‘This Wave’ proves cathartic
By Gary Chun / firstname.lastname@example.org
If her songs are any proof, Stef Mariani wears her heart on her sleeve.
The longtime Hawaii resident’s latest album, “This Wave,” uses the surfing metaphor of being held underwater for what seems an interminable period of time.
“That’s what life felt like to me when I was writing the album’s songs,” she said. “It was the culmination of events after a breakup two years earlier. But even though the force of the water is keeping you down, you know the wave will spit you out and eventually let you go.”
Where: Anna O’Brien’s, 2440 S Beretania St.
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Cost: No cover
Note: Honolulu shows are also scheduled for 9 p.m. May 12 at O’Toole’s Irish Pub and 7 p.m. May 23 and 30 at bambuTwo.
Working with co-producer/engineer Shaun Livingston Moseley at Soul Sound Studios in Kaneohe, “This Wave” won rock album of the year at the 2013 Big Island Music Awards. (It’s on the Hawaii island-based label Paniolo Records.)
Mariani hopes to go 2-for-2 as a Na Hoku Hanohano Awards nominee in the same category.
COMING FROM “a big family of musicians and artists,” Mariani was born and grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., and cites her singer-songwriter mother as a big influence. As a performer, she uses the stage name Stef Muzic.
She has a distinctive singing voice — alto with occasional vibrato that might remind listeners of Grace Slick, and with emotional heft. In performance she sometimes has a catch in her voice when phrasing a lyric.
“It’s how I sing,” Mariani said. “When I write the lyrics and compose the music, there’s usually something going on in my life that is affecting me deeply.
“That inflection that you hear in my voice is how I feel. I know I’m asked, ‘Who do you sound like?’ and I honestly can’t say who. I guess that’s good for originality.”
Her sound is not, in her word, “islandy,” although there is that vibe in the sound of Bill Griffin’s “mando-lele,” combining mandolin and ukulele, on the album.
“I think my music transcends genres,” Mariani said. “I’ve been here in Hawaii for 12 years — 10 on Maui and two years and counting here on Oahu. I think I write and sing like my mother. Since she didn’t pursue a career in music, I’m doing what she didn’t do. We’ve talked about it, the opportunities she couldn’t take advantage of, what with her having children and all.”
“THIS WAVE” is stark in its arrangements. Besides Mariani on guitar and the veteran Piranha Brothers as rhythmic backup, other guests include Moseley on piano (playing on the soul-baring “You Don’t Own Me”) and Mano Kane’s Chris Chorney on cello on “Ode to Tyson,” a remembrance of a beloved pet.
In “Crossed My Mind” she sings about regaining her emotional bearings.
“That’s one of the first songs I ever wrote,” she responded. “It’s a really gut(-level), heartfelt song.
“The subject matter of ‘This Wave’ is definitely serious. But there’s always hope. I notice there’s this tension-release in my writing, where even though this drama may happen, something good will come of it. … We all go through the same emotions, but I try to be a good person, mindful and conscientious.”
“This Wave” is available through Reverbnation and CD Baby.
Mariani said things should lighten up on her next recording project.
“I’ve written four new songs, and I’ll start recording an EP next month for a planned release in early summer,” she said. “It’ll be unplugged, just me and my guitar, with maybe some percussion.”