Over the last year, singer-songwriter Briana Marela has been charting new creative territory. Known for her ambient, dreamlike sounds, she released her third album, Call It Love
, on August 4. This new record is more beat-driven than her previous efforts. Marela, who describes herself as an anti-fascist, has also used her music to make political statements. The label she's associated with, Secretly Group, launched the program Our First 100 Days
, which released a song for each of the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency. This compilation raised money for organizations in the cross-hairs of the Republican administration and included Marela's cover of Leonard Cohen's song "There Is a War."
We caught up with Marela over the phone to discuss her new album and her involvement in social and political issues.
Westword: Tell me about the album,
Call It Love, that you just released — the creative process and inspiration.
I guess, in a really loose way, it was a concept album. I was trying to make this album about different sorts of feelings about love, kind of intentionally leaning toward a more pop, polished vibe. I had been working on those songs two years prior to releasing it. It was an album that I really wanted to include my friends, who are also my bandmates. [I was] also wanting to explore rhythmic beat structures for songs more so than I have in the past.
From what I know of the album, it seems to be a balanced blend between ambient and pop sounds.
I think it was me trying to push the pop side forward a little bit. but I can’t help but keep my ambient leanings.
Would you say your sound has been ambient until now?
No. I think it has always been a blend. I’ve often shied away from beat-driven stuff because it’s not as easy for me. It can always be harder to try and do something that doesn’t come as easily to you, but I think that’s why people do things.... It’s just good to push yourself.
What did you like about what you found in that discovery? The difference in sound [moving toward more beat-driven music].
I think it’s really fun to make beat-driven music. I think just from playing more shows, especially in bigger spaces, it has a bigger impact when people hear a really strong beat. It’s fun to have something that kind of cuts through a crowd of people talking.
Tell me about your involvement with social issues.
For the record, I’m definitely anti-fascist. I think many people have been really distressed by the current administration that we have and a lot of the – pardon my language – fucked up things going on. I don’t have a big history of being a strong social activist. I think I can be kind of passive. But it’s this kind of time when I think people who are quiet or don’t always want their voices to be heard need to start having their voices be heard. I definitely want to always support marginalized communities and want to support progress and keeping things moving forward. I just hate feeling like anything is keeping us moving backwards. I think it’s just so hard to not feel heartbroken in terms in finding place in social justice sometimes. I think I want to conquer that feeling of just being sad and wanting to do more.
How do you feel music can be such a powerful platform for this change? How are you using it for that?
I think in a sense, being a woman of color making electronic music is a statement in itself. And to be someone in the indie community who's just not another white face, per se, I think is counter…something [laughs]. And in the way that a way a lot of femmes of color have come up to me after shows and have [said,] “I’m really inspired by what you’re doing,” and just being on stage, it gives me a feeling that I could do something." I think that kind of empowerment is really awesome to show, that: “Hey, people whose voice needs to be heard, your voice can be heard.” Even though I don’t think my music is actively political, definitely a lot of the newer songs I’ve written this year that are not out yet are hinting at wider issues outside of myself, which is a first.
How do you feel your music has evolved? From when you were first getting started versus now, how have you expanded creatively?
Just thinking about songwriting as a craft has changed for me. Thinking about structure for songs and thinking more about meaning behind songs. I think slowly. I can’t help but write songs that are very personal and internal. I think I’d like to slowly shift to writing more externally, too.
Briana Marela, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 20, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, $16.50-19, 303-377-1666.