Singer songwriter Mariel Loveland combines her sparkly pop notes into an alternative musical backdrop that hits you with a nostalgic pang. Her latest EP “Good At Feeling Bad” under her pseudonym Best Ex is a fresh perspective. It is the next step in her musical career that moves further away from the summer days of Warped Tour as well as her previous project Candy Hearts. We had the lovely opportunity to dive into some questions about her experience putting this new EP together, which stems from a determination to overcome a very personal negative experience. Check it out below.
Hello! Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for Bop! I would love to start things off with a little introduction? Who is Best Ex?
Hi! Of course! Best Ex is me -- Mariel -- and a collective of my friends. Right now, my partner in crime is Matthew Florio, who toured with me during our first full U.S. tour under this band name. He's like right my hand man, and then we enlist our friends to come on tour with us. Last time around it was Bobby Vaughn, my brilliant friend who's been playing with me since Warped Tour, and Nick Sokol from the band Bonsai Trees.
Growing up what type of music really inspired you?
I was really super inspired by Bright Eyes. That was like the gateway into the kind of music I listen to now, and it was the end all be all when I was 15 (and honestly, still kind of is. Conor Oberst's new projects are just as good). I think it really has to do with the lyrics -- the way he tells stories is like nobody else. I've always aspired to have that, and each time I write a song it's like a never-ending quest to tell a better story.
I read that you were NYC based. NYC is a place that is always serving so much inspiration and influence. Did you grow up there or was it a journey to New York?
I'm actually a Jersey girl. Our band members are spread across the tri-state area, and I've always, always been inspired by New Jersey. It's the most underrated state by far. When you fly in, you fly into an area that is quite literally a sewage treatment plant, and so people not from here even get to see the good stuff. I think it helped me cultivate my passion for showing off things I find beautiful that maybe other people don't. That's why we make art right? When I look at great writers from New Jersey -- Anthony Bourdian, Bruce Springsteen -- they have this ultra-real knack for making unextraordinary stuff completely enormous. I think that's a New Jersey state of mind, in a way. We grow up looking at Manhattan in the distant skyline, like this dream that's always in arm's reach, and honestly, it's way prettier from afar than it is when you're in it.
I love the idea that all genres of music serve as spectrums and the artists who break those boundaries are the ones who really help the music universe expand. How would you best describe your sound on your latest record Good At Feeling Bad?
I think my sound is an amalgamation of all the things I love -- it's just me every way. Sparkly, sarcastic, a little bitter, a little sad, always kind of hopeful in that way of a person who's a bit too afraid the Universe will strike her down if she freely admits her optimism. I've tried to pull in elements from all the genres I love too -- indie, punk, pop. I hope it comes across.
So if I were to use one word that best describes Good At Feeling Bad it would be “liberation”. You really speak towards that feeling of emotional freedom, although scary, it's something that has to happen. If you could pick one song that best represents what this album is about - which one would it be and why?
I'm so happy that came across! It definitely didn't start out that way, but it felt that way from the moment it picked the six songs. I think the song that represents the feeling behind this album best is the title track. I think the overarching theme over the record seems to be accepting negativity, absorbing it, and just learning how to coexist.
What was the main catalyst that got you to put this album together? Was it a long process or was it something that just flowed out?
After I got home from touring Ice Cream Anti-Social, I felt a little bit lost. I knew I had to make an album, but I wasn't sure what kind. I really needed to nail down what I wanted to sound like, since Ice Cream Anti-Social -- as much as I love it -- was definitely born out of a lot of fear of abandoning the genre that gave me all the success I've had. This time around, I wasn't as afraid and I did decide to make a full length, so that took a long time, especially because I was recording in America, but spending months in the UK. And then, when I recorded the full length, I ended up splitting it up anyway in an EP. So perhaps it was an unnecessarily long process. I probably could've released this 2 years ago, but I wasn't emotionally ready. I wrote the last song for this about a year ago today and after I wrote that, I knew I needed to release this. It was done. Sometimes it's just a feeling and to get to that feeling is a long road.
In your song “Gap Tooth (On My Mind)”, you talk about being terrified of seeing that one person in your head all the time. Your music video for this song shows you making your way through the early New York morning and ending at the pier. Can you describe the meaning behind this song and video?
The song was about a person I was dating long distance. Every other month or so, I'd fly to his home outside of London and stay there for a while. We had been together for years. His family was like my family. I was meant to make a more lengthy move, but he dumped me out of nowhere, 3 days before Christmas, a few days before my flight left. He barely ever spoke to me again, so I still don't understand what happened. So it was about that -- that kind of abandonment that doesn't make any sense. The way your entire life is one thing -- built around a person -- and then the next day, it's not. It's like they're dead. It's devastating if I'm being honest.
We had already done a video in Coney Island, showcasing a really happy day during the summer there. I wanted this video to be an off-shoot of that, but the opposite. The side of Coney Island that's cold. Everyone goes there in the summer, but they don't often see the side in December when everything is shut and it's freezing. Coney Island is just one of those places for me. When I'm really, irreparably sad, I take the subway all the way down and ride the Wonder Wheel, even though I'm afraid of it. I'm a lot less fearful when I'm preoccupied with other emotions. I wanted to kind of capture that feeling. There's a sort of freedom in sadness, when things can't get any worse.
It’s crazy to think a virus brought the entire music industry to a standstill. Where do you see Best Ex in 2021 when the world opens up again (hopefully)?
This is something that I've thought about a lot. We were meant to tour through Europe and the US West Coast. Right now, I'm straight-up waiting for a vaccine before I book anything because I personally think it'd be irresponsible for a human being to travel across several countries, meeting hundreds of people, and potentially dragging a virus across -- literally -- the whole world. In 2021, I want to do this stuff we planned, but I'm not sure if I'll feel like I'll need a new album to do it, so I'm kind of working on that. Slowly but surely!
If there was one message you would like people to take away from your music what would it be?
I'd like them to know that no matter what people say about you, no matter what people do to you, you know the kind of person you are. Nobody can take that away from you. No mistreatment can take that away for you. You have value even if the rest of the world doesn't see it yet.
Thank you again for taking some time to talk to us about your amazing EP. Before we wrap up are there any last words you have for the readers?
Thank you! I would say, please wear a mask. Even if you're young. Please. I am so anxious about coronavirus I can't handle it anymore. Also, add Good At Feeling Bad to your playlists! The vinyl has been delayed, but it's still available for preorder through No Sleep Records or Alcopop. I can't wait!