Homegrown phantom pop outfit Mara has just released their sophomore EP, Mara 2. The five-song collection, which serves as a prelude to the group’s upcoming full length, was produced, mixed, and mastered by group architect and six-string crooner Jordan Parker (Vera Vera). Additionally, Mara features Andrew Mckie on guitar, Sean Hartnett on bass, and Byron Clark on skins.
Mara 2 has a slick lo-fi aesthetic wrapped in silver-lined cobwebs and guitar operated alt-rock bent shadows. It’s a sleepless night in midwinter where the moon floats across scratched hardwood, dancing with ghastly apparitions that grow and recede with wayward gusts of wind.
The EP opens with “I Can’t Remember,” a percussive, hip-hop oriented driver that lives under a tin roof car port in a thunderstorm. Naked and honest, it’s a garage gaze lament playing with the memory of an all-American neighborhood, the door slung back, held only by the highest part of its hinge, with large holes splintering out of uninsulated framing. The track is followed by “I’ll Try Again,” which calls to “I Can’t Remember” in the way a theme develops in the second movement of an orchestral piece, shrouded in self-doubt and wanton redemption.
This developing theme furtively unveils a moss-infused tarmac for “Shades,” which is the most infectious vessel on this EP. It rides like a hot air balloon into a smattering of smudged-up clouds featuring steady nose-dive guitar picking that wilts into an ethereal sway. The shifts from riff to riff are magnetized by the honey-soaked horizons of bass runs. The track basks in a noir-streaked stratosphere where Parker’s voice stretches out to the span of the celestial unknown, dipping into the shallow end of deep space, and swinging back to the clay-cracked continents of home.
From there, a wraith-like miasma permeates the EP’s thematic descent with easygoing twists of the burner. In a melodious malaise you can nearly make out a breathing, foreign shape lying comfortably under a plaid quilt next to the bitter pilot of “Better Off, Alone.” And then, as you swear you have seen this specter’s imprint bursting to life beneath the covers like a UFO against the morning skyline just before the sun breaks, Mara, in a sleight of tongue, flicks the fluttering envelope into the gas tank of a diesel-choked canopy. Sputtering, the collection concludes with “Never There,” a predilection of nocturnal predators and hallucinogenic troubadours.
Mara 2 takes shape from the rise and fall of a single breath. I advise listening in low lamplight, dressed in half a bottle of Spanish table wine.
Recently, I got the opportunity to speak with Mara’s compositional chieftain and melodic witch doctor, Jordan Parker. We spoke about the making of Mara 2 and what’s next for the band.
How long has this EP been in production and when did you first conceptualize it?
Technically this EP has been in production for about six months, but the new material got put on hold for a while when our original drummer left us in December.
Where was this album produced and who mastered it?
Everything was recorded, mixed, and mastered at our house in East Atlanta Village, so it definitely has a lo-fi vibe to it, for sure.
As you developed this EP, what was your writing and editing process like?
I normally start with a guitar riff or drum sample and go from there. I write the songs in GarageBand, building up from one of those starting points, and then adding the bass and lead parts. But every song is different. Some take a lot less time than others. I struggle mostly with getting the vocals how I like them. That takes the most time for sure.
Where was the inspiration for this project cultivated? Do you feel it’s made of images from this world or from your thoughts and feelings based off of your own impressions?
I think it comes from all of those things. Really I just want to make music that I think sounds good. I like music that has some life to it — something that goes up and down, not just a straight line across where nothing ever changes. I like guitar music. I like jazzy drum beats. I also love hip-hop beats. I try and experiment with my own abilities as much as possible to try and get something different out of each track, but at the same time that you know it’s a Mara track.
Did you develop these ideas in pre-pro and/or practice or did you go straight to exploring the capacity of each track in the studio?
Every song is written in the “studio,” and by that I mean GarageBand in my room. I normally show everyone the outline of the tracks before practice and then we go make it a reality. It really comes together live.
Some artists get lost in the noise, especially in Atlanta, due to the large population of artists and musicians who, unfortunately, are often misrepresented. What expectations do you hold for this release and do you feel well represented within the Atlanta music community?
There are tons of amazing bands in Atlanta and that really does make it hard to stay fresh in people’s minds if you aren’t releasing stuff somewhat often and playing lots of shows. So I hope this EP can help get our name out there to people who haven’t heard of us before, and then also be something new to listen to for the people that have.
What’s next on your horizon and what can fans expect moving forward?
Shows. Shows. Shows. And a full length later this year!