San Francisco is known as a breeding ground for colorful musical collaborations, so it’s no surprise that newcomer Mare Island hails from the Bay Area. Formed by members of the Velvet Teen and Loma Prieta, the musicians have played together (in various forms) for many years, so it was a no-brainer for guitarists Derrick Chao and Sean Leary to start the band in 2015. Fast-forward two years and they’re releasing their eponymous debut EP on June 23rd, with the lead track, “Alight”, showcasing how their previous “indie pop and post-hardcore” sound helped to create their own brand of lush, maximalist indie rock”. It’s a beautifully anthemic piece that’s sure to invigorate.
Chao says that the established penchant for “primarily loud, dark, [and] distorted music” in the prior outfits didn’t necessarily reveal how they were “influenced by the raw indie rock and emo bands of the 1990s and early 2000s”. Therefore, Mare Island is “an opportunity to draw unapologetically from that aspect of [their] musical upbringing”.
Shortly after he and Leary started demoing material, they invited Leary’s childhood friend, Josh Staples, to provide vocals and lyrics, as well as Chao’s roommate, Evan Sarna, to complete the quartet on drums. In addition, they brought in producer Ian Pellicci (Deerhoof) to help them reach an “outward experimental push” of “pitch-shifted loops and samples”; likewise, San Francisco’s Magik*Magik Orchestra fleshed out the material to give it “a rich, ethereal quality”.
Earlier this year, Mare Island premiered two other songs from the record: “Anon” (which TheBayBridged called “a gorgeous journey through soft and light, dark and loud”) and “Unawake”. Yet, “Alight” is likely the most instantly fetching track of the trio, as its fusion of 1960s pop harmonies, biting guitar arpeggios, romanticized lyrics, shimmering percussion, and feisty rhythms make it quite gripping and charming. Check it out for yourself, pre-order the EP, and maybe even catch the release show at Amnesia in San Francisco on June 29th.