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Name: Adam Bernard
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Mariel Loveland Breaks Up with Her Past & Breaks Out a New Sound with Best Ex
Friday, March 13, 2020

Candy hearts have a shelf life of approximately forever, but for Mariel Loveland, the band name Candy Hearts had run its course three years ago. Best Ex was born, and while the New Jersey-based artist and her band still play the old catalogue at shows, a new sound has emerged, as Loveland’s musical growth is seeing her crash through the walls of the genre box where Candy Hearts had existed.

Loveland’s new sound was on full display with the late 2019 single “Bad Love,” and listeners will be getting an even bigger taste with a new Best Ex EP, titled Good at Feeling Bad, which will be released on May 22nd.


I caught up with Loveland before her show last month at Mercury Lounge in NYC, and she opened up about her personal and musical growth, the reason she felt the need to distance herself from the pop punk community, and both the best, and worst, van rides from her touring life.

You’re young, but you’ve been doing this for a very long time. Candy Hearts formed 11 years ago. In what ways do you feel like a veteran artist?

Because I feel exhausted. {laughs}

I feel so tired, and not in a bad way, if that makes sense. (It’s) in a way where … before there were things that would really shake me. When I was much younger, when we were touring and stuff, everything seemed like the biggest deal in the world. Every small thing that went wrong seemed like a giant deal. Now I get to live in this space where I’m just too tired to really care.

So the little stuff is gone now?

Yeah. Now I’m just like … fuck it, it is what it is.

Was there a moment when you said that for the first time and were like, alright, I am one level older now?

I think it was when we did Warped Tour in a van. I was like, I’m not one level older, I’m about 100 years older.


You were bi-continental at one point, splitting your time between the U.S. and the UK. How did that come to be, and what are some of the unique positives – musically or otherwise – that experience brought to your life?

It came to be because I met a man who lived in the UK and I just went there all the time.

That’s dedication. That’s way better than Skype.

Yeah. I’m hella dedicated to people I care about, and it’s great because I can work from anywhere. My day job is writing. I’m a freelance writer, and a musician, so it’s like you don’t have to be anywhere (specific) to do that.

I think music-wise it’s great because I have a wonderful label there that I don’t think I would’ve been able to really connect with on the same level if I hadn’t been (there).

I've also played a bunch of acoustic shows over there. It’s too expensive to fly my band out, but if I was there already, it was great, and those were some of the best acoustic shows that we’ve ever played.

I just love it there so much, and I definitely miss it.


What I found most interesting about that living situation is you have anxiety when it comes to flying.

Oh my God, I’m so terrified. It’s frickin’ absurd.

You never found a way around it?

No. I have no advice to offer anyone other than just suck it up.

Before I was doing that (bi-coastal commute) we had gigs we had to fly to, and I felt the same way. Maybe a little less bad because my friends were there, but not always. Sometimes I had to fly places alone to play gigs by myself, and I never got over it.

I cry every time I’m on a flight, and I hyperventilate. I think I’m gonna die the whole time, and I stay awake. The only thing I found around it is that sometimes taking an Ambien, so you’re knocked out completely, works, but then in your head it’s like if there’s a super emergency and I’m just in the first hour of Ambien am I going to be able to respond to the emergency, or am I gonna be messed up? I think I would be able to, but I don’t know.

I don’t think they’re gonna ask you to land the plane, or kick the door open.

What if I need to swim!


You had a really bad situation with your former tour manager, who was abusive. I don’t want to ask you about the actual situation because you’ve already talked about it a number of times, and written about it, but something that really disturbed me is you mentioned in an interview that after the news came out a lot of bands shied away from you. Some years have passed since then. Have you been in a situation where you’ve been in the same room with one of those artists and been like hey, WTF?

No. I think I have avoided, as much as possible, the people that I think didn’t take my side, people who were actively mean, because I didn’t ask anyone to take sides.

The one person who I really thought hated me was our merch guy that summer, and I avoided him for many years. I’d met him through that person, and they were childhood friends, and I was so convinced that he hated me. While (everything) was happening he never said anything to me. No one helped me.

I commented on something of his online, like congratulations for something, and he messaged me back, and was really really nice. I was like, “I thought you hated me.” He said, “No, I just didn’t know what to do.” I was like, “Oh, OK, then we’re good.”

That’s the only one.

He may have been friends with the guy, but I feel like people know when their friends are jerks.

I think so. When my friends act like jerks I’m always like STOP!


Has this changed how you book your shows in terms of who you’ll work with? Is there a new vetting process?

Yeah. Now I try to steer clear of working with bands that are so rooted in the genre of pop punk, because it just honestly frightens me a little bit. It’s such a boys club that I just don’t know how those people see me, and I am a little bit scarred of who will have my back versus their bros around them, because it seems like … I have the back of whoever I think is right … which is really the woman usually.

Like you said, you know when your friend’s an asshole.

That’s tough, though, because Candy Hearts was a pop punk band. I know you’ve changed your sound as Best Ex, but when you’re suddenly like, “You know what, I can’t be a part of this scene anymore …”

It makes me really sad, but I also think at this point in my life I like the music that we’re making better now, (rather) than if we were doing the same thing.

Obviously I liked that music a lot when we made it, I’m just more feeling what we’re doing now.

You’re also 11 years older.

I know, that’s the thing.

In 2017 you released Ice Cream Anti Social under the name Best Ex, and last year you followed it up with the single “Bad Love.” These releases differ wildly musically. What do you credit for your change in sound other than simply getting older?

I think that between Ice Cream Anti Social and what we have now I was trying to get to where we are now, and I wasn’t quite sure how to completely get there, so that was my attempt of trying to get there. Then I found a wonderful producer (Andy Tongren) who really pushed it over to the new (sound). I think he found those gaps and was like oh no, this is what you need, and I’m like oh shit, that.


Moving from the studio to the road, you’ve toured across the U.S. and UK. Where’s the worst place your van has ever broken down?

Hmm … there are so many to choose from … but it’s never been that bad.

I think the worst time that it broke down, just because it was spirit breaking, not because it was inconvenient – when Warped Tour ended it ended in Seattle and we drove straight to New York in shifts. I was telling my band – and I’m not gonna say I’m always right, but in this situation I was correct – I’m like, “We can’t do that. We need to stop. This is terrible for our transmission. We’re towing a bunch of crap. Also, there’s no reason to rush.”

Yeah, you’re going home, you’re not making a tour date.

Yeah, “We’re going home. You live with your girlfriends, and I know you miss them very much, as do I, but the difference between two days is not gonna make a difference! And our van is not gonna be able to handle it!”

I was just tired, so I was like fine, whatever … and we had a great time on the 40 hour straight drive. We love each other so much that it was fun, somehow.

It made it the whole way?

It made it the whole way except for 15 minutes from my frickin’ house. Right by the mall that I grew up going to I got woken up by the guys. I’m like, “Oh, are we here?” I looked out the window and we were (near) my house. They said, “No, we broke down.” I was like oh my God. I was so mad. Then we had to get the transmission redone.

15 minutes.

It was soul crushing. Any of the other things we’ve managed to fix. It’s never been a situation where it’s like this car is totaled and you’re stranded. We’ve always fixed it, and we’ve always been so blessed and so lucky, but that was just soul crushing.

From that distance you could at least call AAA and have them tow you home.

My mom came and drove us, and got AAA to come.

We had been on tour for two months straight. We only got three hotel rooms on that whole tour because there were only three off days. For the rest of the time we slept in the van in the bunks that I’d built. There were six of us, and we were exhausted, and we were just almost there.


Let’s close things out with a happier story. Tell me about a night that was so wild – in a good way – that in retrospect you’re surprised you survived.

I am not reckless so I haven’t had a “wow, I have no idea how we’re alive” moment, but I have had really great moments where I’m like, “I can’t believe that was good because I thought it was gonna be terrible.” One of those would be the night that I wrote the song “In and Out,” which is a b-side on an acoustic album. It’s one of my favorite songs that we wrote.

That song I wrote about this moment where I was driving all night … I get really nervous when the sun’s coming up that I’m not gonna be able to sleep once it’s up, and then the whole day is ruined, and it’s gonna ruin my entire week. I was getting really anxious, my friend was like, “We’ve just had the best drive, we’re having so much fun.” I’m like, “Just wake ‘em up. It’s their turn now.” He said, “No no no, they’re sleeping. Are you tired?” “No, I’m not tired.” “So what’s the problem? You’re fine, the sun is about to rise. You’re gonna miss the sun rising in the freakin’ desert? Have you ever seen that happen?” I said, “No, I’ve never seen that happen, and I don’t think I need to.” He was like, “No, you need to see it happen.” I said OK.


We drove, and we watched the sunrise, and it was so pretty because it was over these canyons, and we don’t have that here. I just couldn’t believe anything could be so pretty.

After the sunrise I was like OK, now they really need to wake up.


For more Best Ex, check out bestexnj.com, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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