Briana Marela is explaining what she means by the concept of "sister songs." Talking about "Be in Love," the first song on her new record Call It Love, she says it "starts out ambient and turns into something a little bit more like a regular song." It was part of an effort she made with several of the songs that were structured as "two separate songs [that] got combined." Call It Love is an album of ambient-pop fusion in this vein, with its disparate elements overlapped to corroborate what the singer-songwriter sees as love's many truths.
Marela grew up in Seattle and moved to Olympia, Washington, for school, studying audio production at Evergreen State College. She took a shine to Olympia, known for its storied music scenes, and began playing shows there in 2008. I mention Carrie Brownstein's book Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, in which Brownstein wrote of moving to Olympia to attend Evergreen. Brownstein wrote that Olympia's music scene in the '90s "was Paris or Berlin in the '20s, it was the Bloomsbury group, it was the cradle of civilization." Marela is similarly effusive toward her adopted city: "It was everything. It shaped every aspect of who I am today."
By 2010, Marela had become a fixture of Olympia venues like the Finger Complex, and she started venturing down the coast to California to play the DIY circuit there. During this time, she wrote what became her 2012 album Speak From Your Heart . She continued to play shows around the Pacific Northwest, with her tour for 2015's All Around Us taking her all over the country and to Europe, sharing stages with Jenny Hval and Waxahatchee. We discussed how touring just keeps getting better and what to expect from Call It Love .
Thora Siemsen: Your album is called Call It Love , and the word love is in three of the song titles. How do you approach writing about relationships usually?
Briana Marela: It was a trifecta, because I think about them as being all different stages of the same feeling: love for a person; the questioning; the losing yourself. I write differently about relationships every time I write. Usually it's something that I have a hard time speaking out loud, so it becomes something that I'm able to process, like personal therapy.
TS: You studied audio production and music technology at Evergreen State College in Olympia. How does the technical inform your songwriting?
BM: I think it's a really big aspect of the way that I write, just because before I knew how to record myself and how to arrange a song, my ideas were just all in my head. Once I could be [the] one person making complicated arrangements, it [became] so easy to be able to overdub myself and to add new elements in. I usually start with a melody, which can be kind of funny, especially if you're doing beat-driven stuff. I pick a tempo that I want to record to and will sing the main melody, and then build things around that.
TS: You recorded your previous album All Around Us in Reykjavik, Iceland. Call It Love was recorded last autumn in New York. What kind of impact does location have on the recording process for you?
BM: Location can be kind of intense. There [were] times with recording in Brooklyn where I would feel kind of swallowed up by the bigness of the city. Just taking the subway everywhere and having an hour commute from my friend's place, [where] I was staying, to the studio. Just that feeling of being isolated. I think I also felt that when I was in Reykjavik. I didn't really know that many people there and was on my own a lot. I think that's my favorite way to record, to have a lot of time to think and be introspective, and come to the songs and go away by myself.