Earlier this summer, pop rock band Best Ex (formerly known as Candy Hearts) toured the U.S. in support of their newest release, Ice Cream Anti Social. Shortly following their tour, we at All Punked Up got the chance to interview lead vocalist, Mariel Loveland, to discuss the band’s name change, touring, and what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated music scene. Check out the Q&A below!
You recently changed your band name from Candy Hearts to Best Ex. If you are comfortable with sharing, can you briefly touch on why you decided to change your name?
It was a really easy decision, if I’m being honest. I never liked the name Candy Hearts, and coming into this project, it felt like a totally different thing. I think the idea of Candy Hearts became a terrible source of anxiety for me. So much happened so fast and I was so, so scared that someone was going to take it all away from me that I was terrified to think for myself. I just did what people told me to do. Through my five or so years of touring, I started to feel really discouraged and beaten down — like, I had to listen to what everyone told me (which was always conflicting opinions), and like I had to always just pretend I’m doing amazing and that my band is doing amazing and that everything is okay. I’m not really the type of person who can just go along with things, and it felt terrible to be told to try an uphold this image of this successful band where everything was awesome and everything was positive and hundreds of people came to our shows (which sometimes was the case, but other times, just not at all true) and I didn’t have to hold a side job just to afford to live. I felt really boxed in, unable to experiment in my sound or move things in a more pop direction, and the whole thing started to feel like this was an idea of what I, as Mariel Loveland should be, and not what I, Mariel Loveland, actually am. I wanted to switch things to up to feel like myself again. To be honest with my fans who’ve stuck by us for years.
Has this tour differed at all from past tours? Is there anything you have learned since your first experiences with touring or playing show?
Well, it’s different because we hadn’t headlined in 4 years! I learned a lot from touring so much. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that sometimes it’s better to just pick your battles, but when you pick them, you have to be firm. You’re around people 24/7 so obviously some small arguments are going to happen. Don’t let it bother you!
Do you have favorite songs to play live or favorite cities to tour in?
I really like playing our new song “Someday” because I love having a keyboard behind me. We haven’t ever played like that live before.
Who would you cite as some of your inspirations or influences when it comes to making music?
Definitely Jenny Lewis and Death Cab for Cutie. I think those two artists/bands simultaneously taught me how to sing and play guitar.
What is it like being a female lead singer in a generally male-dominated music scene?
There’s a gigantic part of me that wants to stop answering this question, and just resign myself to a life of being called a diva for not answering interview questions; however, I said I really felt forced to be positive with Candy Hearts, and I want to be authentic.
Let me say being a girl is really fun. I love cute outfits, makeup, playing with my hair (not that any of those things are exclusively for women). I don’t like playing into gender stereotypes. But anyway, being a girl in the pop-punk scene is literally one of the most difficult, loneliest things I’ve ever done. That doesn’t mean it’s not massively rewarding, though. I’m so incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. I’ve been awarded the chance to build a career around something I love and I know I’m hyper privileged because if being a girl is my biggest problem, well lord, I am so lucky. But really, it’s difficult. I feel like alone a lot of the time because I can’t connect to the men I’m on tour with in the same way that my bandmates can. There’ this inherent brotherhood that I just can’t really fully be a part of. I think Jenny Lewis sang about it best in her song “One Of The Guys.” It’s like that. I see tour after tour of only men travel across the U.S. and label rosters with clearly only one or two slots for women, and I feel like maybe I can’t do this and maybe my band will never be able to get to the next level. Seriously, look at some of your favorite bigger pop punk labels. How many women are there? I counted one day and it made me cry. I’ve literally been told by label heads who have 1 women on their entire, gigantic roster to go do something else because “if I was going to happen, I would have already happened.” Of course, I told them very clearly that I obviously happened or I wouldn’t be there to be talked down on by them. People are cruel. They’re cruel to everyone and I’m sure It’s a common feeling that everyone in a band has, but when I don’t see a single girl besides the same 1 or 2 really breaking through in any meaningful way, it sucks. I try to just shake off the negativity.
I also feel like this stuff is impossible to talk about. I feel like if I say something the wrong way, I’m labeled as the wrong kind of feminist. There’s not way for me to say this and still look good, because women literally cannot win, even with each other. It’s incredibly lonely to feel like you don’t fit in with a bunch of guys, but you also don’t fit in with a bunch of girls who are supposed to lift each other up.
Anyway, the only thing I cant think of is to always be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt. People are people and the Internet is a really hard place to be. Where’d everyone’s empathy go? As long as I keep that part of myself, I’m happy with wherever else my life takes me — and its already taken me so many places I never thought I’d go.
Lastly, what does the band have in store for the future? Can you talk about any upcoming projects?
I started writing my next album this week. I figured I’ve been home from tour for three weeks and it was time. I really trying my best to head over the UK ASAP and play some shows, and hopefully we’ll have some more dates to announce soon! Right now, I’m just so thrilled the music I’ve been working on for two years is finally out there.