Oakland, birthplace of countless incredible bands, has spawned yet another group of stellar musicians wielding a formidable sound. Mare Island is made up of Josh Staples of the Velvet Teen and the New Trust, here taking on singing duties, and Sean Leary of local hardcore punkers Loma Prieta. Filling out the lineup are Derrick Chao, Matthew Izen, and Evan Sarna. Venturing into dream pop, shoegaze, and early emo (very distinct, mind you, from the mid-aughts teen craze that co-opted the genre’s name), Mare Island’s music glitters with coruscating electric sound, full of vivid and yearning melody.
Their first release, a self-titled EP that came out a few weeks ago, collects five gorgeous tracks built around the exultant, trumpet-fortified choruses of anthemic indie pop. Also present are the bright, trebly Telecasters and rapid, interlocking guitar lines of real emo like the recently revived American Football. Mare Island’s work is gorgeous and a clear testament to the songwriting prowess of its diverse constituent members.
The Mare Island EP was produced by Ian Pellicci, who is the engineer behind notable albums like Deerhoof’s Offend Maggie and Individ, a standout LP from the Dodos. His talent behind the console shows — Mare Island hits upon that tonal sweet spot that hovers in a space between lush and crisp. The sound is huge, the performances exuberant. Mare Island is a joy to listen to — some of the best music to come out of the Bay Area this year — and it’s as good as you might expect from members of top-notch bands that have come together to craft something new.