“’Angelface‘ is a love song for the underdogs who’ve given up on finding love, and a suggestion that sometimes the sweetest love stories are the ones we don’t see coming.“ – Piper Durabo
In the mid-80s, Maraschino might be the spunky Susan, desperately seeking love in a loveless town or the carefree Nikki Finn (from Who’s That Girl?), accused of murdering her boyfriend but somehow finding a rollicking adventure out of it. Actually, Madonna is a good place to start with Maraschino, the brainchild of Piper Durabo, the bloodied but unbowed LA cult figure—think Eve Babitz with a synthesizer—whose music weaves the strange tales of an unfiltered outsider popstar arch-hero in the midst of societal collapse.
There’s a cinematic quality to Maraschino’s songs—equal parts Surrealism, Derek Jarman, Ken Russell (not to mention those Madonna classics), and its own meta-universe of characters and situations seen through eyes that have seen it all. The lyrics drip with equal parts honey and venom, cooed through a dreamy cocoon of thick synths and disco-pop. Listen closely, and nods to Saada Bonaire and Blondie melt through the speakers. Thematically, her songs are a visceral diary of love, loss, seclusion, and pluckiness in a modern Los Angeles where alienation and ennui are the cousins of indulgence. Through that, it’s also a celebration of surviving some of the most difficult moments life can throw at you, but taking the pain and sorrows and turning them into something positive.
Add onto that the loss of Durabo’s friend Sam Mehran (who she had planned to make this record with but who took his own life two weeks into the recording process); Durabo’s own battles with cancer; and a break-up that left her feeling ruptured and solitary. In the background is Durabo’s working-class upbringing in the heart of Hollywood; she’s always done her own thing, for better or for worse, in a town that promotes conformity. She’s tough, but never afraid to laugh at the situations life hands her and take it all in stride.
Maraschino’s new single, “Smoke & Mirrors,” plays on that wryness—Durabo’s sing-song vocals coagulate around a slowly arpeggiating synth line that wouldn’t sound out of place on a rare Moroder-sound Italo-disco record. She sings about fame and how those seeking it are sacrificed at the altar of the entertainment industrial complex. It’s about technology, and how the democratization of it has allowed everyone on earth to participate in the popularity charade—the whole world’s in high school—and how those who are adept and talented at it are rewarded (by the media companies algorithmic taunts) with great riches and personal brands that feed the cycle. All this is at the expense of humanity and true connection—ergo our mental health—where we are seduced by our ids to project an idealized version of ourselves at the expense of our true selves. The contrasts between the truth and what we’re told—our own truth and what we tell others—is just the norm now. The distinction between truth and fiction? It’s almost irrelevant, because we’ve lost track of who we are. It’s all, in the end, smoke and mirrors.
What’s at the core of the Maraschino project is a renegade utopian vision where glamor and garbage collide in a sparkly bang. A place where you can have a good time while having a bad time. Where hearts are broken and mended, dreams crushed and reborn, all just to wake up and do it over again.
Photos by Laura Moreau
2/09 Los Angeles, CA – Philosophical Research Society
2/17 Los Angeles, CA – Non Plus Ultra