If you have heard the name Maryn Jones, it could have been under a wide range of contexts. The twenty-seven year old musician has engaged in a wide variety of ventures – an eponymous solo project, as a member of twangy rock outfit Saintseneca, as the lead singer and guitar player of pop-punk quartet All Dogs, or her recent avant-garde solo act Yowler. Rather than limiting herself to one project, each of Jones’ musical ventures probes distinct parts of her identity in a way that is more necessary than indulgent.
In terms of origin stories, like many others, Jones’ interest in music came first and foremost from her family—her mother is a singer and her father is a singer and guitarist. “Before I could even talk I sang,” Jones says with a laugh. “My dad taught me to play guitar when I was 14 because I asked him. I had seen some Greenday videos and the Josie and the Pussycats movie, so I really wanted to learn how to play guitar.” The Jones family lived in Claremont and South Pasadena, California until Maryn was nine and moved across the country, in the Acton-Concord area near Boston.
In 2006, as a painting major at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Jones and Chelsea Dirck (of Fleabite) would attend parties in Allston but were self-admittedly naive about their local DIY scene. At one of these parties, the two met Ohio pop-punkers Delay—the band that inspired Jones to play her first solo show, and eventually leave MCAD to move to Columbus, Ohio. As Jones explains, “Boston was kinda a weird toxic place for me,” so the move was a much needed change.
When she first moved to Columbus, Jones was performing alone under her full name. The fuzzy acoustic project secured several small tours, but didn’t quite fit her new home’s band-centric atmosphere. In 2011, Jones was asked to join Saintseneca, playing dulcimer, strumstick, and singing, and later picking up the bass for their upcoming record Such Things. “I had just been getting into them right before I was asked to join so it was as if someone asked you to be in one of your favorite bands,” says Jones. “To me, Zac [Little] was this incredible songwriter and I still feel that way 100%, so it’s been really cool riding that wave with him, the journey of different lineup changes and stuff.”
In 2012, Jones and friend Amanda Bartley began playing shows as All Dogs. Their lineup was completed by the addition of Jesse Withers (of Delay) and Nick Harris (of NONA). Quickly, they caught the attention of Detroit label Salinas and were invited to play the label’s anniversary event in August 2013 at Brooklyn’s underground venue, the Silent Barn. “We drove all the way from Columbus to [Brooklyn] to play that showcase and people were into it,” Jones recalls. “All of a sudden stuff started happening.” At the time, All Dogs’ had just released the their July 2013 split tape with Slouch. Soon after the release of the split, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, invited the band to open for her on tour.
In August 2015, two years after their debut tape, All Dogs released their full-length, Kicking Every Day. Out now on Salinas, the album is a continuation of the themes and sounds explored on the band’s previous releases — self-consciousness, mental health, the split between desire and uncertainty. The album’s title track draws from an experience the musician had several years ago during a new relationship in which her new partner was warned by a mutual friend that Jones was “trouble.” “The process of that song was relating the things that person said to my current relationship and how I just want things to be cool but if they’re not then it’s fine and I just want everything to be good,” Jones explains. “I think it’s also self-deprecating like, ‘Oh, I understand if you can’t deal with me because I’m literally just struggling myself.’”
Photo by Julia Leiby
While working on Kicking Every Day, Jones began working on a solo project under the name Yowler. Unlike her previous solo venture, Yowler was an opportunity for Jones to write experimental songs that more closely present compositions than straightforward pop bursts about her “feelings or whatever.” “Yowler is a continuation of Maryn Jones but it’s like a different take on it and a different vibe. My brain was in that place then and my brain is in this place now. It’s a more developed and open way of talking about what’s going on in my brain, but I also wanted to rename [the project] because I wanted it to be different, I wanted it to have a different vibe.” She adds, “In my head, it was going to be a performance piece and I would wear a costume or something because I wanted it to be super weird, like really, really, weird. But you know, things change and things morph.”
In February of 2015, Yowler’s debut record The Offer came out on Brooklyn label Double Double Whammy. The Offer finds Jones exploring a profound sense of isolation and depression unlike anything she has released to date. Each track on the 8-song tape lays fully submerged beneath a dark and heavy expanse in which Jones’ quiet voice floats like a lone deep sea creature. Although she is occasionally joined by others, Jones mainly sings in solitude. Like her voice, Jones’ isolated guitar is sporadically complemented by synthesizers, allowing for an examination of their subtleties. While the production of The Offer is intensely technical and precise, the subject matter remains organic. Water, in the form of the sea, ponds, and rivers, represents Jones’ desire to disappear, to “be arrested by the sound.” Throughout the record, Jones sings of an unknown She, a spectral figure who is distant yet constant. In the project and album’s two eponymous songs Jones sings “My heart is a part of me but she lies” and “The shadow, my shadow I can’t see / Still figure suspended behind me.” Unlike the experience of listening to an All Dogs song, it is extremely difficult for the listener to insert any of their own identity into the narrative. Instead, Yowler feels so distinctly personal to Jones, and is so fully immersive, that it sounds as if it is from another realm.
“I think that Yowler helped me develop the sort of ability to turn these very serious emotions and feelings into songs. In that project, I talk about things—whether or not it’s obvious what the songs are about—that I probably have never told one or two people ever,” Jones says. “ I think that when I wrote and released those Yowler songs it made me realize that this is the most satisfying thing for me to talk about, things that I think about all the time but are hard for me to externalize.” She adds, “I’m a very external person and I talk about my feelings all the time, but there are thing inside that are hard to put into words.”
In all of her music, Jones is simply struggling to stay afloat. “It’s important to make sure that you continue to feel passionate about the things that you’re doing, especially the music that you’re writing,” Jones says about her identity as a musician. “I think that’s why I’m in so many projects, because if I was only in one and that was all I did I would lose steam. Having these three that I can juggle through continues to make me feel inspired and passionate.”