“Imagine stamping blood-red cherries onto a clean, cream carpet and tell me that’s not what love feels like.”
These are the words of Ripon, North Yorkshire musician Billie Marten, and are, in many ways, the premise of her fourth studio album, Drop Cherries. They reminisce back to the moment she gained a solid understanding of the record in its formative stages, an epiphany she encountered during a conversation with a close friend about impactful relationships.
“It just felt like the perfect amalgamation of all the things you feel in a relationship such as that,” Marten said about the image of crushed cherries, kicking off the press conference preluding her forthcoming music, released on April 7th.
The new record’s overarching theme, put simply by its seamstress, is “the purity of loving someone or something, or being loved,” and is dedicated to “anyone that didn’t think that love existed.”
Marten’s work is a full composite of flesh and bone, lover and beloved. It is the image of pinning
wet jeans to a clothesline while a crescent sun hangs overhead, tomato vines sprouting at each fingertip. A portrait of a still-life come alive, her lyrics teach the listener how to hold dirt close to their heart and still find a reason to call it beautiful.
Few artists, in recent years, have managed to produce a body of work as authentic and singular. But with her growing platform, Marten has encountered a subculture intent on classification. Some people, she says, have labeled her music among several genres and styles, some of which she deems completely wrong, such as “ethereal,” “whimsical,” and even the lovechild of “ethereal grunge.” While these descriptors may encompass some listeners’ experiences, she doesn’t care much for them because they imply weakness in her musical compositions. It seems that Marten isn’t actively looking to adhere to a particular genre but rather to her well-preserved individuality.
This is no surprise, considering that as an artist, Marten advocates for singularity. She recorded Drop Cherries entirely on tape, as opposed to the conventional process of recording music today, which typically involves continuous takes, comping, and layering.
Her reasoning: “It’s how music should be recorded. There’s a reason everyone did it. [...] It makes performances shine.” With the modern-day method, she added, “You’ve got something that sounds like a full song, but it’s not necessarily a performance.”
In anticipation of the album’s release, I had the opportunity to ask the artist a couple of questions. We bonded over literature, talked about fatal flaws, and elaborated on her confessional
nature as a musician. Find the interview below.
A Brief Q & A With Billie Marten
I’ve heard that you’re well acquainted with literature. Considering your most beloved characters and narratives, what would you say is your fatal flaw, both as a creative and a
BM: “Well, I love hamartias in people. It was always the thing that I was most interestedin studying English. I found it very comparable to myself, and I guess most of my career is based on the fact that I had to share those flaws. Um, in fact, the word ‘flaw’ comes up a lot in my music. But, I think I’ve always empathized with the baddies in books or stories because they’re so—kind of—overlooked. And they’re often the ones that have had the worst things happen to them. Or broken homes. Or they’ve been outcasts, and they’re actually just lonely people. And I’ve always had that feeling growing up as a kid that—I, um—yeah, I always rooted for the baddie. But in terms of my hamartia, right now, it’s probably dealing with my stubbornness; I think that that can very quickly become a problem within peoples’ personalities. And I am trying to welcome in other people’s advice a bit more and try to understand myself through other people’s points of view. It’s something that I just naturally struggle to do. So, I’m working on that right now in between everything.”
FDZ: Thank you for that reflection. Side note: I’m reading The God of Small Things right now. I
noticed it was on your list. It’s beautiful.
BM: “I love that book so much.”
FDZ: Estha and Rahel will stay with me for a long time.
BM: “The writing is so beautiful.”
Speaking of writing, you are a poet in a sense, I think. If you extract the sound, your lyrics
are—I could read them as poetry, really. But beyond creative expression, what moves you
to immortalize such confessional themes in your music? Other people would never think of
doing that, but you do it so effortlessly. And with such pride. So, why?
BM: (laughs) “I don’t know.”
FDZ:That’s an answer.
BM: “Oh no, that’s a rubbish answer!”
FDZ :Oh, no!
BM: “I mean, I’m naturally confessional. I think when I sit down to write, there’s always something that’s on my chest, and there is no other way for me to communicate that. I find that even in things like this, I’m kind of inept at explaining or describing myself well. Or I’ll use the wrong words a lot of the time. And so the only possible way for me to get—kind of—my true voice, my true thoughts, or my inner diary out—I guess—is via the song. And it’s always spontaneous, and I’m learning to appreciate that part of my process. I can’t force it, and if it’s not there—you know—I’ve gotta carry on living until something does pop up.”
A Review of Drop Cherries: The Genius in Marten’s Storytelling
A bountiful thirteen tracks, Marten initially described the record as “a series of vignettes
highlighting different pieces of a relationship while trying to fit them together. From celebrating
moments of the mundane, through deep existential questioning, to the final resolve, which is the
pure simplicity of sharing a moment with someone you love.” Unlike her past work, she credits
this one for having a more linear and stable narrative.
So, as intended by the artist, I listened to all of the tracks in one sitting, keeping the
provided storyline in mind. Each song acted as a stepping stone, seamlessly transitioning to the
The tracklist begins with “New Idea,” an instrumental that comprises nearly three minutes of
angelic humming accompanied by orchestral sounds—that’s right, no words. Besides welcoming
the listener with open arms, I view this track as the story's exposition, at which point the narrator
realizes they have just reached love; the beginning of love, to be exact, where there is no room for words—only feeling.
What follows is a collection of fragments, each piece laid out after the next, depicting a
relationship through moments and emotional states. In totality, the record sings about
impermanence, focusing on love and human nature as everchanging forces.
In “Just Us,” the second track, the narrator describes their lover’s limbs as sycamore
trees, singing, “Your legs stick out like sycamore trees. I feel them grow when we're asleep.” But
as the album progresses, along with the narrator’s feelings, subtle changes occur. In “Willow,”
the fifth track, the lovers trade their sycamore limbs for those of a weeping willow, a tree known
for having a much weaker, drooping frame: “Two weepin' willows throwing an arm to the other.”
This can only signify a change of heart, perhaps the result of being apart for so long.
Despite wavering hope, the narrator clings to their devotion, embracing the changes like
passing seasons. In “Nothing But Mine,” the following lyrics play out:
“I have faith in our love
Wash my mouth
All the dirt that you found.”
The motif of dirt frequently appears throughout Marten’s music, often as a symbol of death and rebirth. Here, in these lines, it represents any doubt or grief carried over from a past life or relationship that no longer serves to exist. Washed of dirt by their lover, the narrator prepares to start anew.
In the final track (the title track), “Drop Cherries,” we observe the narrator attain a
profound understanding of their role as one of two loves, which is the final resolution Marten
alludes to. They confess,
“When you ask for more
I drop cherries at your door
When you ask for more
Now I know what I'm here for.”
Looking back to the initial image of stamping cherries onto a clean, cream carpet, it suddenly becomes clear what love means to the narrator. It is an act of art. Of evolution. To take blood-red cherries and crush them against a pure surface is the same as holding a lover’s face in one’s hands, then planting kisses into their skin.
Marten weaves each fragment back into place by the record's finale, creating one cohesive story about two flawed individuals. We understand, for once, what it means to love as they do. And while it doesn’t stray far from her sonic and visual choices, Drop Cherries is one of the artist’s most vulnerable works. Ultimately, she leaves the listener with one question: “If we’re not to dance, then why all this music?”
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