Ariel View still maintains an inclusive and safer show space since signing with Epitaph and releasing their debut, Until My Lungs Are Cleared.
For Ariel View, it all started with a backyard show in the suburbs of Ontario, California. Harmonie Martinez, then a teen just starting to write songs, went with her sister, Heaven, to someone’s parents’ backyard and stumbled on a small, supportive all-ages scene in a place with not much to do. “Ontario is so quiet, but I think that’s why bands have a lot of motivation to make some noise,” says Harmonie. “I was watching this band perform and they seemed like they were having so much fun and I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
“There weren’t a lot of female groups in the scene at the time, not as many as there probably should have been,” adds Heaven. “So we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to create an all girl band?’”
Growing up, music was always playing in the Martinez’s house—a steady mix of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Smiths, and Janis Joplin that would later influence the surf-rock and psych-pop sound of Ariel View. Another big inspiration was their father, who regularly performed in cover bands of Santana and the Smiths, often recruiting Harmonie and Heaven to play with him. But it wasn’t until Harmonie grew more confident in her guitar and songwriting skills that she began to pursue music seriously, with her father encouraging her and Heaven, who plays bass, to create their own band.
The sisters soon met guitarist Miranda Viramontes and drummer Nadine Parra, forming Ariel View, a name plucked from a lyric by folk-punk band The Front Bottoms. The band bonded over a love of local surf-rock and pop acts from the Bay Area, channeling the catchy, scrappy vulnerability of the scene into their music. After playing backyard shows on weekends for two years, they loved the energy of being on the floor with the crowd, but were tired of getting shut down by the police, often in the middle of their set. “We realized we needed to start playing venues,” says Heaven. “So we started playing different venues and at the Smell a lot in downtown LA, which was pretty cool because we always wanted to play there. We did that for awhile until Epitaph found us.”
The jump from backyard shows to signing with a label took years of hard work, with the band commuting from Ontario to play in LA on the weekends. Eventually, they caught the attention of an Epitaph A&R rep, who saw them play at a DIY festival in a warehouse. “We were super nervous,” Harmonie says of that show. “But somehow it worked out.”
After signing to Epitaph, the band worked with producer Joe Reinhart (Hop Along, Remo Drive) for a month in the studio to fine tune the songs on their debut album, Until My Lungs Are Cleared, released this past October. As fans of bands Reinhart has worked with, Ariel View was excited to polish the material they’d been playing live for years. “It was one of our first experiences with a producer, and I feel like he brought out what was already in us,” says Heaven.
To break up the intensity of recording for days straight, the band listened to Taylor Swift and System of a Down, keeping in mind the work ethic of the bands they grew up listening to. “The ultimate joke in the studio was, ‘What would the Beatles do?’” says Heaven. For Harmonie, recording the album was an opportunity to refine songs she’d written when she was 13 and just discovering her sound: “I wrote a lot of the songs when I had no idea what song structure was or how to make them sound cool. I loved the input from the band and the chance to bounce ideas around. It made the songs sound better.”
While in the studio, Harmonie used a Fender Jaguar, her go-to guitar, as well as a Fender Stratocaster and a Dan Electro. Heaven played her Fender Precision bass for the faster songs on the album, and opted for a Harmony Hollow Body bass for slower tracks. From the dreamy tones on album opener “Homespun,” to the frantic, punk energy of “Friday Nights,” and the coy vulnerability of the album’s title track, “Until My Lungs Are Cleared,” the band blends their musical tastes and skills to create a sound all their own. Harmonie’s lyrics are often smart and sharp, piercing through the haze of first love with lines like, “So what’s next yeah/I might not even know until my lungs are cleared/grab me another beer/can we keep playing here?”
Shortly after the release of Until My Lungs Are Cleared, the band embarked on a 10-day U.S. tour with New Zealand indie stalwarts The Beths, playing sold out shows in venues far from someone’s parents’ backyard. Still, the ethos of creating an inclusive space for their audience carried over into the tour—what Harmonie describes as “take care of each other, try to pick each other up, don’t let anyone get hurt.”
“It’s important to us because we’ve gone to shows where you don’t feel welcome, or even going to the grocery store, you don’t feel comfortable,” she says. “We know how that feels and we want our shows to be a safe space for people who have also experienced that.”
“In high school, I always looked forward to the weekend and the backyard show,” adds Heaven. “I knew it was going to be a super loving environment, and it’s nice to be able to keep it going for other people too.”
Post-tour, Ariel View is currently working on a new album and are excited to see what signing to Epitaph will bring. With the band on the rise, the dynamic between the sisters is also ever-changing. “Heaven hates me,” jokes Harmonie, noting that when she started Ariel View, she was resistant to her little sister joining the band. “On stage it’s so chill and good. Then off stage we just scream at each other sometimes,” says Heaven.
“But it worked out great,” concedes Harmonie. “I wouldn’t change it for anything.”