“Of course you want to do right by other people, but there’s a certain point where you just have to work on yourself.” - Mariel Loveland of Candy Hearts, interviewed by Andy Waterfield
(Photo by Stephen Yang)
Hi, Mariel. For those who aren’t familiar with Candy Hearts, could you catch them up with who you are, and what each of you does?
Candy Hearts is, well, we’re a band obviously. I play guitar and sing, Kris Hayes plays better guitar, Christian Migliorese plays bass and Christina Picciano plays drums. Basically, everyone has their role in the band. I’m the songwriter and overly obsessive van driver (I drove no more than 5 above the speed limit all the way to Georgia); Christina is the “I get stuff done” kind of person and always speaks first when something seems not right or annoying; Kris is the tour dad and the kind of guy who always manages to have packed the stuff I would have left somewhere at a venue in the middle of no where; and Christian’s like that teenage little brother who gets into trouble sometimes but always has an interesting story.
Sounds like a pretty solid dynamic. Do you find that having that mix of temperaments and personalities helps keep things interesting?
I wouldn’t say it keeps things interesting, but it definitely keeps me sane. I can’t speak for the band, but I do know that whenever I have something I want to gossip or complain about, Christina always has my back and when it comes to being nervous and unable to handle whatever a situation might be, Kris is like the ultimate motivational speaker/life coach. Christian is like the perfect person to talk to about boys if only because he feeds me what I want to hear when I want to hear something I want to hear and lays down the truth when it’s really important. Basically, they’re some of the 3 people I feel like I can be not so pleasant around and they wouldn’t really take issue with it. I can be angry, mean or upset and if we argue, 20 minutes later it’s like nothing happened.
That sounds like a useful set of relationships when you’ve got to spend a lot of time in close proximity with one another. What’s your touring schedule been like this past year? Have you got much coming up?
Well, we toured in August down the east coast. We’re playing an unofficial CMJ show in a couple of a days in New York that we’re super excited about. In November we are playing some shows around the Boston area. It’s been kind of hard lately because pretty much the minute our record came out, our van broke. We’re hoping to have it settled by November so we can tour. Then we’ll likely go out in the spring or as soon as the ice and snow and winter driving hazards have calmed down.
Your current full length, Everyone’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy, is also your first through Kind of Like Records. How did you come to be involved with them, and how has it differed from your debut album, Ripped Up Jeans and Silly Dreams?
Actually, it was kind of strange how it came about. Our old bassist, Greg, who contributed a lot to this record, left to pursue his other band These Animals (they’re like cool vintagey indie rock) full time. Christian hopped on board because his band had recently broken up. Apparently his band had been talking to Lisa, who runs Kind of Like. Since we were shopping around for labels, he began talking to her and it just felt right. Even if most of my friends encouraged us to go in a different direction, with Kind of Like I didn’t feel like I was gaining a label — someone to put out our record. I was gaining a best friend, a crucial support system and somewhat of a personal manager/psychologist. She’s just the best!
The record is a lot different than our first to me. Our first was rushed — totally slapped together. I didn’t have a clear direction when I wrote it, nor did I really feel like any of us had a grasp on the way we wanted the record to sound. I was transitioning from being in a real solo-artist type band to something that was really a joint effort and well, a band. That was loud. On this record I feel like we had more of a cohesive idea of what we wanted and we were able to mesh some of our favorite parts of punk and our favorite parts of folk and alternative in a way that made sense together.
It’s always nice when people say awesome things about Lisa. She’s been a huge help every time I’ve needed to pick her brain about something for I Live Sweat, and she does come off as a lovely person.
The way you talk about it, it sounds like you’ve made a neat body swerve of the whole “difficult second album” cliche, and produced something more cohesive than the debut. Does that sound about right?
Yes that sounds about right, though I should note that every time I’m writing an album it really feels like I’m never going to be able to finish it and is always kind of a struggle. I’m sort of in that right now. It’s not pleasant.
A lot of your lyrics are strikingly honest about emotional vulnerability, or seem to be. Is that level of honesty important to you as a songwriter, and is there a downside at all?
All of my songs are more or less true stories. Sometimes the characters are a combination of different people, which leads those I know who might be listening to get a little confused, but it’s important to me to keep a level of honesty with my audience. When I sing a song that isn’t true for me, I feel like I’m cheating people, like I’m lying to myself. The song seems unimportant and just flat — like I’ve conned my friends into believing I deeply care about something that’s meaningless. I can’t work that way. When I draw from the things that I really feel at the core of me, that’s when I develop songs that I can be really be proud of, as afraid or unafraid as I am to put them out there. I also feel like people will respond to them better. I mean, it might be self-centered to say, but if I feel a certain way, someone else must too right?
That strikes me as being the opposite of self-centred, as it appeals to the idea of a common human experience. Expressing emotion through art has always struck me as a sympathetic impulse, for the most part, but that’s just me.
Beyond music, what kinds of things are you interested in?
I guess you’re kind of right. It depends on how you look at it.
Other than music, I really love writing and watching movies. Particularly horror movies! I also like reading, looking at clothes online that I will never be able to afford and going out with my friends.
I lose about two hours a week to staring at t-shirts I can’t justify buying. First world woes, etc.
Do you have any particular ambitions you want to fulfill, as an individual, and as a band member, in the coming year?
That’s a really hard question because I have a lot of goals both personally and band-wise, obviously everyone does. I want to tour europe, I want to make more money, I want to eat better and get more fit and further my career but I think the most important thing for me is to keep doing what I want to do and not get stuck in the rut of doing things that I don’t want to be doing. Sometimes that happens to me. I also really just want to produce work I can be proud of whether it’s in my songs or my writing.
Pretty sure doing what we want to do on our own terms is the holy grail of punk, eh?
I never really thought of it that way, but I guess your right. This whole “doing what I want” thing sort of came about when I was talking to Christian about being unhappy about something and he was just like stop complaining, don’t worry about it and do what you want. Doing what you want is the key to happiness. I think he might be right about that.
I’d sling in a couple of caveats about trying to do right by other people too, but I think I know what you mean.
Of course you want to do right by other people, but there’s a certain point where you just have to work on yourself. You can try to please everyone in the world, but if you’re not happy, does it matter? Plus, you’ll probably get really frustrated because there are always going to be those people you’ll never be able to please.
Oh, bugger pleasing them. As long as I’ve done the right thing by them and myself, I don’t care whether they like it or not.
You mentioned on Twitter recently that certain external factors affect your songwriting. Could you tell us a little bit about that, what kind of effect different factors have, and how you deal with it?
Man, you’re getting personal! External factors affect my songwriting completely. When I wrote most of “Everything’s Amazing” I was in a relatively alright spot, coming off of a summer filled with friends, travel, love and music (that sounds so cheesy, whatever, but that’s all the stuff I like). Now I’m writing our next endeavor and I don’t feel the same way I used to feel. I’m not driving around in cars with my best friends blasting our favorite songs at 3 a.m., instead I’m in a huge city, going home on the subway alone and exhausted. It’s lonelier, it’s angrier and it’s different.
I think a lot of the new themes have to do with more adult things that I’m nervous for my grandmother to hear. I felt like a kid when I wrote our last album, but I don’t anymore, and you experience different things when you grow up. Basically a lot of what I write has to do with my inability to tell some people off (or even tell myself off) or just tell other people how I feel in general. At least when I sing it, I can feel better about not being able to say what I want to say.
You mentioned that you’re nervous about your grandmother hearing certain songs. Have you ever self-censored, or considered self-censoring, to avoid upsetting family or friends?
I certainly have not censored at all but I have been putting off showing these songs to people because I havent censored myself.
You certainly seem to be reflective about the process and context around the way your work is created. Do you feel that’s an important quality?
I kind of beat myself up when I’m creating just about anything. Usually that involves thinking a lot about my work or what helps me make it. It seems like it’s probably a good quality, even if it doesn’t feel that way always.
I reckon that about covers what I wanted to talk about. Anything else you’d like to add?
Hmmm. Nope! Oh, wait. If you’re in the US you should catch us on tour with Man Overboard in Feb! That’s all. Thanks, Andy.
No, thank you, Mariel. Always a pleasure.
“I think it’s something that’s hard to recognize if you don’t experience it yourself” Mariel Loveland of Candy Hearts on her experiences of sexism in the punk scene
Photo by Stephen Yang
(Andy’s note: What follows is the second in a series of guest posts about sex and gender discrimination, and how these issues relate to the wider punk scene. If you missed it, you can find the first part here.)
Let me start this by saying that sitting down to write this was not easy for me because not only does it make me upset to think about, but I know that when people talk about this topic, it’s mostly taken with a grain of salt. I don’t like people rolling their eyes at me; I don’t like being preachy; and I hate sounding like I’m some sort of victim—all which I think is part of the problem. I shouldn’t ever feel like I have to apologize for wanting to be treated like one of the guys or even wanting to be treated like I’m different because girls are different.
The difference wasn’t always clear to me. Before I was completely immersed in any music scene, let alone the DIY punk community I now call home, I’m ashamed to admit I was the first person to roll my eyes when the stereotypical Bikini Kill-obsessed, cut-off-shorts-clad punk girl complainedabout the way men treated her at shows. I just didn’t believe it was true, and I think it’s something that’s hard to recognize if you don’t experience it yourself, which is why I’d never fault anyone for thinking that the punk scene is immune to sexism—especially because it’s empowering and supportive in so many ways.
My slow realization started when I was about thirteen years old. My father warned me not to crowd surf because “that’s how girls get molested,” and like any 13-year-old, I wrote it off. Two years later the idea surfaced again when I attended Warped Tour with my sister. This is obviously something that’s so far removed from the actual DIY punk scene, but again, it was my first experience. I’ve always been someone to hold my own and kick any malicious boy who tried to mess with me in the pit, but that festival was the first time I didn’t feel safe.
I stood on the outskirts of the crowd for the entire show knowing I wanted absolutely nothing to do the mass of 15 to 20-year-old boys pushing each other around, but the minute the closing band struck its first chord, I was shoved right into the middle. I immediately tried to look for a way out but was completely surrounded, and no matter how much I pushed, I couldn’t move. I was getting punched, kicked, and pummeled until I eventually fell down, and all I could see was a wave of dust and sneakers kicking and stepping on me. I couldn’t get up, and I couldn’t breathe. I choked on dirt and started sobbing until one man, probably someone’s dad, heard me screaming for help. He reached underneath the crowd and threw me over his shoulder. As he was pulling me away, I heard one voice cut through the music: “That’s why you don’t bring your little girl to shows.” I was 15.
From then on, the difference became clear. It’s the male band members who don’t take you seriously, and when you get upset with how you’re treated, ask you if you’re menstruating. It’s the promoters and planners who screw you, then call you a diva when you assert yourself. It’s the kids who don’t talk to you after your set, but talk to your male bandmates because they assume you’re only there for show. It’s the people who think you’re sleeping with the guitarist, the people who assume you’re queer, or the journalists who mention your weight in reviews. It’s every single time a producer has told me I can’t play guitar on my own record because “sweetie, you’re not a studio musician” or “sing it again, but naked.”
Most importantly, it’s the baggage I have to carry that my male bandmates don’t. I have to worry about walking to the car alone to grab my guitar; I have to worry about where we are staying and if the strangers who own the floor I’m sleeping on will assault me in the middle of the night, even though it’s unlikely. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve clung to the side of my male bandmates when we’re sleeping, just to feel safe. I can’t drink too much or take a drink from a stranger at an after-party wherever we are staying, because I can’t be out of control.
Let’s face it: I’m a 22-year-old, straight, petite, overtly-feminine female who weighs just over 100lbs. I am different than the typical male in even the smallest of ways. I can’t even carry my own amp out of the van because I’m not strong enough. Still there is one thing many feminists will disagree with me on—the power women have over men because we are different, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it in relation to the punk scene. Anyone who thinks that being successful in music is purely based on talent is naive. While good songs are at the forefront, there’s a whole range of things that make bands successful, and a lot of it has to do with who the members are individually—their personalities, the way they carry themselves, and yes, sometimes their attractiveness both inside and outside. I’ve fallen completely in love with a band because I was enamored by their singer, and you’d be lying if you didn’t admit the same. Our bodies and our choice to have or not have sex are pretty powerful. It’s something that is ours—something that every guy who’s ever wanted to sleep with the girl in the band doesn’t have—and we can do with it whatever we want.
Mariel Loveland is a writer, blogger, and editor who lives in New Jersey. She sings and plays guitar in the band Candy Hearts, dabbles in graphic design and photography, and watches way too much reality TV. You can check out her band on http://candyheartsband.tumblr.com or some of her writing on her personal blog http://www.writing-the-ship.blogspot.com/.