Atwood Magazine speaks to Briston Maroney about the memories that made his captivating second album, ‘Ultrapure.’
Stream: “Sunshine” – Briston Maroney
My most consistent fear with having a lifestyle that revolves around the music industry is that if I go to sleep for a second, I’ll open my eyes and everything will be gone.
When words fail, Briston Maroney prefers to make up his own.
As the Nashville-based artist describes, “My favorite moments in the human experience are ones that you don’t even realize have started, but feel so deeply when you realize they’ve ended. I refer to these as ‘Ultrapure’ moments.”
These moments are the sparks that ignite the fire of Maroney’s latest record. The album arrives with news of a fall tour, where the singer/songwriter will perform acoustic sets in record stores around the country. Ultrapure is the testimony of someone simultaneously terrified and delighted by the expanse of life.
Maroney trades in his usual boyish charm for adult existentialism with lead single “Body.” The anthem opens with an infectious arpeggio, each note bursting with sunshine. The track has a neuroticism about it, with the verses running around in circles and the drums pounding ceaselessly. Maroney laments the end we are all to face, singing, “Someday, my body will be just a body.” However, he realizes that there is freedom in being done for. Maroney concludes, “But I’ve got today and the only plan I’ve made/Is to love like I might never get to love someone again.”
Leaving power chords for shy pluckings, the album descends into an acoustic madness.
With “Sunburn Fades,” Maroney mourns the nights that consumed him. Always afraid to feel things harder than those around him, he is determined to “scream and sweat it out.” The guitar stings with every strum, patiently accompanying Maroney’s plight. He pleads, “But I need you here to kill this fear, that when the sunburn fades we’ll all forget this.” Maroney tries to hold the moment in his hand, determined to make the impossible his reality.
Standout track “Delaware” delivers an aching dose of melancholy. With a guitar riff that calls to mind Elliott Smith, Maloney begs, “I want more than anything to be fine.” His falsetto rises out of the haze, delivering a pang with every breath. The record ends with a wink of how it began. The opening chords of the record are interpolated, dimmed down for the ending. Maroney is accompanied by Samia’s sweet falsetto as they sing, “Headfirst into the water, ultrapure like a child.” Maroney ends with a quiet wisdom, a commitment to the way things are and the way things will be. Maroney ends, “It was never your faul, /but surely it wasn’t mine.”
Briston Maroney makes music out of the little moments.
These memories are the ones we play behind our eyelids as we drift off to sleep. We regret forgetting their details, but half the magic is filling in the blanks. Atwood Magazine spoke to Briston Maroney about the memories that made his sophomore album.
Ultrapure is out September 22, 2023 via Canvasback Music/Atlantic Records.
I started to get into Nick Drake and some more sunshiny acoustic sounds. I was secure enough for the first time in my life to turn over the existential stones. I felt ready for them.
A CONVERSATION WITH BRISTON MARONEY
Atwood Magazine: You haven’t taken a year off since 2017. Are you a workaholic?
Briston Maroney: It hasn’t been a deliberate choice. (laughs) It’s been more external pressure. My most consistent fear with having a lifestyle that revolves around the music industry is that if I go to sleep for a second, I’ll open my eyes and everything will be gone. As a young artist or anyone who’s within the first five years of their career, I feel like you have to be incredibly present all of the time. It’s driven partially by anxiety and partially by enjoying what I do.
I think you were writing for a younger Briston with your debut album, Sunflower. How would you describe this experience in hindsight?
Briston Maroney: Most of Sunflower was from the first four years of writing and recording. From day one, I had a couple songs that I knew would be on the first record. It was definitely from the early days and being exposed to the world beyond my own.
Do you think about the two albums together?
Briston Maroney: I think they are two totally different pieces of music. But I did think about where I wanted to go with the second album from the first album. I love looking back on bands I listened to religiously and analyzing their growth between records. With the new record, everything was a lot more gentle. I left that angsty phase behind, though I still love those artists so much. I was listening to more instrumental music and sensitive soundscapes. I was very into Blithe Field and songs from the Joe Pera soundtrack. The whole soundscape feels like a wink.
Your storytelling revolves around big moments that may not seem so big at the time. How do you choose which memories and experiences to pull from?
Briston Maroney: I am accepting that the people who have stuck around I want to honor the people that have told me I have redeeming qualities. I turned to those people during this record. I wanted to talk about them from a place of gratitude. There was frustration in asking, “How have I been so blind to the way I am?” I think the “brute” quality of the first record came from insecurity. I like to use music to process why I am hard on myself about certain things. I hope to chronicle some maturity with this record. It was an opportunity to look back on what I thought was correct. I realized how misguided I was. This record mostly references memories that were answers for why I am the way I am.
What was it like working with producer Daniel Tashyian and playing all the instruments on this record?
Briston Maroney: I rolled up with a lot of the songs done. Before we started the record, I thought Daniel was going to play on a lot of stuff because he’s such a great instrumentalist. But day one, we got in and it was time to track drums on something and he told me to get in there. I thought it was a big joke, but he insisted, “You are capable of doing this.” We spent more time focusing on what I liked rather than what I didn’t like.
Were all of those possibilities overwhelming?
Briston Maroney: If I knew that was the plan before the record was made, I would probably have lost my mind. But since I got pushed in the water, I wasn’t overwhelmed.
There’s a sense of urgency to your voice. What do you attribute this angsty sound to?
Briston Maroney: I think it’s the excitement to share new stuff. I can have more conscious conversations about what the goal is with the record. I felt really young making this record, in regards to energy. I was less preoccupied with what people were going to think. With Sunflower, I was painfully aware of what everyone was thinking about the record before it was even done. I knew I would find what people didn’t like on the internet. (laughs)
I can have more conscious conversations about what the goal is with the record. I felt really young making this record, in regards to energy. I was less preoccupied with what people were going to think.
My favorites off the album are “Intro,” “Delaware,” and Skyline.” There’s an existential tinge to these songs, and they are as close to acoustic as I think you’ll get! Where did these new ideas come from?
Briston Maroney: Really? Thank you! I was influenced by Elliott Smith on the whole record. But, I had to take a break from how much I was listening to him because my world was a different color. (laughs) Then, I started to get into Nick Drake and some more sunshiny acoustic sounds. I was secure enough for the first time in my life to turn over the existential stones. I felt ready for them.
My last question is a hard left, but what is your obsession with driving? Every song mentions a car or a steering wheel.
Briston Maroney: In Knoxville, Tennessee you either drove around in a truck or you skated, and I was never coordinated enough to skate. And, you got bullied if you rode a bike, so I didn’t really bike. (laughs) Or you could kayak, or some granola shit. So, I chose driving. It’s my favorite thing to do.
2023 Tour Dates
tickets and more info @ here
* Record Store Tour performance | # festival performance
9/8 – Denver, CO @ Endless Sunshine #
9/22 – Nashville, TN @ Grimey’s *
9/23 – Atlanta, GA @ Criminal Records *
9/25 – Baltimore, MD @ The Sound Garden *
9/26 – Philadelphia, PA @ Repo Records *
9/27 – New York, NY @ Rough Trade *
9/28 – Brooklyn, NY @ Legacy Dumbo *
9/29 – Boston, MA @ Newbury Comics *
10/1 – Long Beach, CA @ Fingerprints *
10/2 – Ventura, CA @ Salzers *
10/4 – San Francisco, CA @ Amoeba SF *
10/5 – Portland, OR @ Music Millennium *
10/6 – Seattle, WA @ Easy Street *
10/7 – Boise, ID @ The Record Exchange *
10/12 – Nashville, TN @ Brooklyn Bowl Nashville – Paradise Festival #
10/13 – Nashville, TN @ Brooklyn Bowl Nashville – Paradise Festival #
10/14 – Nashville, TN @ Brooklyn Bowl Nashville – Paradise Festival #
10/31 – Brighton, UK @ Chalk
11/1 – London, UK @ Scala
11/3 – Manchester, UK @ Gorilla
11/4 – Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
11/5 – Leeds, UK @ Brudnell Social Club
11/11/7 – Nottingham, UK @ Rescue Rooms
11/8 – Bristol, UK @ Thekla
11/10 – Paris, FR @ Le Trabendo
11/11 – Nijmegen, NL @ Doornroosje
11/12 – Amsterdam, NL @ Melkweg OZ
11/14 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust
11/15 – Berlin, DE @ Gretchen
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© Muriel Margaret
:: Stream Briston Maroney ::