, Bingham's Hole, was released on Dot Dot Dash records in 1995. Produced by Peter Katis, this was the band's final independent full-length recording, and it showed the band adding more funk and boogie elements into the mix. Bingham's Hole drew the attention of Don Was who was credited with producing their next record.
On the strength of Bingham's Hole, the band was signed to Geffen Records, which released the Beatle-esque The Mommyheads in 1997. The CD met with mixed reviews. The band was dropped during a label shake-up before the album was even released, and the album was barely promoted. The Mommyheads broke up shortly thereafter, playing their final show in San Francisco in February 1998. Many fans hold this as a perfect example of a major label "ruining" a band that had established critical success and a solid fan base with the quality of its independent recordings and excellent live shows.
Following the breakup, most members of the band have gone on to solo and other collaborative projects. Adam Elk released a solo album called Labello, and is now a successful composer for television commercials. Jeff Palmer joined Sub Pop band Sunny Day Real Estate and Granfaloon Bus. Michael Holt has gone on to record several solo albums. Dan Fisherman became a computer programmer for a small San Francisco computer company and teaches mathematics, philosophy and recording for the Randolph School in Wappingers Falls, New York
Mommyheads songs have been covered on record by Jenny Toomey ("Needmore, PA" on Antidote) and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin ("Accident" and "Cora," the latter on the EP Someone Still Loves You Michael Holt).
Following the death of original drummer, Jan Kotik, The Mommyheads re-united for a tribute show in New York City. Shortly after, they decided to reform and record a new album, You're Not A Dream, which was released in 2008. In the spring of 2010, the band released a remastered version of Flying Suit containing three bonus tracks recorded during the same era.
In 2010, the band got a new bass player, replacing Jeff Palmer with Jason McNair.
A retrospective album entitled "Finest Specimens" was released on the Dromedary Records label on Oct 19, 2010. The album contained cuts from most of the band's studio albums as well as previously unreleased live tracks, demos, and one new song.
Their 2011 release, Delicate Friction, was the band's first record of all-new material since the mid-1990s. In the spring of 2012, the band announced the release of Vulnerable Boy on Dromedary Records in North America and Europe, and on Dead Frog Records in Scandinavia.
In 2018, The Mommyheads released "Soundtrack to the World's End," an album with several songs about the quickly approaching time of social, ecological, and economic crisis.
- Acorn (Fang Records) 1989
- Coming Into Beauty (Simple Machines) 1992
- Flying Suit (Dromedary Records) 1994
- Bingham's Hole (Dot Dot Dash) 1995
[Two different versions released]
- The Mommyheads (Geffen) 1997
- You're Not A Dream (Bladen County Records) 2008
- Flying Suit (Remastered, with 3 bonus tracks) (Dromedary Records) 2010
- Finest Specimens (Dromedary Records) 2010
- Delicate Friction (Dromedary Records) 2011
- Vulnerable Boy (Dromedary Records) 2012
- Live (Fang Records) 1991
- Swiss Army Knife (Simple Machines) 1992
- The Yellow Tape 5-song EP tape (Black Widow Management) 1993
[All 5 recordings later rereleased on various singles and comps, as listed below.]
Singles and EPs
- Magumbo Meatpie EP (Sit & Spin Records) 1987-8
- "At the Mall," Pulley EP (Simple Machines) 1991
[May have been recorded in 1989.]
- "The World Is Round"/"Remedy" (Hairy/Simple Machines) 1993
- "Time Bomb"/"Gnocci" (Sonic Swirl Records—Split Single w/ Witch Hazel) 1994
- "Day Job," Making Music Your Own (You Say When records—split single w/ The Jennifers) 1995
- "Skin Is Color Blind," "Imperfect Love," "Butcher's Daughter," Antipop: NY Underground (Fang) 1988
[These tracks are on Magumbo Meatpie, possibly in slightly different mixes.]
- "Queen of the Ant Race," "Minds Are Made of This," Thirsty Ears: Fang Records Bands Live at the Knitting Factory (Fang) 1991
[This collection also features Holt, Fisherman and Kotik as members of several of the other bands.]
- "At The Mall," The Machines: Simple Machines 7"s (1990-1993) (Simple Machines) 1993 [track from Pulley EP]
- "Hepsaba's Compass," radio performance, They Came, They Played, They Blocked The Driveway (WFMU) 1993
- "Box," Lemon Lime vol.1 (SpinArt) 1995 [track from The Yellow Tape]
- Song unknown, Listener Supported (Cassette), (You Say When) 1996
- "Over," "Tension," "Moisture," Come and Get It (Hairy Records) 1996 ["Tension" also on second version of Bingham's Hole.]
- "Over," Greenlight Go (Bottle Cap) 1996
- "Moisture," Eyesore: A Stab at the Residents (Vaccination) 1996
- "Christmas Song," "Christmas Song (Catskills version)," All-Star Holiday (Tarquin Records) 1997
[These tracks may only feature Adam Elk.]
- "It's Okay," San Francisco: A Music City Compilation (Trocadero Records) 1998 [track from Bingham's Hole]
- "Blind Like A Camera," Tiny Idols (Snowglobe Records) 2005 [track from Coming Into Beauty]
- Tiny Idols compilation (Snowglobe Records; 2005) Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine.
- Tarquin Records: Tape-Op - Sept/Oct 2002 Archived 2007-08-26 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Flying Suit". Dromedary Records. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
-  Archived October 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived July 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Delicate Friction". Dromedary Records. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- The Mommyheads: Discography (All-Music Guide)
- Simple Machines: 1990-1993 (All-Music Guide)