Mariel Beaumont of post-punk outfit Church Girls breaks down their new EP 'Home' ahead of its release on September 7
Ahead of the release of their third EP 'Home', Mariel Beaumont gives a track-by-track breakdown, discusses the new lineup and working with producer Scott Solter.
Philadelphia based indie post-punk group Church Girls are on a quest to tap into listeners’ emotional marrow and explore the ways we work to become better humans a little at a time. This quest is fortified by a compelling mix of introspective lyrics, carefully layered melodies, a delightful mix of eclectic musical instruments (which sometimes include mellotrons, trumpets, mandolins and more) and Mariel Beaumont's hypnotizing vocals.
Formed in 2014, Church Girls released their debut EP 'Young Planes' in October of that year, followed by their impressive self-titled debut full-length effort. Their latest album was 2017's 'Hidalgo', which was buried under layers of dreamy pop melodies and a multitude of depth, with singles like 'Breaking Bones' and 'Holding On' displaying the band's most mature stuff so far.
Now, after four years of a constantly shuffling lineup, Church Girls are back with their new EP 'Home', due out on Friday, September 7 via Chatterbot Records. The EP boasts a new lineup, with Michael Liszka on drums, Will Schwarz on bass, Joseph Wright on guitars, vibraphone and backing vocals and the one constant fixture of the band, leading lady and multi-instrumentalist Mariel Beaumont, who contributes with guitars, trumpet, Wurlitzer and a carillon, apart from her emphatic vocals.
"The band's been through a couple of lineup changes," Mariel revealed to me during our brief chat over the phone ahead of the release of the new EP 'Home'. "When we started in 2014, it was mostly me kind of hitting open mics and such, and then my friend and I recorded a song which got picked up by a local radio station. Actually, for a while, my twin brother was in the band, and another friend. Then once it got to a point where I wanted to start touring, the members of the band like my brother and my drummer Jack weren't able to leave their jobs and what not. So I started looking for people with a bit different outlook for the long term. The guys currently in the band I actually met on the music scene," Mariel explains.
Talking about the origin of the curious name Church Girls, Mariel says: "In 2014 I was playing different open mics and trying out new names each time. I always got a good reaction from Church Girls, so it stuck. In retrospect, I think there’s a reason. I went to an Episcopalian school for a few years and was an acolyte growing up. It’s not something I particularly resented or was against, but I became obsessed with going to punk shows around age 15 and live music became the new church for me and my friends. I think music has a transcendent quality, and historically has provided a communal experience for people to come together and feel connected, so in a way, it’s like church."
The 5-track EP 'Home' opens with 'Just Like You', a poppy, up-tempo summer tune with plenty of guitar bends. It's the only song from the EP that features a co-writing credit, with the rest being written by Mariel herself. The song was co-written with Molly Martin, who was introduced to Mariel by a friend during her time in Nashville, she reveals. "She just came over for like an hour one afternoon and I had a new idea that I was working on, and she and I just wrote the song very quickly together. It was the first co-writing that I've ever done. In Nashville, that's the culture. People have songwriting appointments all day.
"It was fun to be on the spot with someone I didn't know, bouncing ideas write off each other and I think it ended out to be a pretty cool song. I ended up bringing it home with me and kinda reworking it till it felt more like a 'me' kinda song, but the experience was great." The next two tracks, 'Black Seas' and 'Deadwood' shift the tone with two back-to-back soulful melodies that seem thematically linked. 'Deadwood' picks up where the melancholia of 'Black Seas' ends and steadily builds until it all comes to a glorious finish with an all-out guitar driven attack.
"'Deadwood' was the first song that I wrote for this EP. I'd been through this little bit of a rough patch with some relationships. And I drove from Philadelphia to Colorado and was doing a lot of thinking, mostly just reflecting on the mistakes I made and the culture of blaming other people and whatnot. So it's just a reflection on that."
"Black Seas' is about a friend I knew who was going through a hard time and I was very concerned, and I wasn't sure how much I was of help and if I was able to provide that kind of help for them. So the two songs are linked in a sense that..." Mariel paused together the right words.
"Both come from a sort of dark place - one for you personally and one for a friend?" I suggested.
"Exactly. Just about what your role is in a relationship and how much you're supposed to take on," Mariel agreed.
Apart from these three tracks that Home is previewed by, the EP is rounded off with two more new tracks - 'Old Friend' and the title track 'Home'. The EP is produced by Scott Solter, who has worked with indie legends like Superchunk and Spoon, and the sheen of his production clearly stand out as compared to their previous EP, 2016's 'Thousand Lives'. The sonic feel of the album is also heavier, with louder, post-punk flecked guitar riffs unafraid to take the spotlight at times. It's an interesting development from the dreamier, more relaxed full-length album from last year.
"Scott is great to work with. He and I talked a lot beforehand about the direction I wanted to go and I definitely liked 'Hidalgo' but I wanted to go on a little bit more of an aggressive dry route, rather than kind of a dreamy, reverb route." Mariel says of the sonic feel of the EP.
She also gave me an exclusive scoop, confirming that Church Girls have recorded five more songs with Scott recently and Mariel says that they're aiming for a December release. Mariel says that the five new songs expand further on the next sonic direction. So expect another heavier EP to drop sooner than later!
Curiously missing from the current lineup though is guitarist Robert Dwyer, who co-wrote almost half the songs on 'Hidalgo'. "Rob and I were friends in high school and he's a little bit more kind of the jazz-influenced, more improvisational kind of a player. He ended up leaving the band to work on his own project and we're super supportive of each other. So the new guitarist Joey... right off the bat, we have a lot of common influences. So we jived right off! Whenever I'm looking for people to work with, it's like a really difficult balance of all these things that someone needs to have - obviously they need to be a great musician, they need to be kind of understanding of the group's musical direction, there are a lot of things. But I think where we are with the band now is in just great. It's a great collaborative process."
"It's just Mike, Joey and me. We're bringing along a new bass player for the upcoming tour. Joey was tracking bass on the new songs. And Mike was playing drums. But then, on one of them, the two switched. So Mike was playing bass and Joey was playing drums. It's a very low-ego kind of jam with everyone collaborating and trying to figure out what serves the song best. I think we're in a really good place right now so I'm excited about where things are headed."
Church Girls are also hitting the road, touring across both sides of the Atlantic in support of the new EP. They're currently in the UK for a short spell after which they return for the North American leg of their tour which kicks off September 19 at Alphaville in Brooklyn, NYC, and winds through New Jersey, Philadelphia, Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee, before finally wrapping up on October 3 at Leftovers in Roanoke, VA.
"I'm looking forward to the UK dates of course," Mariel says of the trek. "But I'm really also looking forward to all the US dates because I ended up booking a lot of DIY venues. And we just have the best luck at those kinds of shows, meeting new bands and becoming friends with the new bands we play with. The Brooklyn show, in particular, happens at this place called Alphaville, which is supposed to be great. A lot of our fans from New York have said that we're gonna love it. So I'm looking forward to it."
Church Girls' new EP 'Home' drops this Friday, September 7 on all major streaming services. For tickets to the upcoming shows, the full schedule of dates and more information, visit the band's official webpage.