Hot Gig Alert (2/10): Best Ex brings With a Smile to Boston (Interview in Post!)
(Photo Credit: Reybee)
Tomorrow is unseasonably warm in Boston. It is climate change, but also, thank you for a little thaw out for the day. Living in snowy (not so snowy this year) New England is a hotbed for seasonal depression, and sometimes, we all could use a little mental health boost in the form of a rock show. In perfect timing, New Jersey’s Best Ex, also known as Mariel Loveland, will make her return to Boston tomorrow at O’Briens in Allston. No stranger to these old touring stomping grounds, Loveland’s performance marks her first show in Boston since 2017, and it’s sure to be one for the books.
Fresh off the release of her first full-length with Best Ex, With a Smile, (Iodine Records), from chatting with Loveland recently, it seems like the set will be quite the cathartic night for all parties involved. The set will also be jam-packed with tunes from the new album to make the perfect Saturday night set. The openers for the night include two Boston acts, Better Fires and Four. The action starts at 8 pm, with the first band on at 9 pm. If you haven’t been to this iconic venue before, it’s the perfect fit for the tunes from Best Ex, and we hope to see you there!
I chatted with Loveland about everything from the gig tomorrow to her collaboration with “best friend” Luxtides on the gorgeous track “Die for You” off the album. The track perfectly depicts the sometimes, okay, most of the time toxic environment created for many women in the music industry. Find our chat below!
New England Sounds: Saturday, 2/10, is your first Boston proper show since the shutdowns. The wealth of material you’ve released since as Best Ex is exponential. You’ve been close, playing a show in Providence, but with your return to a city where you’ve never been a stranger, how have you been preparing? Will it be mainly the newer material, a previous project’s track, or two? Since it’s a headlining set for you, what are the plans for it?
Mariel Loveland: It’s been years since I’ve been to Boston. The last time I played there was in 2017, but it might have even been before that. My prep has mostly included rehearsing and googling to see if my favorite brunch spots are still open. I’d definitely be playing mostly stuff from my new album. Since With A Smile is still so new, I’m considering this recent run of shows the record-release shows. I feel like headlining really gives me an opportunity to connect with the audience at my own pace as opposed to playing a handful of the most impactful songs in a short set and bouncing. We’re all there to hang out with each other!
NES: Your first full-length as Best Ex, “With a Smile,” dropped only a few months ago. Are there tracks off this release that you feel are going off particularly well in a live setting/with fans?
ML: My favorite to play live is “Stay With Me.” I wrote that song to have such a vintage feeling. I wanted it to sound like a ’60s girl group or wedding song. I strip it down to just the guitar during our set. I think it sounds more vulnerable like it did when I first wrote it, and I think everyone can relate to that fear of your best not being enough for the person you love. I like to pretend I’m Elvis Presley but with an acoustic guitar.
NES: Last fall, you released a song with a fellow tri-state area long-time performer in Luxtides, “Die For You,” who I believe has also been a longtime collaborator/friend for you/fellow touring act. The list can go on and on. Two artists that started performing music during the Warped era. How did that song collaboration come about for the two of you? I think it’s a vital, on-point message for that era.
ML: I knew I wanted someone to collab with on my album, and Luxtides was my first thought because she’s my best friend. At the time, I didn’t have a song on the back burner. She’s such a talented writer, I thought it would be better if we both went into the studio and wrote something together that resonated with both of us. We were tossing around the idea of a girl power anthem, and I had the line, “I would’ve died for you, but that’s not the worst thing. It’s that I would’ve died for you, and you would’ve let me” on a notes app. I had previously tried to fit it into a different song—a love song—but I never ended up recording that one. We ended up writing a song around that line about our personal experiences in the music industry, and sort of rejecting the idea that we have to compromise our morals and erode our personal boundaries to succeed in a male-dominated environment.
NES: “With a Smile” dropped in October, but you’ve been steadily releasing new music pretty much since the world shut down. When did you sit down and really start saying, “This is the album”? Was it a mix of older songs, all written in particular, with an album in mind?
ML: I had originally written “Good At Feeling Bad” to be an album, but around that time, albums really started to struggle as more and more people started using Spotify. I remember being on tour in 2017 and selling a ton of CDs, but that just didn’t feel like the case anymore, so instead, I made an EP and kept the rest of those songs on the back burner. Two of them made it to “With a Smile,” but I wouldn’t say I began writing intentionally for an album until Iodine Records reached out to me and asked if I wanted to make one.
At that point, I did have most of the songs. I had really been focusing on writing during the pandemic. But with an album in mind, not all of them felt right, so I wrote a bunch more. 90% of the songs were written between late 2019 (just before the pandemic) and 2022, with two leftover from when I recorded in 2018.
NES: For people who haven’t been to a Best Ex show before, what can people expect, even if it seems a little cheesy to say it about yourself?
ML: It’s so cheesy to say, but I really try to make my concerts a cathartic experience. I grew up watching Dashboard Confessional and Nirvana on MTV Unplugged, and the songs just had so much power in that format. I know my set isn’t totally unplugged, but I really like to channel that same feeling. My goal is to re-recreate a sort of slumber party vibe, where your friends are up late, all your parents have gone to bed, and you’re whispering your hopes, fears, and dreams to each other.
NES: You’ve been playing a handful of New England/Tri-state shows. We’re still so new in 2024. Maybe some focuses or goals for these next few months?
ML: I want to start writing again, that’s for sure. I’ve been dealing with some terrible writer’s block. Considering the album is still so new, I’m not going to push it, and I’m going to instead play as many shows as I can until I come up with something that inspires what’s next.
2/10: Best Ex, Better Fires, Four at O’Briens Pub in Allston.
Doors at 8 pm, first band at 9 pm
Tickets can still be grabbed here.
Loveland’s new album can also be scooped here.