Marissa Nadler was one of the first musicians that I discovered early on when I began my journey as a contributing writer for The Aquarian Weekly. When I came across her sixth studio album, July in the winter of 2014, I was immediately floored by her work. Conveying a dreary and desolate musical arrangement that was reminiscent to both Chelsea Wolfe and Wye Oak, stand-alone tracks such as “We Are Coming Back,” “Dead City Emily” and “Drive” were my absolute favorites off of this gripping album. Not only was July my gateway to Marissa’s Nadler’s music, this effort was also my introductory point to further indulge in Sacred Bones Records’ entire studio catalog.
Fast forward several months later, I even had the opportunity to briefly catch her headlining CMJ Showcase set at (Le) Poisson Rouge. Considering that show was my first time ever catching a live performance at this beautiful Manhattan-based hall, the memory of her set still comes time mind. To this day, I still reflect back on the blissful sense of awe and intrigue that I’ve experienced entering the venue, as I fell in love with (Le) Poisson Rouge’s delightful lighting and stage setup from very get-go.
This past spring, Nadler returned with her anticipated seventh album, Strangers. Rather than revisit old stylings, Strangers is a full-sounding release that goes above and beyond her past efforts. Through hits like “Dissolve,” “Janie In Love” and “Hungry Is The Ghost,” Nadler introduces to her fans an atmospheric direction that floors listeners with blissful accompaniments to complement her mesmerizing sound. It’s also noted that Nadler even incorporated her artistic talents through directing and animating music videos for leading singles off of the record.
Around the time when Nadler began her North American tour opening in support for Ghost, I had the pleasure to briefly chat with the Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter about her latest record, Strangers, what it’s like to tour with such an extravagant band like Ghost, and the way she integrates her artistic background into her music.
You’re currently on the road touring in support with Ghost on several selected dates. How have the shows been so far? What’s it like to have the opportunity to share the stage with Ghost?
There’s been about six or seven of the Ghost shows so far, and a lot more to come. It’s actually been a really good experience for me—it’s going better than I expected to. I just was a little bit worried because I am not touring with a full band, and there’s a contrast between that and such a bombastic band with intense stage production. But yeah, it’s been going well.
Being paired with Ghost on this tour, in what ways do you feel that your music is complementary to performing in front of primarily a metal crowd?
I actually think the crossover is going pretty well. I mean, both of our music is on the darker side, and I think their fanbase is very, very open. I like their fans, I think they’re cool. You know, obviously, it’s not an easy job being the opening act (laughs). You got deal with some talkers and stuff, but I’ve been definitely making some new fans outside of my own fan base.
Throughout your career, would you say that the reach of your music has given you the opportunity to share the stage with a large category of musicians and artists without any specific genre limitations?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve done a lot of tours with bands like Earth, and Boris—when I first started touring, I wasn’t really in the “indie scene.” I had a booking agent that put me out with a lot of “heavier” bands. But for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been really stuck in that indie world. I have to say that this fanbase is more like me (laughs). You know like, lots of goth chicks, and creepy weirdos—I feel like I can relate to them more in a way.
A few months back, you released your seventh studio album, Strangers. So far, how has the reception of the record been like since this past spring?
The reception has been really good. I had some new things happen on this record cycle that never happened before. I was on the cover of The Wire, and that was exciting, and Spin did a big thing. It’s kind of broken through a little bit more within the last two records sort of speak. So far, so good.
Strangers is your first studio release since putting out July back in the winter of 2014. What was the recording process like this time around? Were there any personal goals in mind that you hoped to accomplish with this record, or any new ideas in the studio you’ve wanted to peruse compared to your past work?
Well, July was kind of like, the alternate of that style that I was brining in where everything was a big and guitar-based album. It was very much about heartbreak and love, so when I went to write this new record, I really promised myself that I wasn’t going to re-tread familiar territory. Every song that felt kind of too similar to past work I’ve done, I’ve just put into a different folder, and tried to write thinking that I want to tour with a band. Because touring stripped-down is really difficult, and I really wanted to write more fuller arrangements. I think it’s important to keep evolving as an artist, especially if you’re on your seventh record or eighth record or whatever.
For sure. You’ve shared with your fans recently a select number of songs in a brief digital release entitled Bury Your Name. Musically and personally, how do you think these songs uniquely stand in out separately from Strangers?
When I am writing songs for a record, I demo them at home, and I basically have recordings of all of them. I sometimes like my demos a lot because some of the music that I like the best is gritty, and poorly recorded home recordings. These songs were just ones that were kind of on the familiar side of in terms of style for me, but they were strong enough where I wanted to share them with my listeners. I kind of cherry-picked which ones could stand up on their own because I know some people don’t like the high fidelity recordings now. Plus, there’s also going to be people that have been listening to me forever that prefer me alone. It’s whatever—this is kind of for everybody.
With an understanding that Bury Your Name is not a new album release per se, was this the first time that you’ve had selected songs leading up to the preparation of writing a full-length that you wanted to share digitally?
Well, it’s not actually. After July came out, Sacred Bones and Bella Union put out something called Before July, which was basically the same thing. It had home recordings, one song that didn’t make the record, and a cover. I kind of like that they let me do that. One of the songs on my demos ended up being my most played songs on Spotify by a huge portion, which is very strange to me. That just goes to show you that you don’t have to pay a lot of money to make a record—it’s really about the songs.
Totally! There are several musicians who I enjoy where I deeply appreciate their raw demos and home recordings as much as their fully produced work.
Yeah, sometimes I feel that way. Just because when you’re recording in your bedroom, it’s different. It’s really intimate, and quiet.
Very true. The emotion and spontaneity of home recordings is something that cannot be easily re-created in the studio. You’ve also released a music video for the single “Dissolve,” where you’ve done some animation work on the video. Over the years, how have been able explore different creative avenues to incorporate your artistic background into your musical career?
I started to become interested in stop-motion animation when I was taking a few years off of music before July came out. I was teaching fine arts at a special needs high school in Massachusetts. It was after my self-tiled record, and before July—like, there was a couple of years where I was kind of a little aimless, and I was not sure if things we’re going to happen for me career-wise musically. But, I got signed by two amazing labels [Bella Union and Sacred Bones Records] and things started to pick back up.
With the animation, I had some students that were interested in it. So, we watched YouTube videos of some cool animators, and I taught myself how to do it so that I could teach them. Then, I started to make music videos slowly at first, and it actually really clicked for me, especially editing. I am very OCD, and I kind of like the repetitive tasks and wanted to get better and better at it. It’s very fun.
Marissa, thank you very much for your time this afternoon. After these North American shows, what sort of plans do you have in store for the New Year?
Yup, we basically have Thanksgiving break off, and I am going to tour with a full band in Europe. Then, I am going to record an EP in Seattle with some special guests, and it’s going to be very cool. We’re going to take a little bit of time off for a couple of months, and then I think I’m going to tour again in the spring. Thank you very much for your time as well.
Marissa Nadler is currently on the road touring as opening support for Ghost, where she will be performing at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn on Nov. 12. Her seventh studio effort, Strangers, is available now on Sacred Bones Records. Her latest digital release, Bury Your Name, is also available through Sacred Bones Records and Bella Union. For more information, go to marissanadler.com.