Marianne Parrish first came to the music world’s attention as part of the Stroud-based alt-folk band, Low Chimes. Now releasing solo music, Marianne works under the moniker Maja Lena, an affectionate nickname bestowed upon her by the Swedish half of her family. The debut Maja Lena album is in her own words, “forged in the fires of fear and self-doubt”, the result of pursuing her own musical vision having spent many years working in the comfort of collaboration. Recorded with producer, and former bandmate Rob Pemberton, that album, The Keeper, was recently released on Chiverin Records.
The Keeper opens with an avalanche, quite literally a song called Avalanche, that brings the record fluttering into light, bringing the likes of Joanna Newsome or Vashti Bunyan instantly to mind. Elsewhere the recent single Birch, “a song about feeling vulnerable yet elated”, that combines nylon-stringed guitar with a brilliant complex array of percussion and the fuzzy intensity of the heavily processed bass, while Lucifer, with its mind-blowing vocal harmonies and fizzing electric-guitar line, must be one of the most beautiful songs about the devil I’ve ever heard. Perhaps the highlight is the stunning Antares, a song about the cycle of life and death that is named after a Red Supergiant star, which is one of the night skies brightest lights, yet is also coming to the end of its life. Musically the track is a gorgeous piece of psych-folk, drawing a link from the mastery of Nick Drake to more contemporary artists like Molly Linen and Shannon Lay. With UK wide tour dates coming next month, this is a record to dive into now and explore every nook and cranny, a mature blissed-out reminder of just how special folk music can still sound in the hands of a songwriter this unquestionably gifted.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Maja Lena?
I’m Marianne Parrish (Maja’s my Swedish nickname as I’m half Swedish and Lena’s my middle name) and I’m from Stroud in Gloucestershire. I was in a band called Low Chimes for quite some time, and this is my solo project!
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
As Maja Lena, my first show was at a really lovely pub we have in Stroud called The Prince Albert. They’ve always put loads of great music on there, and we (Low Chimes) used to play there a lot. I had family and friends there so felt very lucky to have it as my first show as I was super nervous! I had a really good time though and I felt so happy to start playing my new songs to people, especially as I hadn’t performed for some time.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I’ve been writing songs since I was young and we did a lot of singing and making up songs in my family when I was little. I loved it and continued to write as I grew up. I also met three out of four of my bandmates from Low Chimes in school – we all wanted to make a real go of it when we’d finished sixth form, and so we continued! I love the writing process and pushing myself to improve my writing and playing, plus all of the joyous fuzzy feelings that come with singing and playing with others.
I do other art forms on the side – I love to paint, sew, to take film photos and to make videos, but music’s always been my main love and focus. I’ve also felt very lucky in that my parents are both musical and have always been very supportive of me making music.
I love the collaboration that comes with it with visual artists and makers too. The visual side of it is really important to me and how that works together with the music.
FTR: What can people expect from the Maja Lena live show?
For now I’ll either be playing solo or in a trio with my lovely band Rob Pemberton and Alex Heane, so it’ll be a more stripped back version of what’s on the record. There may be more of us on stage at the occasional show though 🙂
FTR: What’s next for Maja Lena?
After my debut album release, I’m going to be playing at a couple of lovely independent festivals this Summer, and supporting Plastic Mermaids on their UK tour in October. I’m also working on new music with Rob in the studio at the moment, and on new visuals for the project with my friends Martha Webb (maker & photographer) and Anders Duckworth (choreographer). Very excited for all of it!
They Listen To…
Satoshi & Makoto – White Wall
Radiohead – Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box
Arca – Time
PJ Harvey – Down By The Water
Moses Sumney – Polly
The Keeper is out now via Chiverin. For more information on Maja Lena visit http://www.majalena.co.uk/.