Erin Anne, Okay, Whatever
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On their Epitaph debut Until My Lungs Are Cleared, Ariel View channel the most complex and messy emotions into 11 immaculately arranged indie-rock songs. Tapping into the kinetic energy they first revealed in playing backyard shows all around the Inland Empire, the Ontario, California-based band blends punk and surf-rock into a finespun sound that’s viscerally charged yet gracefully melodic. And in their lyrics, Ariel View share stories of drinking too much and missing the wrong people and dreaming of running thousands of miles away, with sisters Harmonie and Heaven delivering each of their lines with both raw sensitivity and defiant self-assurance.
Recorded at Route 2 Recording Studios in L.A. and produced by Joe Reinhart (Hop Along, Remo Drive), Until My Lungs Are Cleared takes its title from a song that Harmonie wrote when she was 14-years-old. With its gauzy guitar tones and languid rhythms, the track unfolds in a delicate reverie that hints at Ariel View’s psych-rock-inspired sensibilities—a dream state that’s disrupted by the palpable pain of Harmonie’s lyrics (e.g., “I'll forget you one day so I could finally sing all these songs/That remind me of you”). And while Harmonie describes “Until My Lungs Are Cleared” as “a song about being a bad kid, and going out with friends and partying and just wandering around,” Nadine notes its intense emotional impact. “It’s this horribly sad breakup song about how you can’t live without this person, and you’re just waiting until the day when you’re okay enough to sing the song you used to sing together,” she says.
On “Friday Nights” veers into a much grittier mood, taking on a breakneck momentum as Harmonie reflects on the ending of a two-year relationship. “I watched that whole relationship and saw how toxic it was—it made me so sad to see my sister go through that,” says Heaven. “When I heard the lyrics to ‘Friday Nights,’ I knew what every line meant. It hits so hard because it comes from a very real place.”
One song later, on “Summertime,” Until My Lungs Are Cleared offers up an anthem built on bouncy beats, airy harmonies, and self-possessed lyrics (“Me and my friends will make it every night”). But with Harmonie pointing out that “most of these songs are breakup songs,” the album assumes a feverish urgency on “Midnight”—a track that first appeared as a stripped-back acoustic number on Ariel View’s 2015 self-titled debut, then emerged as a lo-fi demo on 2017’s Leo. “‘Midnight’ is interesting to look at, because it’s gone through so many stages,” says Nadine. “On the first version, Harm is way younger and she’s got this little-kid voice, and now with the new version you can really see the growth of the band, and what Ariel View is today.”
Founded in 2014, Ariel View began as a two-piece featuring Harmonie and a former member who left the duo soon after they’d released their debut. “When that happened my dad told me I should have Heaven join,” Harmonie recalls. “She was only 12-years-old at the time and I was like, ‘I don’t want this kid in my band’—but then she started playing with us, and it was actually really good.” (Both lifelong musicians, the Martinez sisters have played in a number of cover bands with their father—including a Smiths cover band and a Beatles cover band—with Miranda and Nadine sometimes also joining those groups onstage.)
As they began playing more shows—and shaping a sonic identity largely inspired by alt-rock bands like The Strokes and The Growlers—Ariel View cycled through many guitarists and drummers, eventually bringing Nadine into the fold. “One of their former drummers is a coworker of mine,” says Nadine, who works at Sam Ash Music. “The band did a photo shoot and I thought they looked cool, so I got on Instagram and DM-ed them like, ‘Hey, can I be in your band?’” Within a week of hearing back, Nadine learned all of Ariel View’s songs and met with them for a jam session, then immediately joined as their drummer. Not long after that, they found their lead guitarist in Miranda, who played in a local band called MoonFuzz. After admiring her guitar skills for months on end, Heaven received an Instagram message from Miranda, asking if she wanted to get together and play. After a few jam sessions, Heaven asked Miranda to join the band. With their lineup solidified at last, Ariel View landed their deal with Epitaph soon after the release of Leo, and set to work on Until My Lungs Are Cleared at the start of 2018.
Over the years, Ariel View have gone from playing backyard parties to taking the stage at festivals like Top Acid Fest—where, at the 2018 festival, the band dealt with a bomb scare during their set. “There were a lot of skinhead punks that year, and somebody brought a fake grenade,” says Nadine. “The SWAT team showed up and there were helicopters everywhere, and Harm and I just looked at each other like, ‘Fuck it, let’s just play through it—if we die, we die.’ But we didn’t die, and it was great.”
As a queer-identified band, Ariel View are passionate about supporting and empowering the LGBTQ community, and creating an inclusive space at all of their shows—a spirit of solidarity that deeply informed the songwriting on Until My Lungs Are Cleared. “We’ve had a lot of people come up to us and tell us how our songs have helped them feel more comfortable with being themselves, which is a really great feeling,” says Harmonie. “I know that I personally go to music to feel like someone else understands what I’m feeling, and that it definitely relieves my anxiety. So if our music can make other people feel better and a little less alone, that would be the best reward.”
The debut album from Erin Anne, Tough Love is an unruly yet elegant collage of all the elements that make up her musical vocabulary: wildly shredded riffs and lo-fi acoustic ramblings, punk-rock energy and folky austerity, new-wave whimsy and high-flown pop theatrics. With a narrative voice at turns thoughtful and rebellious, confrontational and shy, the L.A.-based singer/songwriter spins her lyrics from such divergent sources as formative queer texts and her own moon-phase-specific dream journal, ultimately presenting a body of work that bravely documents the slow and strange process of becoming yourself.
Co-produced with Alex Rogers (an engineer/multi-instrumentalist known for his work with bands like Family Hahas and Tambourines), Tough Love offers a potent introduction to Erin’s kaleidoscopic musicality and infinitely unpredictable guitar work. In bringing the album to life, the two collaborators drew from an earlier version of Tough Love self-released by Erin in early 2019, re-recording each song with live drums and Rogers’s lavish collection of analog synths. With Erin playing every instrument except drums, Tough Love bears an expansive sonic palette wholly suited to its emotional thrust—a state of mind she encapsulates as “standing in the doorway between presents you’ve grown out of and futures you’re afraid you’re too small for, and using music as the catalyst to take those steps into the unknown.”
On songs like “Bedroom Track (Carrie),” Erin captures that tension with both tender introspection and unbridled drama, building the song around an intricate arrangement showing the depths of her expressive imagination (“I wanted the acoustic guitar to be the drizzle and the synth to be the storm, and the electric guitar to be the thunder and lightning,” she explains). Delivering what she dubs a “personal manifesto about wanting things—a very specifically female/queer kind of wanting,” “Bedroom Track (Carrie)” also illuminates her melodic ingenuity, with Erin transforming a string of sentences lifted from Carrie Brownstein’s 2015 memoir Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl into the track’s delicately rendered opening lines.
An album charged with restless intensity, Tough Love reaches a glorious peak on its title track, a song initially informed by Erin’s experience in earning her Ph.D. in musicology at UCLA. “Being a woman in academia can be exhausting,” says Erin. “‘Tough Love’ started when I came from a day at seminar when I was trying to make a very simple point and couldn’t get a word out—I was incredibly frustrated, and tried to write a vaguely ’80s, “9 to 5”-style song that would feel good to Jazzercise to.” But as the track took shape, “Tough Love” eventually morphed into a massive anthem, a thrillingly cathartic refusal to let her voice go unheard.
Elsewhere on Tough Love, Erin explores the more fragile corners of her psyche, imbuing a particularly painful vulnerability into “Gaslighter,” the album’s hypnotic centerpiece. “I have this recurring new-moon dream, where my ex-girlfriend breaks into my house and starts berating me,” says Erin. “A lot of ‘Gaslighter’ came straight from my dream journal, and it turned into a dialogue between past trauma and my present, more emotionally evolved self.” With its endlessly clashing textures and lyrics telegraphing the confusion of abuse (“I still don’t know what I did wrong/Can I kill you with a song?”), “Gaslighter” channels the many voices circulating in Erin’s head—an effect that’s simultaneously jarring, mesmerizing, and oddly transcendent.
Throughout Tough Love, Erin reveals the vastness of her interior world, a joyful complexity that finds her referencing Erving Goffman’s 1956 sociological tome The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Belinda Carlisle’s classic pop epic “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” with equal admiration. Growing up in New Jersey, Erin got her start in music by taking up violin in third grade, then quickly moved on to guitar, a neon-blue Yahama she broke in by covering blink-182’s “Dammit” in her school’s talent show. By the time she’d reached high school, however, she’d begun playing an acoustic guitar and shifted into quintessential singer/songwriter mode. “I started writing less brash things around that time, partly because I had some idea like ‘Women are quiet; we write quiet songs,’” she recalls.
During her undergrad studies at Bowdoin College, Erin experienced a life-changing revelation upon viewing the Kathleen Hanna documentary The Punk Singer for a course on gender, sexuality, and popular music. “I grew up in New Jersey where everybody played lacrosse and I had very limited access to anything remotely queer, which meant I’d never heard of riot grrrl before,” she says. Not long afterward, Erin formed a riot grrrl band named the Navel Gazers (“a jab at a professor who said I should stop talking about myself so much in my work”), and began performing her own material for the first time. “It was all so new to me, and it was a nice bridge into being able to take more risks,” she notes. After graduating from Bowdoin, Erin moved to Portland, Maine, where she started a solo project called REGI RKT (a nod to a zine-making, feminist, street-hockey-playing character from the Nickelodeon cartoon “Rocket Power”), then put out an EP titled Vulnrubble in 2017. Her first release under her own name, the original version of Tough Love arrived in June 2019, and soon landed her a deal with Carpark Records.
In releasing her newly reimagined take on Tough Love, in all its frenetic grandeur, Erin hopes that the album might leave her audience with a sense of wholeness similar to what she found in its creation—an adventure she describes as “a journey to becoming a more comfortable self.” “I think in a way this record is about coming to terms with the less-than-good things about yourself, and with the parts of your identity that maybe aren’t accepted by everyone else,” says Erin. “I wanted to use all that to create something that encourages reflection but hopefully also makes people feel good—even if it’s the kind of good that hurts at points.”
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