From SoundCloud to Coachella: The Rise of Darkwave Prince Mareux BC Exclusive: TEIA WITH Mareux Interview
LOS ANGELES, CA- In 2020, Mareux took the internet by storm with his track “The Perfect Girl”, a darkwave reimagination of The Cure’s 1987 track of the same title, driven by its dreamy, cinematic synths and hypnotic original melody.
As Mareux, musician and producer Aryan Ashtiani has been on a steady path to global success since becoming a viral sensation. In less than a year, Mareux went from playing his first live show in June 2022 to performing at the legendary Coachella this past April.
Following his set at Coachella, the critically acclaimed darkwave artist has been on the road completing the US leg of his 2023 global tour in support of his debut LP, Lovers From The Past. The brand-new album is a collection of melodic synths, brooding basslines, and atmospheric, deep vocals. If you haven’t yet checked out Lovers From The Past, it’s a must-listen: it’s definitely earning a spot in my top 5 albums of 2023 list.
Luckily, I was able to catch the elusive Mareux for a brief Zoom call before one of his performances on tour last week.
TEIA: I know you’re currently on tour, what city are you in tonight?
MAREUX: Yeah, I’m touring. We’re playing a show in Houston tonight. White Oak Music Hall. So that’s where I’m at. I’m like in the stairwell or something. It’s pretty cool. Very yellow.
Let’s start off with your album. So, you just released your first LP, Lovers From The Past, but I understand you’ve been creating music for about 10 years now, right?
Yeah, something like 10 years. I think it started in 2011 or 2012. It was honestly so long ago, I feel like a different person, because back then, I was just this teen super into EDM. At the time, [mainly] French Electro. And that’s kind of [when] I learned how to make music. I was trying to make house music back then, which is insane… But I [still] think that’s the best way to learn how to produce. But yeah, it’s been a long journey, and it’s only recently started to pay off.
What’s your favorite track on the LP? Do you have one?
Yeah, honestly, I just really like [the title track] (“Lovers From The Past”). I think it’s so moody. I love moody music. It’s really moody, and it’s really fun to play live. So yeah, that’s my favorite.
What inspired you to finally put out an LP, and what was the process like of creating the album from start to finish? I know you produce all of your own stuff, which is no small feat. So, what was putting the album together like for you?
I’m like kind of a control freak when it comes to the music and producing it…it had to be me only. I don’t know how it’s gonna be [for the] next album, but anyway. Yeah, I guess it always starts out with a simple idea in the demos, and then just refine the demos over and over again. So, it’s like a long process. I think it took me like two or three years [to complete the album] from the first song that I wrote.
A lot of it is going back and forth, taking breaks from songs, revisiting them, trying to make them better. Like, locking yourself in this studio for like 16-18 hours a day, and just trying to make it happen. So, it’s a very grueling process. I’m not really looking forward to the next one. It’s pretty hard.
Well, it’s crazy—like, my life is just doing that for two months and like, killing myself… Then taking like six months off and just, literally dilly dallying every single day, almost doing nothing. So, it’s… a weird life, [but] honestly, it’s the life I’ve always wanted, because I’m a very, very lazy person that cannot hold a job to save my life.
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear, or are there any plugins that you use / what you use to produce?
Yeah, I use Fruity Loops. I think now they call it FL Studio… I use that as my DAW, and it’s great. I’ve always used it, so I know the ins and outs.
For plugins, I use a bunch of Arturia instruments and effects. Then there’s [also] a German company that makes a bunch of different software called u-he. But yeah, there’s a lot of good stuff, and a lot of it’s just like, experimenting and finding things you like… Trying effects over instruments, and making up your own patches.
I mostly work with software. I’ve kind of dabbled in the hardware, but I find it kind of like… One, they’re all super expensive, gear [is] super expensive. And they’re very inconvenient. It’s much easier to just load up a VST than it is to hook up to a synth and patch it in and all that stuff.
Do you have a MIDI keyboard, or do you use the built-in FL Studio one?
I have a MIDI keyboard, but honestly, I don’t even use it. I just key in where the notes go.
How did you come up with your stage name? It sounds like a French name.
It’s a fake French name that I made when I was listening to a lot of French Electro. It was just like, a silly little gibberish name that I came up with at the time, because I didn’t want to use a name that I could get sued over, or that was hard to find online. So I just made up something. And yeah, there were many times where I hated it and wished I could change it, but now it’s fine… Like, I don’t care.
Your sound is very dark, very, you know, darkwave, I would say. What would you say draws you to creating darker sounding music, like have you always been more into the goth scene? Personally, I was a 2000s baby, so I grew up mainly listening to Warped Tour music. So, when I first heard “The Perfect Girl” back in 2019, it kind of rewired my brain chemistry. I was like what? It kind of opened up my eyes and my ears to like the huge world of dark electronica… I know you’ve also said the bassline in “The Perfect Girl” was partially influenced by New Order’s “Blue Monday”. So, what influences your individual sound?
I’ve never really listened to goth music. Really, ever in my life. It was… just the music I wanted to make. And then, I kind of got categorized as being a goth band or goth artist. I’ve listened to all different types of music in my life. Like, my parents are from Iran, so I listened to a bunch of Persian music when I was younger. And all of their songs are [mainly] love songs. I think that’s why now, I basically only write love songs. Or songs about heartbreak, or whatever…
Then, my sister exposed me to a lot of bands back in the day, like indie bands. She showed me Interpol, [and] when I first heard their first album, I was like… blown away. I wanted to sound like them and, you know, kind of emulate them in a way. Then, that opened the door to Joy Division, New Order, the Smiths, and The Cure and like all the, you know, big bands of the 80s. So, yeah, I kind of draw inspiration from that.
Then, in 2012, I heard TR/ST, that’s Robert Alfons’ project. He had a deep voice, and he [was] doing electronic music. [I thought] ‘oh shit, like, you know, I can’t really sing in any other way except for a deep voice’, and then I kind of learned how to sing other ways… [So] he kind of opened my eyes to like, ‘oh, you can actually make music like this, and it’ll be successful, and people want to hear it’. And of course, he drew inspiration from other bands who did the same thing, like Sisters of Mercy or whatever. But yeah, I don’t know. I just like alternative music, and I like making it, and I’ll always make it. I like synthesizers and old drum machines. And that whole sound is classic to me. It’s never gonna get old.
It’s interesting how you said you weren’t necessarily trying to be goth, but that’s kind of like the sound you ended up making. Because I feel like the themes of your music are very much love songs with a dark sonic quality to them. So, your sound fits quite well into the subculture of goth and goth-adjacent music.
Yeah, I know a couple bands who have said the same thing as me, [that] they’ve been categorized within goth subculture. But they never really tried to be that, it’s kind of just like, where they kind of fell, or where people placed them.
I understand you were a film major in college. Would you say that that influences your current artistry at all? Do you have any favorite films that have influenced you aesthetically or musically?
Yeah, yes. And no… I was a film major, but I was never like a huge film head or like a film nerd or anything like that. I kind of just did it because before that, I was an econ major, and I just did not want to do econ. I just wanted to do something kind of arts related. [I studied] film theory, but I never made a film. I just had to write papers on them. And I don’t like writing papers. So, I never went to class, I did everything last minute, and it was a total mess. I just wrote music instead. Like, made beats during the day.
But I think my music has a cinematic quality to it… Probably derived from the films I watched in my early 20s. I took a Scorsese class that influenced me, and one of my favorite movies is Raging Bull. It [stars] Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci. Robert De Niro is one of my favorite actors. He’s great. I love old mob movies. I love movies about Italians. Like, those are my favorite.
I [also] took some class about a Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky, and all his movies are just, like, crazy. They’re basically unwatchable for the average [viewer]. But they’re full of very deep themes about, you know, longing and heartbreak, and… being an orphan, all these different things. So, all that sadness, I kind of translated, I think, into my own music at some point, and it just stayed.
Yeah, that makes sense. Going from Tarkovsky, what’s your relationship with your Eastern European audience? Your track, “Gopnik”, is a Russian concept, right?
I think… in Eastern Europe, in a way, those kids are tastemakers, they kind of dictate what’s going to happen next. Here [in the US], at least for music, I’ve noticed. So yeah, they kind of caught on to this whole wave early. And now it’s kind of more mainstream here. Or it’s made a comeback. I mean, goth is goth, and dark music has always been around but like, comes back in waves.
But yeah, I think they just caught on a little earlier this time. And so, they were there. They made up the bulk of my fan base. Before I was on Spotify or Apple Music, whatever when I was strictly on SoundCloud. It was just [the Russian fans back then], honestly. I didn’t have any US or North American fans or anything. It was literally just them. So [I interacted] with them on their Russian Facebook group. That’s where the whole “Gopnik” thing came about. I think it’s like, a classic character in Eastern European culture and society. I don’t know what [to] even call them… like… gangster adjacent characters?
Adidas tracksuit wearing gangsters.
Your first performance as Mareux was only a little over a year ago, right?
Yeah, it was June something… June 5 or something last year? Yeah.
So, what’s it been like going from your first show to playing at Coachella this year? I first saw you last year back at Substance when audio ghosts were interfering with your sound, then again at Catch One in December. So, Coachella’s a big step up from having your first performance less than a year before that. So, how was that adjustment for you? What’s that been like?
It’s been Hell, honestly. Figuring out the whole live situation, even at Catch One, it was still in its infancy stages. That was probably one of the worst shows that I played honestly, but whatever. Just figuring out the whole technical aspects, and then the whole performance aspects. I feel like now, it’s finally starting to click… [Specifically at] second weekend Coachella. I think that was where it all kind of came together. It’s a shame that one wasn’t in the livestream. The first weekend was streamed, [but] I was still pretty nervous, so I [couldn’t] really let loose, and I was so worried and whatever.
But… Second weekend, you know, we were drinking all day, and it was just a good vibe. It was a good day. So, by the time we got on stage, I was ready to just, you know, go crazy. That’s when I crowd surfed and all that stuff.
But yeah, it’s hard. I never expected to play live shows. I never expected my music to go anywhere. So, I never really prepared for it. I didn’t even have an amp until last year, like everything was straight into interfaces. And just super janky. Yeah, so it’s been a process. It’s a terrifying process, but it’s also, in many ways, enjoyable and now I’m starting to really actually enjoy it.
So that was my next question. Like, do you like playing live shows or do you get kind of nervous? Do you enjoy touring, and all of that?
Touring is a different conversation, but yeah, our shows are fun now. Before they [were] very stressful. I’d get very stressed before them… I wouldn’t be able to sleep, and I’d just feel sick. You know, the lead up [is] the worst. The shows themselves, once you’re on stage, [it’s] actually fun. But now, I don’t worry about them. And most of our gear situation has been figured out. We’re still figuring it out, but it’s getting better and better every show, which is good. You always want to see improvement.
And yeah, I’m excited to be back in LA, so hopefully I can catch you at the Fonda on June 2nd, and by then we’ll have a ton of shows under our belt, so it’ll be a lot better than Catch One last year.
Do you have any words of advice for blooming musicians that are worried about putting their art out there?
You know, it just takes a lot of failure and practicing and persistence. Like, it took me 10-11 years before I saw any bit of success. So yeah, you never know when your stuff’s gonna pop off. The most important thing is that you’re trying and improving and enjoying it. Yeah, it’s meant to be like, a fun thing. I think art and creating is supposed to be fun. [But] it’s tough, especially when your whole existence is your art.
But yeah, [I’d say to] do three things. Do your art. Do some ‘normie’ (normal) stuff. Do something else, and be well rounded. So that you’re not like, depressed all the time and worried about your art taking off, do a bunch of different things. And if the art takes off, great. If it doesn’t, you know, you have those other things. That’s my advice… Life is crazy. Just be prepared.
Is there anything else coming up that you want to tease, or are you just focused on promoting the album for now?
The album just came out, [so] I hope people just focus on that for now. Until I’m back in the studio and can muster up something else. Right now, I’m just looking forward to doing the shows. And then, you know, we’ll announce some other shows and stuff.
There’s a lot of people complaining in the comments, [that] we haven’t been to their city yet. We’re trying to accommodate everyone. Also [I’m going on] that European tour in July. Touring England, Malta, Czech Republic, France…
I didn’t even know there were concert venues out there [in Malta], honestly.
Apparently, they do. And they [seem to] have a big goth scene there, which is cool. So yeah, that’s what I’m looking forward to.
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