By Jordan Resiman
Photo by Gavin Thomas.
Seasick Mama of Brooklyn, NY is a woman of more than a few monickers and even more avenues of creativity. To her family and friends, she is known as Mariel Maher: the sweet and well-spoken girl with a lot to do. To her freelance graphic design clients, she is Mariel Eve Moon. Most importantly, to her fans, she is Seasick Mama: the adventurous and provocative indie pop singer who expresses herself with little more than just hip gyrations on stage. Each of these identities are discernible from each other, though the Mariel/Seasick dichotomy is the one that’s important to us. BTR was able to speak with Maher as she was settled into that identity for the afternoon, though she might have been preparing to cross over shortly.
Maher says that the name, or identity rather, came from her college boyfriend who “was listening to a lot of Neil Young,” and that name was embedded in the song “For the Turnstiles”. Her boy toy would casually call her that in e-mails (“Hey Seasick Mama…”) and Maher said, “I don’t know if he was just trying to be sexy or be witty.” The woman in the song is waiting for her husband to return from his job at sea “crabbing or whatever,” and Maher sees her as loyal and strong, though she was initially attracted to the romantic quality of the name. The college boy, she says, “went off the grid.” It seems he never returned from his crabbing expedition.
When Maher moved to New York she was using the Seasick Mama pseudonym as the domain for her design website, all the while being a solo singer/songwriter. She says, “two or three years ago” she got a job at a recording studio where she would write music with her friend Mark after hours, which she describes as one of “the perks of having the job, you could utilize the studio after work.”
After recording an album together the two decided they needed to put a real live band together. Maher tweeted “I need a drummer” to which the enthusiastic Will Fegan obliged. Bassist Gianni Scalise was a reference from Maher’s roommate and guitarist Dylan Viola hooked up with the trio thanks to Fegan, and the band was formed.
Initially though, there was a shyness among the members because they didn’t feel as if it was “their music,” as in they were reticent to pitch ideas or cross what they saw as a boundary. It took a pep talk from Seasick Mama herself to really get things going.
“Finally, I said, ‘Listen guys, just do your own thing; come up with ideas, jam out, throw in weird things that are not necessarily on the record.’ It’s been super successful when it comes to them sticking to the tone and the energy of the song but throwing in their own ideas [since],” says Maher.
After this motivational speech Maher gave the band, their live show has been at the top of its game and she says that people are starting to take notice. It’s lucky for her, that the band actually listened when she encouraged more participation, though it goes to show that if you give equal power to all involved (at least in a band), then there’s no limit to what the group can accomplish. If only this model would work all across the board…
Mariel describes a typical Seasick Mama show like this: “It’s a lot of dancing… I dance a lot. I’m a pretty reserved person day-to-day, I’m very mellow. When I’m on stage, the Seasick Mama personality definitely comes out. I get a little bit more confident being on stage performing my songs. There’s a lot of energy, and even if [people] don’t like the music, we want them to still have a good time. We just try to make the best of the stage.”
About her alter-ego, Maher found it hard at first to articulate exactly what that meant. Our guess is that she wasn’t exactly “in character” so her “reserved” nature was still present, and Seasick Mama was hiding somewhere.
“I think it’s me just trying to stay young for as long as I can and just be able to release whatever internal energy or demons, whatever I have going on that I’m too scared to release in my day-to-day, I get rid of it with my music. I chose music as a creative outlet because I was too scared to say things in ‘real life’ and I liked writing music so much because I could say anything. There’s no rules, you can do whatever you want,” says Maher on her duality.
One such way Maher “breaks the rules” is on stage during their song “Pump”, which she asserts is about our most carnal desires, where the routine is her “humping the stage monitors and grabbing my crotch.” She gauged the audience’s reactions and liked what they were giving back to her, pure shock. Though she says she would never do this outside of a stage, as it acts as a vessel to display her most repressed behaviors. The song, she says, is “meant to be funny and not serious” so all the guffaws from the audience can take a breather. If there’s any message to “Pump” Maher says it’s “Thanks for having sex with me last night, I gotta go.” My stars and stripes!
Seasick Mama’s new video for the song “Man Overboard” is sure to turn some heads. There’s a lot going on at all times so the plot can sometimes get confusing but the basic premise is this: Maher plays a “kept woman” on an island in the Dominican Republic where her husband pays for everything. She slips into a pool, which in turn means slipping into a fantasy where the house’s pool boys are her kidnappers. Mariel says she was turned on by the fantasy of being captured, so much so that in the video, she comes out of the pool and ends up running away with the pool boys. Her video art imitates the way she feels in real life.
Of the desire to escape, Maher says, “Sometimes I do, when I’m not depressed but more run-down. I’m just like, ‘Can’t someone just take me away?’ The New York City hustle is so intense that sometimes you say, ‘What am I doing here?’”
And really, that’s what Seasick Mama’s music can help you achieve: an escape from “the hustle.” The pool boys can come too.
To escape with Seasick Mama, click here.
Check out Seasick Mama’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.