For most people, escaping a life of small-town boredom, moving to Southern California and getting a record deal are the makings of a dream come true. But Maren Parusel isn't most people. For the 26-year-old German from Mössingen—a little town on the outskirts of Stuttgart—it's only the beginning.
Parusel is best known for her previous band, Wild Weekend, which started out as a Zeros cover act and evolved into a punk outfit fronted by a trio of women. While Parusel sang and played guitar for Wild Weekend, she wrote songs on her own—poppy, piano-driven melodies.
If going from punk to piano was a strange transition, Parusel isn't saying so. “The cool thing about music is that if it's a good song, it doesn't really matter what style it is. I like songs that stick in my head, songs with a catchy hook. That's why I liked The Zeros songs so much. It can be country, bossa nova, punk—it doesn't really matter.”
What matters most to Parusel is following her passion. For a while, Parusel tried to stick it out with both projects, but after South by Southwest, where she performed with Wild Weekend and as a solo act, she knew the time had come to make a decision.
“I feel I am evolving as a musician. I like singing the other songs, and writing the other songs, and playing the Zeros songs, but when I was writing poppier, more melodic material, I felt way stronger about that. I felt stronger as a songwriter. I felt like I really wanted to do this. I don't want to give myself half to anything. I want to be 100 percent.”It's evident on her new 7-inch from Single Screen Records which direction she decided to go. The record features the songs “Days in the Universe” and “Dear Love” and was produced by Brian Karscig from Louis XIV. The songs are perky little numbers that are stridently straightforward and catchy as hell. There's even a viola.
Parusel's vocals are softer and more subdued to showcase lyrics that range from the poetic to the whimsical. One of her songs, “I Had a Dream that I Could Breathe Underwater,” came about when she married a dream to a melody she'd been carrying around in her head. Parusel relishes the freedom to fuse snippets of dreams and pieces of her life together into an “energy that comes out as a song.”
It's a far cry from punk, and that's just fine with Parusel. “Everyone is afraid of being themselves,” she says with a touch of mischief. “This is me. I feel strong about these songs.”
Parusel's solo career is taking off even though her new backing band is still coming together. She recorded a handful of songs with Karscig last year, finished them in January and played her first gig in February. Now she's preparing for a pair of local shows in August and looking forward to getting back in the studio. It's an auspicious start, but Parusel isn't satisfied.
“I'm still not there,” she says. “I'm still trying. I think everyone who is a musician who really believes in that magic is trying to catch that moment when it all comes together. I'm feeling right now in this stage of evolving that it's getting there and [I'm enjoying] the challenge of making it better and better every year.”
A prolific songwriter, Parusel has written between 90 and 100 songs, 25 of which she believes are very strong. Perhaps this should be expected from someone who was classically trained on the piano and endured 10 years of lessons from an “old-school strict German piano teacher.” But it's an impressive number from someone who didn't start writing songs until she came to the United States to learn English nearly five years ago. For Parusel, whose first name means “coming out of the ocean” and whose surname means “troubled child,” it's all part of the journey.
“I feel like I'm getting a step closer to expressing how I see the world and how I see myself as an artist. I want to be able to play a song and say, ‘This is me. This is how I am. This is my way of thinking.' If I show that, maybe others will get inspired.”Maren Parusel plays on Thursday, Aug. 6, at The Casbah and Saturday, Aug. 8, at U-31.