When we last caught up with Philadelphia-based indie punk band Church Girls, they were just about to release their third EP Home; as the follow-up to their debut full-length Hidalgo, it showed a distinct evolution trending toward a rougher, more raw sound. That evolution has continued as the band — consisting of vocalist/guitarist Mariel Beaumont, drummer Julien Varnier, bassist Vince Vullo, and guitarist Joseph Wright — has released a steady stream of singles and last year’s Cycles EP. Simultaneously capturing the fun, energetic, beachy vibes of Best Coast, the angsty pop of Paramore and Garbage, and the campy, minimalistic style of CAKE (which Church Girls counts among its influences), the band is set to release its second full-length album this Friday, February 7 on Anchor Eighty Four Records. The Haunt, which ranges from the catchy, high-energy “Better” to the dark, brooding “Recede” and its aggressive title track, is some of the most honest and bracing music from the band yet.
Beaumont wrote the album’s latest single, “Florida,” about the conflicting feelings she experienced in a place where she spent time growing up and then visiting a love interest. The song encapsulates the ethos of a dull vacation in a way that perfectly conveys what it is like to feel stuck in life.
We talked to Beaumont about the inspiration behind her new single and album, the history of the band, and what punk music means to her.
AF: What are the central themes of The Haunt?
MB: I’d say we focused on addiction, like when a loved one or a family member closely is dealing with that, and then beyond that, other challenges that friends and family are going through, such as divorce and even sometimes not living up to your own standards. I was just watching close family and friends going through those kinds of things and was able to relate them with the issues that I’ve tackled myself.
AF: What do you hope listeners take away from the album?
MB: Although we explore some dark themes, the hope is that there is a little bit of hope among the maybe sometimes nihilistic or dark themes. I’d say often, the themes I’ve had are frustration with dealing someone else’s addiction but also knowing that no matter what, I’ll still be there for that person, even if I’m disappointing myself with my own behavior. The idea is that I’m recognizing it, and at least that’s the first step toward moving forward.
AF: What inspired the song “Florida”?
MB: I have a friend who lives down there, a guy I was kind of seeing, and I spent a lot of time down there. My mom actually lives there, too, and we’ve kind of grown up spending a lot of time there. I love it in ways, but I also kind of hate Florida because when you’re there, time kinds of stops, and the weather’s always nice, and you’re at the beach, and it can feel nice in the moment, but I start to feel very antsy after a while — I’m not moving forward. And sometimes I feel like my friend down there is stuck in the Floridian ways, and I’d like to pull him out. It’s nothing against Florida, by the way.
AF: Does the title of the song have anything to do with the Florida band Church Girls that you filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against?
MB: They’re not called Church Girls anymore, but it’s kind of funny. That wasn’t my intent when I wrote it, but I do find it kind of funny that we have a song called “Florida” now.
AF: Where does your band’s name come from?
MB: I grew up going to Episcopalian school, and I was an acolyte growing up. I discovered punk music in high school and started going to a lot of shows, and in a way, that became my new type of church. I’ve always found that live music especially provides the same kind of soul-feeding you’d look for in going to church. It’s communal, it’s cathartic, and it’s reaching at something metaphysical.
AF: In what ways do you find punk music spiritual?
MB: I’ve always loved the way punk music is physical, and there’s aggression in it, but I remember going to a lot of shows growing up — I was scared sometimes in these pits, but I found the people in them were accommodating if people fell down or something. So, there was this combination of tapping at something primal and aggressive, but also, there was a communal aspect to it. I got a feeling it was kind of above cognition.
AF: What are your next plans?
MB: We’re heading out for a seven- to eight-week tour, and we’ll be going pretty much all over the US and hitting SXSW, and then basically spending the rest of the year touring as much as possible and writing our next LP, which we’re hoping to record at the end of the year or early next year.
Follow Church Girls on Facebook for ongoing updates.