If you think Mariel Loveland looks, and indeed, sounds familiar, that would be down to her role as Candy Hearts vocalist/guitarist, where she was responsible for some of the past five year’s most dangerously addictive pop-punk earworms.
Now undergoing a personal re-imagining of sorts, surfacing as Best Ex, Loveland has adopted an indie-pop approach that yields a fresh six-string take on her hook-heavy songwriting.
Following the release of new EP Ice Cream Anti Social, we got Mariel’s thoughts on guitar past and present, her love of vocal effects, and of course, that time she nearly spewed onstage…
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“My first guitar was some unnamed Fender acoustic. I remember I got it for Christmas because my twin sister wanted to learn to play bass. She got a bass and I got a guitar, even though I was pretty ‘whatever’ about it. It turned out my sister never really played bass much, but I became obsessed with guitar - I guess sometimes your parents just know!”
2. The building’s burning down – what one guitar do you save?
“I've got plenty of guitars, but the one I'd always, always protect is my classic American Telecaster. It's so beat-up. The input jack is all wonky (especially after watching some YouTube tutorials and trying to fix it myself), but it's mine and I love it. It's the first guitar I ever recorded a song with and the first one I ever brought on tour.”
3. What's the one effects pedal you couldn't do without, and why?
“I love fuzz pedals and reverb, but the one I think is the coolest is actually a vocal pedal that plugs into your guitar. It's called a TC-Helicon VoiceTone GTX and it uses the chords you’re playing to create harmonies that, when done right, sound really, really cool and not cheesy. It gives me a ton more confidence to thicken up my voice like it sounds on our records live, rather than sing to a backing track, which always feels a bit like cheating, even if it's not.”
4. Is there a guitar, or a piece of gear, that you regret letting go?
“I regret changing the pickup in my Daisy Rock because whoever put it in did it completely wrong and it started literally smoking whilst we were playing a set during Warped Tour. Thankfully, Ernie Ball let me borrow one of theirs until Daisy Rock sent me a replacement. I just very much love glittery guitars, don't judge!”
5. What’s your favourite chord, and why?
“Honestly, I adore an open A chord because you can do so much with it. There are so many inversions and you can basically write a song without even moving more than a single finger. I did that before I knew how to play guitar or knew it was called an A. I just put my fingers on the strings and tried to write something, and later found out I wrote a song using all variations of an A. I'm sure it wasn't very good, but it's been my favourite since then.”
6. Is there an aspect of guitar playing that you'd like to be better at?
“Absolutely! I feel I'm really lacking in my skills when it comes to playing solos. I spent a lot of time as a kid learning how to fingerpick. I started on an acoustic guitar, but I never spent enough time playing complicated solos. I also wish finding inversions was second nature to me rather than having to really think about the notes.”
7. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
“Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie, hands down. The riffs he writes always blow my mind. I would never think to put a vocal melody over stuff like he does. He's also so good at fingerpicking I don't even understand how he does it!”
8. What item of gear would you take with you to a desert island?
“An acoustic guitar and I'd pray I didn't break a string. There's no electricity on a desert island, right?”
9. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?
“This is pretty grim, but once I threw up and swallowed it because I didn't want to be seen puking on stage in front of 500 people. It was pretty rough. Sometimes if I don't eat enough or drink enough before a set and it's really hot, I get some sort of nervous system reaction where I almost faint and/or vomit.
“It happened on stage at Warped Tour where I actually did faint, then finished my set after a second of going black. I had to sit down though through the rest. I've got to take better care of myself when it's 110 degrees!”
10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?
“I'll give the advice my dad gave me: playing chords seems impossible at first. The truth is it's not impossible at all! It's actually really easy looking back and you'll get over this hump and be able to more or less play along to any song on the radio. It's a definite night-and-day thing. Like if you keep trying, one day you'll just wake up able to do it great!”
Ice Cream Anti Social is out now via Alcopop! Records.