From playing in a pop punk band to adopting dreamy acoustics and indie pop vibes, Mariel's music style changed as she did. She was kind enough to share her worst moment on stage with us (and we feel for her !), along with the impact that covid has had on her music and herself as a person.
MSM: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself for those who don't know you ? What would you tell people who don't know your music? How would you convince them to listen to your music ?
Mariel: My name is Mariel and I sing in Best Ex (or I am Best Ex. People have been calling me that a lot lately !). I used to be in a band called Candy Hearts that did a metric ton of pop punk/scene stuff—like Warped Tour, touring with bands like New Found Glory and Set It Off, a bunch of cool stuff like that. It was truly a dream come true, but I was a teenager when I started the band. I've grown a lot since then, so I went off on my own because I wanted to create music that aligned more with how I felt as an adult.
If you've never heard my music, you'd probably like it if you're into early '00s indie pop (like Bright Eyes, Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley, Etc.) or modern singer songwriters (like Phoebe Bridgers or Taylor Swift). I like to think I bridge the gap between both sounds. The thing about me is that I'm not great at convincing people to check out my songs (if you couldn't tell). My mama always taught me to just work hard and be myself. Some people will like me, and others will hate me, but at least they'll never be confused about who I am. I think that's something I really take to my music. It's 100% authentic. I write about my real life. When I release new songs, my friends always joke because they know exactly what (or who !) it's about. The truth is when you listen to my music, you get all of me.
MSM: What is your creative process like ?
Mariel: I think it depends on the day. Some days I wake up, take a walk, and hear a fully-formed clip of a song in my head—the melody, the instrumentation, the production, all of it. I'll try to sing it into my voice notes app as best as I can. Other days, a lyric idea will pop into my head and I'll write it down and save it for later. When I sit down to write a full song, I'll try to match the voice notes with the written notes.
Sometimes, I just don't have any inspiration at all. If I feel like pushing it, I'll call my friends into the studio and we'll try to come up with something together. I've found that even just a little spark of an idea from another person can instantly dispel writer's block. Of course, some days are harder than others.
MSM: Your newest song came out after Covid happened. Did covid change you as a person and the way you see things in life now ? If yes, how so ?
Mariel: I wish I could say it didn't, but Covid changed the entire way I view the world. The things that used to give me anxiety—like my career stagnating or getting dumped—just feel very trivial. I'm not as concerned. In turn, everything else feels dangerous all the time. I have a lot of fear—not just for this particular virus, but more so, for what it taught me about other people.
I think I always sort of believed that society was breeding selfish people and you're truly alone in the world. I think the music industry tricks you into believing you're only worth the favors you can give someone else. Covid actually showed me that isn't true. When the world shut down and hanging out with people in real life became a risk, it made me really think about which relationships were worth it. That friend who was kind of shitty but you hung around anyway could now kill your grandma. I ended up letting those relationships fall out of my life, and I'm so much better off for it.
Unfortunately, Covid did reinforce my idea that a selfish minority is often the loudest and can absolutely endanger the majority. I saw selfishness (primarily in red states) on a scale I just couldn't have imagined. I try to hold compassion. I try to remind myself that if you're riding your bicycle past temporary morgues in Central Park, it's traumatic. It was way easier to ignore it. It was way easier to pretend everything was conspiracy and not actually happening. Not everyone is brave enough to face a really scary reality. It just sort of made me both angry and sad.
MSM: Did Covid impact your music and your creative process? If so, how ?
Mariel: I had a lot more time to write. I find that I'm most creative when I have days of solitude, which I don't typically get unless I plan in advance. Covid gave me an endless amount of time to just think, reflect, and write. To be honest, I loved that part of lockdown. Of course, the best medicine for writer's block is going out and living your life. That was really hard because you literally couldn't. I think that's why I wrote such introspective songs during that time.
MSM: What is the favourite song that you have released ? Why
Mariel: Definitely "Good At Feeling Bad." I love that I just came into the studio and was like I forgot the guitars we laid down in our last session. Let's replace everything with horns and sample some crickets to make it sound like a summer night. I think it's also very true to me. I'm very much that person who, when something bad happens, shrugs and says: "Of course." I feel like this song encompasses that entire feeling.
MSM: What can people expect from your shows ?
Mariel: Some bands say their shows are like a giant party. Mine are not like that at all—though by all means dance if you want to ! They're actually an introverts dream. I try to make them all feel like we're friends staying up late at a sleepover sharing our darkest secrets, juiciest gossip, and deepest fears. We laugh, we cry, and we all go home feeling a little less alone in the world. I want my shows to be a place where everyone feels like they belong and can truly be themselves.
MSM: Are there any artists you would love to collaborate with ? Why ?
Mariel: My answers are always the same, but I always wanted to collaborate with John K Samson from the Weakerthans. If he could even just give me notes and help me write a song. I just don't think there is a single person on this planet who is a better lyricist than him. Otherwise, I'd love to write a song with Maisie Peters. She's my favorite singer/songwriter right now. Outside of my work in Best Ex, I also do write with other artists.
MSM: What would your dream venue/city/country to play live be and why ?
Mariel: It's always my dream to play in London. I know I've played there a couple times, but each time has been the absolute best show I have ever played in my life. Imagine playing the O2 arena ? Or Wembley ? I've only played in a stadium once and it feels so weird, but I think I could get used to it. I will say, being from New York, I've hit all of my milestone venues. The only one left on the list is Madison Square Garden. I feel like that would take a miracle to make it there, but I'm always manifesting.
MSM: What was your worst moment on stage ?
Mariel: Good lord, back before Covid, I played a gig at the height of the worst flu I have ever caught in my life. It was the sickest I have ever been. I think it was when I was on tour with Man Overboard or Real Friends. I can't remember. I was full-on delirious. I can't remember the city either, but it was near one of the Carolinas. I had such a fever I could barely stand, and—this is gross—but I vomited on stage, didn't know what to do, so I just swallowed it. I had to cut the set because I really thought I would faint. The next day was an off day. I was so sick I couldn't even lift my head to feed myself. My bandmate literally fed me soup. Thankfully, the worst of it lasted two days. I don't know how we did that kind of stuff back then, but we were always playing gigs extremely ill.
MSM: Are there any questions you wish journalists would ask you but never or rarely do ?
Mariel: I really like when journalists ask me about the meaning behind my songs. I put a lot of easter eggs in my work, often referencing my older work that's written about the same people, places, or feelings. I want to show growth. Sometimes I plant cultural references too. Like I have a song on my upcoming record about the frightening state of the world. I hid church bells in the ending, because Republican politicians hide behind their faith while enacting policies that endanger anyone who isn't a well-off, white, adult man. Will anyone get that subtle of a reference ? Probably not. But it's there if anyone was going to ask !
MSM: What else are you passionate about besides music ?
Mariel: I'm passionate about writing in all aspects—whether it's music or words. I really consider myself a writer more than I consider myself a musician. I actually have a degree in poetry, which has weirdly paid off since I'm a songwriter and lyrics are basically the same thing. Outside of that, my hobbies are kind of boring. I'm really into reality TV (particularly Vanderpump Rules). I love horror films. I like to experiment with fashion and makeup. I love endlessly scrolling TikTok. I also really just can't stop myself from yelling at Marjorie Taylor Greene (or anyone like her) on Twitter.
PHOTO PROVIDED COURTESY OF REYBEE, INC.