Briston Maroney’s done a lot of growing up since he entered the scene in 2017. Growing up means you gain more life experience, sure, but it also means that you’re experiencing more special life moments to hold onto. You know those moments. They’re the ones where the light is magically soft and warm, your friends have never made you laugh so hard in your life, everything feels simpler, easier.
For Maroney, he calls those moments “Ultrapure” moments. They’re the ones he says, “That you don’t even realize have started but feel so deeply when you realize they’ve ended.” If you’re going to dedicate an entire record to those special moments, that album has to match up. Maroney’s Ultrapure does that and more. With the plucky guitar riffs and Briston’s soaring vocals, listening to this album might just be an ultrapure moment in and of itself.
In conversation with 1883, Maroney talks about prioritizing honesty in his songwriting, knowing when to shut up and how he fell into playing every single instrument on the album.
I’m really excited to be speaking with you today. I’ve been listening to you for years! I think since 2018. I initially loved June and Under My Skin, and then the whole Carnival EP, and really, everything that came after.
Oh, that’s so awesome to hear. That’s so sick. Thank you.
One thing that I have really appreciated about your music over the years is that it continues to evolve and get bigger and better in terms of production and sound with every single record drop. But it still sounds like you, it’s still true to who you are and what early fans like me have loved about you for so long. How do you think you’ve been able to experiment and grow over the years without ever really alienating any fans?
Dang. Well, that is like the compliment that I would hope to get. I’d strive to fit into that category of someone who is not alienating anybody – that’s really awesome. I really appreciate that. I think it’s been really important to me from the beginning to put a lot of value on making sure that no one feels excluded when listening to my music, but also wanting to find a balance of, like you said, still trying to push the boundaries a little bit with each release. I think the thing that’s been the biggest through line is just prioritizing being honest. I think we just naturally are growing as people all the time. I’ve tried to be really conscious of who I am presently as a person, and just kind of crossed my fingers that it came across in the records. I’ve tried to do that from a place of, “Hey, I’m a person who is changing all the time, the same way that someone who is just listening to music also is changing all the time.” So I tried to just prioritize being a human being, you know what I mean?
Yeah, totally. So what do you think has changed over the years for you in terms of producing a record?
Oh, that’s a good question. I think the answer I’ve been falling back on as I get to talk about the new record a little bit is that I feel like maybe I’ve learned when to shut the fuck up. I’ve really tried hard to put a lot of energy into just knowing when to speak and when not to and when to use the music to communicate a feeling as opposed to using lyrics or vice versa. So yeah, I think the biggest thing is that I’ve been really, really, really lucky to have some cool perspective shifts by getting to travel and getting to tour and meet so many sweet, cool people. I think just perspective, just as a person, is the biggest difference now.
What do you mean by perspective though? What do you think has shifted for you?
I think specifically, how seriously I like to take myself. I feel like I have learned when to take myself seriously and when to let things be a little bit looser in my hands. So I feel like going into recording this record I was a little more prepared to be like, “Okay, I’m gonna push myself as hard as I can. And just like dig deep emotionally.” But also I felt like I understood how that could negatively affect making an album, you know? If things got too difficult, I felt like I was a little more aware of when to be like, “Okay, I should just chill out.” It’s gonna be okay, there’s no benefit in digging myself into a hole trying to solve a problem that’s not immediately being solved. You know what I mean?
Absolutely. It’s such a gorgeous record, too. It feels so soft. And it sounds so nostalgic to me. Even when I was listening to the album the first couple of times it already felt nostalgic. It sounds like the backtrack to a warm summer memory you’d have. I’ve seen your quote everywhere, the one where you’re saying your favorite moments are the ones that you don’t don’t realize have started but feel so deeply when you realize they’ve ended, the “Ultrapure” moments. What were some of the Ultrapure moments you experienced when that inspired the record?
Hmm, that’s an awesome question. I think the whole process looking back on it kind of felt like one of those moments. I love anticipation and I love being in a situation that feels like the stakes are really high because I love the come down of getting to move beyond it. Move beyond a situation where things feel intense. Just to see that it never really comes down to one moment that defines an entire arc of something. Really, the whole process felt that way. I kind of knew the title was going to be Ultrapure pretty early on, just because I liked the word, but I don’t think it took meaning until we were pretty deep into the process. Nostalgic is definitely the word, it was very presently nostalgic. Just going to the studio every day, just a few minutes away from my house, getting up and the weather was perfect, and grabbing coffee and going into the studio. I felt like a kid going to school again. It was just this beautiful anxiety of, “Oh god, what is today gonna hold?” So I think literally the process of getting up, getting coffee and showing up and just having no idea what the day was going to hold. It just kind of defines that whole sensation.
Yeah, it’s really anticipatory, but also nostalgic at the same time, which I think is kind of interesting because those two things are on almost opposite sides of the spectrum in a way. Being nostalgic is looking back on your memories, but being aware of looking back in time places you in the present really firmly.
And that’s mournful in a way too, because you realize how far away you are from those good times. I thought that all of those feelings shone through so beautifully in the musicality of it all. The plucky uplifting piano! All of it! It was so great.
Oh, that is so kind. Thank you. Thanks, for listening so intently. That’s fucking awesome.
What were some of your biggest musical inspirations that you were listening to going into production?
I think at the time I was in this really weird phase where I was obsessed with Blind Melon. Which was a funny six months of my life. I’ve always loved that band. But for some reason, I think I just really connected with their first record. I really loved the visuals on that album and stuff. I don’t even think the music was that influenced by them, but I loved all these old film photos of them, just looking like a bunch of absolute dudes hanging out. I was really moved by the simplicity of a lot of their stuff. I just loved the way that Shannon [Hoon] dressed and the way that he carried himself, and the studio photos and stuff. So I think I was really heavily visually influenced by that. I was also starting to get into ambient stuff I discovered. I was late to the game, but I finally started watching Joe Pera Talks with You. I was listening to the ambient soundtrack on that so much. I felt like I was in a video game. I was also playing a lot of really nerdy video games at the time too. So video game music – there’s this game called EarthBound, I loved the soundtrack for that – primo stuff.
That’s awesome. So you’re also playing every single instrument that the listeners hear on this album. How did you decide that you were going to be doing that?
I didn’t. It was decided for me, heavily against my will. It was like the first day that we were tracking drums, we’d finished guitars and vocals and whatever, and the producer, Daniel [Tashian], is a fantastic drummer. I assumed that he would be the one playing the drums on the record and he was just like, “I don’t know why you’re just sitting there,” when it was time to track drums. I was really stressed because I was like, “I don’t want you guys to hate me after this process because it’s going to be fucking brutal. I’m so bad at this instrument.” But he was so nurturing and told me, “Dude, we’re here to make an album, we’re not here to clock in and clock out. If it takes a second it takes a second.” And so him just trusting me to do that, and the engineer, Konrad [Snyder], being supportive of that as well, just led to being like, “Well damn, I’m not as afraid to make mistakes in front of y’all.” And then from there it was like, “Oh, what if I tried to play the bass? What if I tried to play the keys?” It definitely unfolded really quickly. That wasn’t really the goal.
Was there a particular instrument you were most nervous to play?
Definitely the drums. I’m like, painfully uncoordinated.
Well, it’s such a difficult instrument!
Yeah, dude! You’re using all four of your appendages. It’s just so loud too. Like if you fuck up it’s really hard to hide it. That’s why I love playing guitar. You can use a bunch of effects and stuff and play terribly and make it seem like that was the plan all along. The drums you have to like you have to be good [laughs].
That’s why I’m always so impressed by artists like Father John Misty. He was the drummer for Fleet Foxes, and now he’s also just his own guy!? That’s so wild to me.
Oh, totally… I hate people who are just so naturally talented. I’m sick of them [laughs].
Yeah. Fuck you, Josh Tillman [laughs].
Yeah. That’s what I’m saying.
So speaking of the producer and engineer Daniel Tashian, and Konrad Snyder – they’re such huge forces in the industry. The sheer proximity to Rainbow Kitten Surprise was exciting for me. How did you feel about working with them?
I was pretty nervous to meet them. Largely because of their proximity to RKS. I knew a bunch of stuff Daniel had done. He’s just like a pretty magical individual. And Konrad, I didn’t know what to expect. You never know, when you meet someone who’s made a bunch of records that you love – will they be reflective of the records and the emotions attached to those? So I was definitely really intimidated. But then, as soon as we started working together, I was like, “Oh my god, we’re so similar. They’re just two people who love making music.” It was one of those meeting your heroes moments that actually was really, really awesome. They were really supportive. Konrad’s whole thing is just like, he’s super into Ram Dass, and how the answer is here and it’s within you to do the right thing. Whatever you do is the right thing. You know what I mean? So just like super nurturing in that way. And Daniel is just an insane person. So he helped me just like not to feel crazy for being crazy sometimes.
Love that. Obviously, you’re inspired by your own life and memories, but what else has been inspiring you lately when it comes to songwriting?
Great question. I’ve been reading a lot again. I think getting in touch with the way that I looked at songwriting when I was first getting into it when I was really young has been inspiring. I’ve been really inspired by my past self, which I guess is like, not that separate from the first thing that you said. I think about my own experiences now from the past, more so than things that are happening at present. I’ve been thinking about who I was when I was 19 and first started putting out songs and stuff so yeah, I’ve been really in that headspace.
Well, “hindsight is 20:20,” right? It’s a little bit easier to ascribe meaning when you’re looking back on things versus in the moment. When you’re living it’s like, “I don’t know. I’m just living it.”
Totally. Totally. Yeah, that’s a big difference in the past and now for me as a writer.
You’re also going on tour this fall. What are you most looking forward to about that?
I’m stoked because this is a different format. It’s the record store thing. We’re doing that first, so I’m just excited to be hanging out with small groups of people. It’s gonna be pretty intimate. I’m just stoked to get a chance to talk to people about the album and get into physically handing someone the vinyl. That gets me so pumped! Especially with an album like this that feels really organic. I really want to be the person showing it to somebody, I don’t want this to feel shoved down anybody’s throat, so I’m really stoked to get to be the middleman there and like to be the one telling them the story in person.
Yeah, I love that. As an artist, it’s hard to put your art out there and then let other people interpret it in whatever way they want. I’d almost want to tell people exactly what this part means, and what references I was trying to make where.
Yeah, totally. I’ve kind of tried to just bite the bullet on that though. No matter how specific I feel like I’m being, somebody’s gonna have a completely different idea of what the song is about. And that’s dope. I’m sure my favorite songs do not mean what I think that they mean to lots of people.
So my last question for you is thinking about growth as an artist. You’ve grown so much as an artist over the years that you’ve been on the scene. Where are you hoping you’ll be five years from now?
I hope I’m just somewhere really secure. I don’t think that my goals really are to achieve any specific thing. Accolades are awesome, but they stress me out super bad. So I hope to just be somewhere that I’m not questioning my own instincts outside of a healthy amount. I just want to be making a ton of music, and making a ton of art or making a ton of whatever. I don’t know. I just want to feel even more creative than I do right now.
Ultrapure is out now.
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