Interview w/ Briana Marela


Briana Marela’s quietly powerful, aching, and lush pastoral soundscape is both haunting and visceral. Her latest record, All Around Us, is a buoyant letter to the sometimes tenuous ebb of hope, love, and friendship. Playing at the Irenic on March 3rd with Waxahatchee and Globelamp, Marela spoke to Cinema Spartan about everything from her upcoming appearance at Sasquatch to the importance of traveling. 


Rob Patrick: “Take Care of Me” was one of our site’s top five songs of 2015. On that particular track, there is a lyric that is so beautifully self-aware, so contemporary, and so reflective – “I dropped the beat and cannot tell if you’re mine.” What is important to you when writing the words to a song? And, on a secondary level, who are some of your favorite songwriters?

Briana Marela: Aw!!! Thank you so much! I’m so flattered you liked that lyric! It is definitely a reference to modern romance and how you can be unsure how many people someone is seeing besides yourself, and also a metaphor for playing music and getting off the beat as you are playing and having trouble trying to find your way again in the song. When writing words to songs I think a lot about how they are a conversation to someone or to myself, I think about the song lyrics pretty linearly so that the verses give a good idea of the subject of the song! I want the beginning to sound like a beginning and the end an end. I prefer near rhymes to direct rhymes, and I’m usually overly aware of matching syallables in corresponding lines, or how to bend words with a melody in an interesting way!

I’m always super moved by some of the great songwriters of the past, Carole King, McCartney/Lennon, Lou Reed, Brian Wilson, to more modern pop songwriters like Bjork, Max Martin, Ashley Eriksson, and Karin Dreijin Andersson. There are so many more amazing songwriters I adore. I love listening to songs for what they are, but then when I fall in love with a song I deeply analyze it’s melody, lyrics, and production.


On your website, there are photographs listed under the title of “inspirations.” Aesthetically, they revolve around travel and friends. How important are those things to the fabric of your music?

My friends are very important to me. Close friends and even sweet acquaintances. I think so much about how everyone we know influences us in some way, how we are all connected, how we create this network of love and support for each other. My friends and lovers are my muses and inspirations. Travel is important to me too; I think it is always important to break out of your bubble and see new things and places in the world, to keep your curiosity of newness alive. Every time I have significantly traveled I have learned so much about myself or gotten the necessary insight I needed to a certain problem in my life.


Would you ever consider scoring a film, and if so, what filmmakers would you want to work with?

I would consider scoring a film! That would be so fun; I would definitely want to score a film that was filmed on real film: 16mm or 35mm preferably! To be honest, I’m not very knowledgeable about modern directors/filmmakers. I’m more of a music nerd, but I would be open to working with anyone whose films inspire a sense of wonder and magical realism – those are my favorite types of movies. One person who comes to mind is Miranda July.


Your music is so multi-layered, electronic, ethereal, and yet deliberately minimalist at times. What, sonically, is a good balance of sounds to you?

I used to be way more of a minimalist. I think less is more. Which is a big reason I began wanting to compose primarily for voice as an instrument and lyrically. I do love doing overdubs when recording, though; it’s as if every time something new is laid down it sparks a new idea of something else to add! Sonically, I would love for the timbres of sounds – and the mix – to always be in balance, even when it is fluctuating between minimalist and maximalist.


As an artist, what’s your opinion of Spotify and its place in music?

I think Spotify and other streaming services are an important thing to exist for the future of music in the digital age. I do think, however, that we are still understanding the best model to benefit both musicians and listeners, on many levels. Streaming is the future. I accept that and think it is a wonderful way to have access to music I love, but I think I want to understand better how these streaming services collect money from advertisers and members and how their system for paying royalties actually works? Have any of these companies ever been audited?


Your music videos are always lyrical, interesting, and moving. What are some of the things you speak with the directors about before coming up with the ideas for these pieces?

Before working with Jagjaguwar I filmed and directed my own music videos. I have a natural inclination towards lyrical videos, I prefer for the video to tell a story more abstract then the song. With the “Surrender” video I had a vision of a Len Lye type direct animation video, which was unfortunately vetoed to some extent because they wanted me to be in the video. I agreed to be in it, but in retrospect wish I hadn’t or tried to relax more. Being on camera is scary to me still. But the director for that, Christin Turner, did an amazing job and filmed almost all of it on Super 8 which looked amazing! The video for “Dani” was from an idea I had based on aerial dance. I wanted a woman who is literally tangled in her own emotions yet moving gracefully through it all. It was important to me that the dancer (who was my friend Jody Poth) never leave the air, I wanted her to be above the ground the whole time. Director Alicia J. Rose helped achieve this vision beautifully.


On a day-to-day basis, how do you think, modernly, social media has affected musicians?

Social media has a strange power over musicians and any form of celebrity. There are Instagram celebrities for nothing more than posting pictures of themselves, that still blows my mind… People are addicted to content that makes them feel good. We all just want to feel connected to someone, or to each other. I think people are probably more likely to follow people on social media who post more often. If you let social media effect you it can. I like to stay on the outskirts of it if possible. I hope musicians are able to use it more for a tool to connect with fans and friends versus using it to inflate their egos.


You’re playing at Sasquatch, which is super exciting. What’s your strategy for the festival? And what artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I am excited about Sasquatch. I have never been, let alone played a festival of that size. I’m not sure about a festival strategy, should I be planning something? I plan on having my backing band friends Joel and Natalie play with me to have a bigger sound! There are a lot of bands I look forward to seeing! Grimes, Julia Holter, Major Lazer, Purity Ring, M83, Todd Terje, Shamir, Sufjan [Stevens], and probably more I can’t remember.


Finally, if someone made a film about your life, what would be the tagline?

“Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams….”

[laughs] I don’t know; that is a tough question. I don’t think enough of my life has passed me by yet, the future is still waiting for me.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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