2015 Artist Survey: Briana Marela | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2015 Artist Survey: Briana Marela

Marela on Streaming Music, the Election, Bad Dates, Star Wars, and Gun Control

Jan 28, 2016 Artist Surveys 2015 Photography by Lucinda Roanoke Bookmark and Share

For Under the Radar’s 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire’s Will Butler, Julien Baker, Blanck Mass, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, The Flaming Lips, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.

Here are some answers from Briana Marela. After self-releasing two small albums, in 2012 Marela was emailed by frequent Sigur Rós collaborator and producer Alex Somers, who had been passed some of Marela’s material by one of his friends. Somers produced and recorded Marela’s latest album, All Around Us, in Iceland. It’s her debut for Jagjaguwar.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

1. Björk: VulnicuraThis has been one of the best and most emotive albums that Björk has put out in years. I am so moved by it. I’ve loved Björk’s music for years now, and this album coming out, especially so early on this year, was such a treat!
2. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: EuclidI had heard some of Kaitlyn’s music prior to this year and loved it, and when I saw she had a new album and that I was booked to play a show with her early this year I was really stoked. Her live set is so impressive and the album is so inspiring to listen to, I love it.
3. Panda Bear: Panda Bear Meets the Grim ReaperI’ve loved Panda Bear for years as well and it was definitely fun to have a new album by him to listen to. I think I like parts of it way more than the last album in fact, and I got to see him play live for the first time this year! He is still so inspiring!
4. SOPHIE: ProductI don’t know if this really counts, first of all because these songs are actually old but coming out this year, and because it is claimed to not be an “album,” but either way, I love SOPHIE, and his PC Music affiliates. The production and song writing are so good.
5. Sick Sad World: Fear and LiesI have personally been waiting for this album to come out for years from my friend Jake. Like me with my album, he had a lot of delay in getting it out into the world, but I love all these songs so much and they are just so fun and satisfy this inner teen in me. Also a shoutout to Seattle and NW music and friends.
6. Julia Holter: Have You In My WildernessI’ve been a longtime fan of Julia Holter since Tragedy, and she was yet another artist I admire who released an album this year. 2015 has been a very good year for music. This album I think far surpasses her last one and is amazing!
7. Holly Herndon: PlatformThis is a very important album for everyone to hear. I think Holly Herndon is standing on the edge of music, facing the future. I really admire her work and aesthetics.
8. Dan Deacon: Gliss RifferI hadn’t heard much from Dan Deacon in years but had loved his music long ago and was really surprised and happy to really enjoy listening to this album. I think it is also one of the best things he has done in a while.
9. Jenny Hval: Apocalypse, girlI couldn’t help but be super influenced by this album this year. After sharing a full U.S. tour with her and some dates in the U.K., I just always have these songs stuck in my head. Jenny is so amazing live and really brings these pieces of art to life. It is so cerebral yet so catchy and melodic. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from Jenny and am glad to have been inspired by her this year.
10. Chastity Belt: Time to Go HomeI’m often not moved much by guitar-based music these days, but Chastity Belt rule! I just have to say it. Although this album might not be as “fun” and party-themed as their last album, I think this album is a strong example of how they have grown as songwriters and as a band. I look forward to what is next for these awesome people from Seattle.

What was the highlight of 2015, for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

Most of 2015 has been a highlight for me. Having my album released and going on two tours this year was incredible, especially the U.S. tour where I was able to have two friends join me onstage. The very last show of the tour in Los Angeles, where we met up with our friend who did my album art and my friend who produced it, felt like this incredible high point where everything had come full circle and all felt harmonious and balanced in my life. I honestly didn’t have a very low point this year, except that a music video that my friend and I made was not approved to be released and I was definitely really bummed because I had spent a lot of time and effort trying to make it happen.

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?

I hope to go on more fun tours, solo or with bandmates and maybe even get to go to Japan or Australiathat’d be such a dream! Also to finish all my demos of new songs and maybe even by the end of the year start recording new stuff! Also to go to way more hot springs, more adventures with friends, and buy a new computer finally so I can lay my 2007 Apple Macbook Pro to rest, R.I.P.

With the launch of TIDAL and Apple Music in 2015, there are more streaming music options, but the same issues of adequate artist compensation persist. What are your current thoughts on streaming and which service would you most like to have your music on?

I have mixed feelings about streaming. It is indeed the future and super convenient, though I don’t know how fair it is for everyonefor artists or listeners. I just got the free three-month Apple Music trial and have to admit that I am really loving it. However, I know that artists having their songs streamed versus bought is definitely not profitable in the long run. If the majority of music listeners are switching over to streaming versus buying, I think the compensation to artists via streaming services needs to reflect that. Also for listeners, if you instead bought an album from a record store, doesn’t paying for something give it more worth to you in a sense too? Your attention span hopefully won’t glaze over something as fast when you have committed to something a little more in the long run. And having a physical item to hold is still really meaningful to me. I don’t want it to become obsolete.

What are your thoughts on Friday being the new global release day for albums? Is it helping or hurting album sales?

I can’t say I know enough about the music industry to know whether it is helping or hurting sales of albums. Friday kind of seems like a weird day to me though, because a lot of people see Friday as the end of their work week and maybe have other things on their mind besides a new album coming out. Ultimately I think music lovers and people who care about buying an album on its release date will not be stopped by a day change.

Mainstream pop music is increasingly embraced by indie rock musicians and listeners, as well as serious music critics. At this point, do you draw any distinctions between Top 40 pop and indie rock/pop? Are you comfortable with this shift?

It does seem like a lot of indie rock/pop would love to be Top 40 these days than ever before. I get it, Top 40 is really appealing and easily digestible and makes people a lot of money. I definitely love some Top 40 songs and appreciate pop production and songwriting. I think more often in my life, though, I like to be challenged by music. Not to say you can’t be challenged by the creativity that is behind the top of the charts, but why should we all aspire to be a certain way? Indie music is supposed to be independent for a reason: to have the freedom to explore all aspects of our musical culture. We should be inspired by Top 40 no more than all the other music currently existing, old and new.

What are your thoughts on how the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up?

I don’t believe in the monopolized two-party system. I only vote for third party candidates who don’t succumb to corporate money or media propaganda. I’ll likely be voting for the Green Party again.

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift’s 1989 (and then Father John Misty covered Adams covering Swift). If you were to cover another artist’s album in its entirety, which would you pick and why?

To be frank with you I think covering an entire artist’s album would be a huge waste of time. I’d much rather be working on my own original material. The only exception might be to record a Christmas album and do some covers, but also write original songs. I’d love to do that.

Have you ever been fired from a job (be it a day job or musical one)? Why were you fired?

I’ve never been fired from a job. I work really hard at whatever I do. I’ve quit a handful of day jobs, though, because I was bored out of my mind. If I were to get fired from a job it would probably be because I wanted to do things my own way and not follow the rules exactly.

What’s your earliest music-related childhood memory?

I have many early childhood music-related memories. Here are a few: I remember sitting on the floor of my parents’ first apartment and listening to Peruvian folk music cassette tapes my dad would play. I remember my grandma’s piano in her family room and playing its ivory keys that were always cool to the touch. I remember singing along to children’s music cassettes in the car with my mom when she would drive me to and from preschool.

What outrageous request would you most like to put in your tour rider as a joke?

Only if it was a joke, I would put “as many luxury specialty drinks as you can find.” I love having beverage options. One beverage in each hand is how I like to live my life.

What’s the most disastrous date you’ve ever been on?

I’ve been lucky so far, I guess, but so far the most disastrous might be when I took someone to see Phillip Glass play piano études and my date fell asleep right away. I knew it wasn’t gonna work out.

Which Star Wars character are you most like?

Probably Yoda, he’s kinda the best character. I’m kinda small, weird, and mystical. Also very wise and a total secret badass. Also because I’ll accidentally talk backwards like he does from time to time.

Where do you see yourself in five beers?

Beers, not years, right? Either blissfully dancing on the dance floor or puking out of a car.

What song will most unite or amp up the tour bus or van (à la “Tiny Dancer” in Almost Famous)? Which song do you love that the rest of the band or crew refuse to let you put on?

This last U.S. tour in the van we would constantly revisit “Adore You” by Miley Cyrus. I think we were all feeling pretty united by that song. I didn’t get my shit together and put music on any devices, but we had plenty to listen to so I couldn’t necessarily make anyone listen to anything I owned that was “bad.” I think my bandmate Joel won that by putting on 1D and me and Natalie had to beg him to change it.

Mass shootings continue to be a problem, and yet the U.S. government still has yet to take action on curbing gun violence. What are your thoughts on gun control?

My first thought is that guns are this antiquated thing that really shouldn’t exist anymore. Why does any living thing need to be shot by a gun? Can’t we put that part of history behind us and focus on more important things than war? I think as long as our government owns weapons that citizens should have the right to bear arms and own guns, but I do think there should be a rigorous process to obtain a device that is meant for killing. I think in order to stop mass shootings, our nation should set an example that violence is not the answer in any situation. We are teaching generations of people that violence is normal and acceptable, and people’s brains are warped to not understand what death is.

In 2015, what do the words “indie rock” mean?

I kind of feel like it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It has lost its original meaning. Sometimes when I call something indie rock I actually mean that I think it is boring. There are better ways of describing music these daysif you have to call something indie rock than you either don’t know anything about music or you must think it sucks. Haha, I’m being a bit harsh, but really, does anyone still describe their band as “indie rock”? Not anyone I know, at least.

If you could drop a copy of one album in the inbox of every citizen of the world, what album would it be (besides one of your own)?

Vespertine by Björk, of course.

How prepared are you for the apocalypse, zombie or otherwise?

Not prepared at all. My strategy would just be to find my mom. She is prepared.

If your house were on fire, what would you grab as you were running out?

Everything I could, it’d be a Katamari Damacy-type situation. I’m kind of a hoarder.

What’s the biggest goal for your life that you have yet to achieve?

To someday own the Smith Tower in Seattle. Just kidding, but really my biggest goal is to just always be making music that I am proud of making and sharing with the world, and hopefully someday when I’m old and have some influence and true wisdom that I can give back as much as I can to young musicians and artists, because the way things are going they are going to need even more help than I have had.





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