Mariel Loveland is a lover of many different kinds of music, having started out playing country music due to a deep love of artists such as Bright Eyes and Bob Dylan. That soon evolved into the formation of the popular pop-punk band Candy Hearts, which found a lot of success on the Vans Warped Tour and tours across the US and UK. Formed in 2009, Candy Hearts was a way for Loveland to feel empowered by being in a punk band and shouting on stage and still being powerful despite her personal anxieties. By 2017 though, she had undergone a transformation and took everything she had been in Candy Hearts and underwent what she called a breakup makeover. She had seen the light at the end of the tunnel and essentially broke up with her anxiety. Loveland decided to change the name of the band Best Ex and shifted away from her previous sound into an indie-pop direction. That year also saw the release of the first Best Ex album, Ice Cream Anti Social. On May 22nd, the new Best Ex EP Good At Feeling Bad (No Sleep Records in the US and Alcopop Records in the UK) was released, which Loveland calls a musical adaptation of some of the worst stuff that’s ever happened to her. “I love this EP”, says Loveland. “I think it captures the full spectrum of the loneliness and isolation I was feeling at the time I wrote it. My disillusionment with certain friendships and relationships… my disillusionment with our culture of social media and celebrity… my disillusionment with genuine, unconditional love. To me, this EP is a middle finger from a woman who’s over it and finds happiness regardless of the things that constantly try to knock us down.” Having written the songs for the album over the span of a few years, the process has helped her to better exist in her daily life despite what life may throw at her. “Bad Love”, the first single released from the album, drew inspiration from a period where she was feeling stagnant, alienated by the universal story of poor decisions turning into ‘bad love’. The most recent single, “Gap Tooth (On My Mind)”, is about the self-defeating and diminishing feeling of getting lost in someone else’s life. Although the COVID-19 quarantine has altered her EP release plans, she’s made the best of it by hosting a listening party before the official release and performing as part of a virtual festival for Dork Magazine. She’s also hoping to write a book of poetry and is teaching herself the ukulele, with the quarantine fueling her creativity. Despite the uncertain musical landscape, Loveland hopes to reach as many listeners as possible with her new EP and release some new music, as well. You can follow Best Ex and stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and band news, as well as stream and purchase their music, via the following links. Photo credit: Natalie Sparaccio.
Although you’ve started getting more and more into indie pop, you started out as a country artist . What can you tell me about your transition into pop punk with Candy Hearts and the indie pop you play now?
Oh wow, that was so long ago. I like all of those kinds of music, so that’s why it’s hard for me to stick in one place. I was definitely doing more of a folk/country thing and was listening at that time to a lot of Bob Dylan and Bright Eyes, so that’s definitely how I started. It’s what I learned the guitar on. At the same time, though, I always really liked pop punk. Those were the two things that I listened to and felt that pop punk would be more fun with a band. It seemed like something that was easier for me to do, because I felt like I had to be less perfect than on country radio or something. So I started doing that and it was also fun to be really loud, you know? And the Weakerthans sort of had this sound…they were my favorite band at the time. They had this sound that kind of mixed the country folk influences with punk, indie and DIY culture and I really loved that. It felt like I could do something similar, so I just started doing that. It was a natural progression, because I started listening to it more and my songwriting kind of reflected that.
When you first entered the industry as an A&R intern for Columbia Records, you said that it was discouraging to see how everything was about Myspace plays. You’ve talked a bit about your disillusionment with our culture of social media and celebrity, so how do you feel that those things have permeated the music industry, especially now that there are more social media platforms? Do you see things getting better or worse?
I think it’s just different. The culture of social media can obviously be really toxic, but at the same time what I was disillusioned with, however many years ago when I was doing the A&R thing, it’s changed a lot since then where social media has helped a lot of people to have careers without the help of anybody. I think that’s quite inspiring because at the time I felt like the only way to have a successful career that you could monetize was to basically already be a famous person and get someone to back you who had a lot of money, and that’s just not the case. If you look at the technology with how drum samples have changed in the last 10 years, you can now record an album that sounds like it was recorded in a huge studio in your kitchen. We recorded our new album in a kitchen…most of it. I don’t think you used to be able to do that before. So there is a lot of access that there wasn’t that I think is quite inspiring, but at the same time social media does put a lot of pressure on people because they are also thrown into the public eye in a way that can be damaging. I think our culture tends to love to watch the come up and then really thrive on taking it down once it’s up. It’s really brutal.
You will soon be releasing your new EP Good At Feeling Bad and have said you are excited for this next chapter, so what does that look like for you?
Well, it looks different now. It was going to be, like, touring in the UK and Europe and America. We were going to try to do somewhat of a world tour, though we probably weren’t going to make it to, like, Australia or Japan, but I wasn’t going to rule it out. And now all of that is cancelled. But I am excited to have these songs out, because it does feel for me very much like when I write songs that I’m holding onto a piece of maybe like a bad memory or something. And once I put it out, it’s like no longer mine anymore. I guess it’s kind of like The Ring where you’re just pushing your bad vibes on other people and you no longer have to deal with it (laughs). I think that is a chapter I’m excited for!
You have called the EP a greatest hits of some of the worst stuff that’s ever happened to you and that you have learned to develop a sense of humor about the number of times your heart has been broken in order to survive. What was that process like for you, learning to develop a sense of humor, and in what ways was writing the EP cathartic for you?
You’ve also mentioned that it makes you a bit sad that albums have taken a bit of a backseat in recent years to just releasing singles and EPs. Why do you feel that people are more into releasing singles and EPs now as opposed to full albums?
I think it’s just because of the way our culture has changed in general. I read something about 5 years ago that as a whole, as a species, our attention span has shrunk to that of a goldfish, or that a goldfish was even greater than our attention span. I think before, in the 80s and the 90s, or even early 2000s, you had all of this space to release something that people would sit in their rooms and listen to and really appreciate the whole thing. Now, we’re getting buzzed on a million different platforms that are begging for our attention at all times and especially with streaming, people aren’t buying albums. They are picking their favorites, which is what people ended up doing anyways. They would listen to the whole album and would end up putting their favorites on a mix and just listening to that. But now they are skipping the first part, so I think that’s why people are gravitating towards shorter bodies of work. Also, I think that it does help with that attention span thing because if people aren’t buying physical albums because they can just listen to streaming…and I’m one of them. I don’t buy albums either and rarely listen to a whole album in one sitting, ever. I think that this is a way where you have all of these songs, and some of them do get lost when it’s in an album because of that, where people pick their favorites, whether it’s the single on the radio or whatever. This allows more of an opportunity for people to appreciate songs that might have been considered B-Sides. Everything gets put on an A-Side instead of there being any B-Sides.
You see yourself now as being self-partnered and are trying to break unhealthy relationship patterns by not being in a relationship right now. Your new album touches on a lot of your relationship woes. In what ways do you feel that the album, and just being single in general, has influenced and changed your perspective on yourself and your decisions? How has it helped you to better exist now in your daily life?
That’s a hard question! I’m not totally sure, but I do think that it is much easier for people to exist when they get into a routine of being by themselves, to not drive other people’s problems into your own. The whole mark of a relationship is driving other people’s problems into your own and it’s particularly bad if those people…well not necessarily bad, but really difficult…if you choose people who struggle more than others. That doesn’t mean it’s not a choice that’s a worthwhile choice or anything like that, but it can definitely be easier to exist by yourself. I think that once you can truly rely on yourself, you have this level of confidence where you don’t allow people to mistreat you in the same way that you’ve been mistreated in the past. I think that’s an important thing for people to learn. I watch 90 Day Fiancé, which is, like, my favorite show on the planet and I’ve been watching this YouTube psychologist. You know, instead of going to my own therapy, I’m watching a YouTube psychologist talk about other people on reality television (laughs)! In those relationships, you can clearly see how it’s just not working but these people are willing to tolerate such mistreatment, because on that show there’s a lot of older men who are maybe quite selfish going to third world nations and taking desperate women back to America, which is just the most egregious sense of awfulness. But it’s bred from a lack of resources and self-sufficiency. You know, I’m a very privileged person. I don’t need people to financially support me and I don’t need those things that normally tie people into relationships. The one thing I wasn’t getting over, I think, was my fear of being alone. I mean, everyone has that fear that they are going to wind up alone and I know that it is a huge pressure for women for some reason to not be that childless old person who never settled down. That’s definitely a fear our culture has told us to have and it’s hard not to, but once you break out of that and you don’t need other people, it’s pretty great what you won’t tolerate.
What can you tell me about the recent video you did for “Bad Love”, about making the video and the idea behind it?
I filmed that video in London when I was living part-time in the UK. The idea for the video was just to embody the idea of the song to be like this kind of lonely take on being in a city. The song is definitely portraying someone who is in some sort of relationship but is ultimately alone. We filmed the whole thing with this dark kind of vibe, at night with all of the neon lights. We ended up finding an alley, but there were a lot neon lights. I wasn’t in NY so I wasn’t able to get it completely accurate, but I think that London served the same purpose. It just came across of that kind of feeling where you are with someone but you’re alone and it’s dark and cold out. It was freezing! For the first time in many years it actually snowed in London. My friends were texting me when they saw it and were like “How did you get it to snow? What did you do?”. And that definitely wasn’t planned, but I think it made it perfect. I was so happy that it did but I was also freezing! I think it was the coldest I’ve ever been. But every time I’m freezing feels like the coldest I’ve ever been.
I don’t think it snows very often in London!
No, not that much. It was like ‘The Beast From The East’ or whatever they called it!
You have a background in poetry, in addition to songwriting and writing for a blog for different sites and publications. What sparked your love for writing at such a young age, especially your love for poetry?
I’m going to sound so dumb, but I can’t remember that far back (laughs)! I would like to say that the writing of poetry might have been because I couldn’t play an instrument and I loved Dashboard Confessional and bands that like that had those really personal and poetic lyrics. I think he’s so brilliant, the way that he had these really poetic lyrics, but also switches in between things that are very conversational and real and things that are really poetic. I loved that and always did and always felt a need to write about the things that I saw or was feeling in my life. I always had that before I was a writer. I was an artist who drew things and then switched to writing last minute. I decided to pursue a career in writing last minute because I was totally over making a portfolio to get into college (laughs)! After I made it, I was like “I cannot do this for 4 years!”, so I changed my mind!
You have talked about how the quarantine has fueled your creativity, in that it helped to lift the writer’s block you were having. I read that you also learned how to play the ukulele and have plans to write a book of poetry. What led you to want to learn the ukulele and what can you tell me about the book of poetry you want to write?
I’m hoping to write any book-let’s be honest! I was kind of feeling that this is one of those things that I’ll keep talking about for 20 years and maybe never actually do it and I really, really, really want to do it! And I thought that maybe a book of poetry was the best place to start because I don’t feel like if I wrote a memoir that I have an ending yet. I feel like maybe I’m a little too young. Definitely too young (laughs)! Once I figure out what the ending of that would be, I would try to do that. I have the worst memory though. I would need an assistant to remember things. Maybe hypnotherapy or something. But I do have diaries that I kept some of the time when I was on tour with the thought that I would one day write a memoir, but then I got really tired from singing and this record so I didn’t keep up with them. But, the ukulele…that’s something I had taught myself to play three years ago, kind of, when I was writing Ice Cream Anti Social. I learned how to play like two songs and then I wrote one and recorded it for the album. But this time, I hadn’t played it since I recorded that song for the album and had no memory of how to play it. I really wanted to learn how to do it this time, so I did. Also, I find that if I’m stuck with writer’s block, which I was, I think the ukulele was something that helped me to break out of it because sometimes if I can switch instruments, it will change my perspective a little bit. I think that really helped. In addition to being back to where I wrote a lot of my albums, because I went back to my mom’s and quarantined there and for the first two weeks I was completely alone. I couldn’t interact with her beyond the same level as her, so I stayed completely by myself in the same room where we recorded the majority of our first album. I think it just helped to put me back in the mindset of writing again.
How has releasing your album during quarantine changed the way you will go about promoting the album? Do you have online concerts planned or anything like that?
We’re doing a listening party before the release. That’s something I’ve never done and I have no idea why. It seems like such a no-brainer! So we’re doing that, and I have been doing some sets. I just did a music festival for Dork Magazine, which is a magazine that I think is so cool so I was so psyched. So I’ve been doing things like that. Otherwise, I’m still trying to figure it out. Our vinyl has been so delayed because of this. We’re still trying to figure out what the exact date is going to be that we’re going to get them all in. Everything has been approved…all of the test presses and stuff…but we still haven’t heard from the manufacturer as to when it’s going to even happen because obviously non-essential businesses are closed and vinyl is probably not considered essential. Now we are just focusing on trying to get that so that people who pre-ordered it don’t get too mad. This is kind of unforged territory, because I feel like there was always a formula for all of the releases. You’d play a release show, you’d go on tour and then that’s it.
What do you see the music industry looking like when all of this is over? Do you see any permanent changes or think some things will go back to normal?
I think that shows will go back to normal when there is a vaccine that’s like widely circulated, but I do think there will be some lasting changes. On the positive side, I would really hope that this experience will change peoples’ perspective on live music and make them really appreciate it. I feel that there was a time, back in like the 90s or something, when people would go to see new bands just because they wanted to see live music. I don’t really feel like that exists anymore because I think we can just discover so many things on our phones, so there’s not really any motive to go and explore in real life. Shows are a hard sell. Tickets sales have been down long before this happened, year over year. I hope this will help people to appreciate and really want to see live music, but I also think that the music industry…the people in it know but it’s maybe not something a person on the outside would notice as much. Where an old venue is, an old venue will pop up. I think for me, it’s like we’ve been touring for so long and have gone to all of these different venues and know them like they are our home. We’ve watched in our careers as we go to the big room or fall back to the small room or get upgraded to a different venue in a city that we had also played one time when we had opened for whoever, you know? Many of these places that we have so many memories tied to, I don’t think they will be there anymore. I remember even that they were so much like home in a way where, like, my friends would leave messages to each other in one venue knowing by the posters on the walls who was going to be there after them. I just think those places, not all of them are going to make it.
That makes me sad too. We have some venues where I live, some of my favorite venues, that I’m not sure will be around when this is over and it’s devastating. I don’t know if people know what’s at stake in that regard.
Yeah, I think that New York is going to be very different because New York I feel is kind of a hard sell because there are so many options for people. People are so underpaid and so busy because of how much they have to work and how many options there are that shows are tough for everyone. And the small venues every, like, three years were changing and I think that some of them are going to be totally gone.
What’s next for you? What are your plans and goals for the rest of the year?
I don’t really know because everything is kind of weird. Ideally, we’d be planning to tour. I’d like to say we will still do all of the things we had planned, but I don’t think those things are going to happen this year. I don’t think touring is going to happen this year for most people. I think, across the board, I’ve seen everyone push everything to 2021. But also, at the end of this with all of the work we have lost and the financial hits everyone has taken, will we still be able to do the tours in the way that we wanted to? So, I don’t know. Everything is up in the air right now. I definitely have more music to release after this, which I am looking forward to. I’m really just looking forward to just trying to promote the EP as much as possible and reach as many people as possible, even if I have to do it from my bedroom.