Lockdown has been a time of great intimacy for people across the globe, interrogating thoughts previously buried under busy schedules, bustling commutes and never-ending to-do lists. The debut EP from Ohio-born, New York City-based artist Maria BC leans heavily into this sense of closeness and emotional vulnerability.
Recorded in their apartment through April and May, the ‘Devil’s Rain’ EP is concerned both with nostalgia and carving a better path forwards. From religion to childhood memories and giving advice to a depressed version of yourself, it’s a debut statement that tackles the big questions with openness and grace. Created in a period of what they call “extraordinary urgency,” Maria says they became “obsessed” with the project. “Nothing about it is comforting. Music just seems necessary for whatever reason,” they say.
Musically, the EP is gorgeous and sparse, with Maria’s classical training as a mezzo-soprano mixing with hushed pop melodies and a love for the quiet grandeur of Grouper. In order not to disturb their neighbours and roommates during lockdown, Maria had to write and record the music on ‘Devil’s Rain’ quietly. The forced constraint helped them craft the songs as something approaching “hymns or lullabies.”
“Normally I belt when I sing,” they say. “It constrained the melodies I could write, knowing I
would need to be singing quietly, and it meant I couldn’t rely on certain old tricks to craft an arc.” This added layer of intimacy onto an already stark emotional period is stunningly portrayed on ‘Devil’s Rain’; it feels like you’re right there in the apartment with them.
On the opening title track, named after an expression in the southern states handed down to Maria by their grandmother, softly plucked guitar interweaves with their soft but soaring voice, while ‘Unmaker’ flirts with the expansion of their sound into something brighter and more pop-leaning. These are five songs borne out of – and championing – sitting with your thoughts, learning more about yourself and carving out your own space in the world.
Growing up with a lot of religious feeling, including but not limited to “euphoria, adoration, guilt – all those weird irrational emotions that accompany faith,” Maria had been battling with leaving their faith behind and struggling to shove down the feelings that produce the “romantic, gothic songs” they would write in their church-going days. But then, as with everything you hear on ‘Devil’s Rain’: an epiphany. “For this project, I said ‘fuck it’ – if these love songs end up with some glimpses of god or the devil in them, so be it. It was freeing! For the first time in a long time, it felt like I was writing songs for myself.”
Though the songs on ‘Devil’s Rain’ are deeply personal, this interrogation of the self makes them universal too. Described by Maria as “love songs inspired by real people in my life,” the five tracks here take micro-observations on personal relationships and memories and make them widescreen, their unguarded intimacy allowing the listener to unpack their own emotions at the same time.
“Hopefully people will find company in these songs,” Maria says, “and will be reminded of relationships in their own lives as they take these songs into different contexts, like when they go on bike rides or sit on the stoop with friends or cook meals or prick their thumbs in the garden.”
In the end, the aim of this remarkable debut collection is simple: “I hope people find some intimacy in these songs.”