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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Stacking The Deck with Marlana
Friday, July 17, 2020

Stacking The Deck is a feature exclusive to Adam’s World where I bring packs of 1991 Pro Set Superstars MusiCards to artists, and we discuss who they find in each pack.

Marlana is the immediately memorable female vocalist of the Southern California indie pop trio Milo Greene, but with her upcoming solo project, At Least I Tried, due out July 24th, she’s going from being one of three members of a group, to being the entire show.

“I think it’s just been a long time coming,” she says of creating something wholly her own, “I have a lot of songs, and I just wanted to put them out. I picked seven that I thought worked well together, but were all a little bit different from each other. Just a kind of nice introduction to my taste, and my style, and hopefully once I put it out I can continue to keep putting out more, and it will set me up for the flexibility to continue to put out whatever I want.”

Having previous experiences with bands starting out one way, and then looking to experiment later, only for those musical experimentations to be met with mixed reactions, she says, “I figured if I started out kind of doing a little bit of everything that it would give me almost the permission to do whatever I wanted.”


I caught up with Marlana via Zoom to open up some packs of MusiCards, and the artists we found sparked conversations about her lack of musical options growing up, working at the lone record store in the boonies of California, and Hammer pants.



Janet Jackson

She’s a legend.

What do you say about somebody that’s so big? It’s hard to have the right words, but she’s always been epic, and always does what she wants to do. I never really got the sense that people around her were telling her to do things. I could be totally wrong, but it feels like she was doing things because that’s what she felt like doing.

When you say you sensed that no one was telling her to do things, does that imply that maybe at some point in your career you felt like as much as you wanted to steer the ship, someone else was trying to steer it?

Well, collaboration within a band is always tough. It’s never going to be 100% yours, because you’re sharing it. That’s part of the beauty of a collaboration, but it’s also part of what makes it so difficult.

So yeah, there’s definitely some freedom, for sure, in doing things on your own.

That, to me, sounds like an OK thing in terms of other people steering the ship. It wasn’t malicious, or someone else trying to tell you what to do, it was collaborative.

It wasn’t like a Lou Pearlman experience, or something.

It was very much what we were trying to do, but trying to get everybody on the same page is one of the hardest things to do in a band. Everybody’s very different.



MC Hammer

I don’t know if you picked MC Hammer because of his music, his incredible fashion sense, or his dance moves.

I mean, obviously people know him from the legendary pants, and the legendary song.

I love him for the pants, specifically, because if I could wear those every day, then I would.

They were quite comfortable.

I can’t even wear culottes without getting yelled at from everybody around me, so I feel that I’m envious, probably, that he was able to do that, and owned it, to the point where people wanted that.

I’m always jealous of people that take risks with style.

There are no fashion risks in your life?

I’d like to branch out. I think my style changes day to day, like most people. Some days you want to be more understated, and other days you want to really go for something weird, but on the days when I want to go for something weird I definitely feel too scared, and I want to switch that up, for sure.

We have to get you a pair of Hammer pants. I want someone to read this and send you Hammer pants.

That will be the go-to pant every day. Comfort is number one for me, for sure.

I wish we could still wear JNCOs in public. If I were to find a pair in my size at the local Goodwill I would totally buy it. I don’t even care if people look at me. Whatever.

At that point you’re just being a good, sustainable, citizen.



Lionel Richie

Lionel is a G, obviously. He’s epic. A voice like butter, for sure. Super smooth.

I love any kind of adult-contemporary vibe, so he crushes in that department.

Everybody likes him. I don’t think anybody says that they don’t like him. That’s when you know you’re doing something right.

You mentioned loving the adult-contemporary vibe. When did that come into your life?

I think it’s always been around. My parents are music fans, but not anything further beyond what was popular at the time, so instead of having a massive discography of CDs, they just had Greatest Hits, so that’s pretty much all I listened to growing up, Greatest Hits, and not really knowing that it went further than that.

There were album cuts to be heard.

Totally.

You’re kind of at the mercy of the people you are surrounded by when you grow up. Since I didn’t live in a city where there was like a record shop right down the street, or some cool people influencing me, or telling me this is what you need to listen to, it was kind of like I was at the mercy of my parents’ Greatest Hits CDs, and that’s mostly what I heard.

Wait, you had no record stores in town? That’s painful.

The only one that I know of was one that I worked at when I was in high school, but it was very limited. It was really small. Most of it you had to order ahead of time through the computer. I would place the order, and I would call you a week or two later when it came in.

Even that, that location was 30 minutes away from my house.

Did you grow up in the boonies, or did you grow up in the era when record stores were going away?

I grew up in the boonies, for sure.

In California?

Yeah, up in Northern California, kind of on the outskirts to Tahoe.


OK, so it was a small store, but if it’s the only store I assume there had to be some sort of hustle and bustle going on there on a regular basis, like when new releases came out. Did you ever host signing there at all?

Oh God no. Nobody would come up there. It wasn’t a city, it was just a little town. The best we did was we had the list of the Top 10 bestselling records of the week that were on the board. Again, you can’t really get creative there, and the influence of what you should be listening to is what you’re being told from outside sources, so it’s still very surface. You had to dig really deep to find good stuff.

It wasn’t really until I think high school that I started to get more in the know about what the hell was actually out there. It was people burning CDs and passing them around, but before that it was super minimal for me, it was classical music that my grandma listened to, and my parents’ adult-contemporary stuff. There wasn’t a ton there, and the radio, of course.

Still, you don’t want to go into high school with Air Supply, and Chicago, being your entire knowledge of music, not that they weren’t great.

It was definitely pretty lame to like that stuff at that point. I love that I know it now, but yeah, I had to go into my super emo phase in high school and learn about all the cool underground bands.

Tell me about your emo phase.

I would always have arguments with people on what music I thought was emo, or wasn’t.

I didn’t want to be referred to as emo by any means, so I would try to defend Death Cab for Cutie like, “That’s not emo!”

{laughs}

It’s the most emo! Oh man.

Meanwhile, you turn on The O.C. and it’s what Seth Cohen was listening to.

Right, and then the true fans get bummed. They’re like, “No! Mainstream knows now! They know too much! This band isn’t ours anymore!”

“Oh no, they can support themselves on their work now, I’m so disappointed!”

“The production’s gotten too good. They’re just not the same!”



The Doors

Were The Doors mixed in with the adult-contemporary stuff that was in rotation early in your life, or were they a later discovery?

The town that I grew up in was pretty split between hippies and hicks. When you have the hippies you get a lot of Doors fans, you got your Phish heads, the festival people, (and) their Birkenstocks. There was definitely some Doors in there, and I think every young man kind of goes through their Doors phase where they’re listening hard to the lyrics, maybe getting in trouble at school for reciting them, and maybe not fully understanding what it is that is being said, or understanding that it’s all drug references, and acid trips, or whatever, but I love that.

Did you end up congregating with any of the Phish heads, and going to a show like that at some point in your youth?

No, I was an observer.

I used to stand on the outskirts of kind of like every vibe, and just watched, and tried to understand, but I never really engaged. I was definitely a loner, for sure, and didn’t really identify with most groups.

Do you think that has played a role in the fact that your music involves so many different genres?

Probably. I like it all, though. I have an appreciation for all of it, but I never really dived in super hard to something and became obsessed, you know?

Except Death Cab.

{laughs} A little bit there.



Styx

I have to bring this card up, the Styx card looking like this, just because … what the hell?

I mean, there’s so much going on there, it’s hard to say. The hair, and the vests are the things that stick out the most, for sure. I’m not necessarily mad at the clothes, to be honest, but the haircuts are … each guy has something really different going on.

And none of it’s good.

{laughs}

Well, it depends. All that could be coming back, and it probably will, because things just always circle around.

I feel like this photo was taken at one of those places at the mall.

Or Walmart.

Yes! Styx went to Walmart.

I guess it was Kmart where I grew up. We had one of those.

That was so funny, because to me doing the shots like that, in the studio, even going to Kmart, that was a big deal. You were going to spend your paycheck on the family portrait, or whatever it was that people would do. I was like, man, this is really expensive for something so dorky.


For more Marlana, check out marlana.pizza (yes, that’s really her site!), and follow her on Facebook, and Instagram.

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