Awash in gentle but urgent waves and a profound message of faith, MAON‘s latest release is drenched in jarring, tribal-like percussion and dusted with a throwback guitar line.”I’ve been feeling sort of lost, inconsistent in my thoughts. I try to reason with my God,” the singer (real name Brian Carmona) laments over a feverish rush of production, thickly coated in Mac Demarco and Steve Lacy style with “a dreamy vibe to it,” he notes. “I am a big fan of Ricky Reed and Timbaland. I tried to find a solid drum groove that felt retro but still current. I bought this vinyl record that was a compilation of a bunch of East Los Angeles garage rock bands that my dad grew up on, and I found these two chords that play throughout the song and manipulated it enough to where I felt it could carry the song as a memorable progression.”
“Vocally, I challenged myself to where I wanted each lyric to feel like I had something to say and prove. It took a while to get in a space where I felt like I was passionately delivering the message,” MAON tells B-Sides & Badlands.
“Green Apple” follows his debut single, the provocative and playful “Don’t Judge Me,” both seemingly lead-ins to a forthcoming project. “The music industry is constantly going through a change. Right now, the thing that seems right is to release singles as often as I can, and when I eventually have the resources to do this full time, I want to release a full project. The new HAIM album has give me hope that people still care about more than one song from a band.”
Framing the narrative around “the way I would smoke [weed],” he lets the threads unravel rather naturally. “For some reason, I never thought about buying the proper equipment to smoke, so I would just use the fruit I had at my place. There was always a green apple around and I became very savvy on how I used it,” he says with a smirk. “I wrote this song based around a time in my life where I was losing my religion and finding my faith. I found out during this time that being a follower of Jesus and being part of a religion are two very different things. I grew very religious and viewed Jesus as someone who was constantly disappointed in the choices I was making in my life. The revelation that life is a journey and the love of Jesus is unconditional allowed me to see life differently and be confident in who I am.”
“I know I probably should face this, but I’m wasting time waiting for a sign,” he drops before melting away into a sooting spoken-word segment. “This feeling’s all too familiar / So, I use this green apple as my perfect tool / A moment of clarity seems like an eternity / Close my eyes and drift away to a place where I feel no pain.” MAON glides unconcerned amidst the soft crash of water and tender coos of sea gulls: the section was greatly influenced by Chance the Rapper. “I love how he ties in melody with spoken word. The song originally started with a long spoken word as the first verse, but I eventually took my favorite part and tied it in with the second verse before the chorus,” he details.
“This is one of those songs that came about pretty spontaneously. I’ve always wanted to be transparent in my life. I believe it’s something most Christians are afraid to do. They’re afraid that talking about real life experiences and issues,” he continues. “One thing I’ve learned about Christianity is most Christians are willing to hide things for the sake of the ministry. Being open, honest and vulnerable has allowed me the freedom be more creative in the studio.”
While the performer imagined “Don’t Judge Me” playing inside the Haunted Mansion, “Green Apple” feels ripe for another famous Disney attraction: Star Wars. “Maybe it would be Luke Skywalker giving a speech to the rest of the fighters trying to prove his worth as a leader,” he says.
Through this entire process⎯of crafting, acknowledging and processing his own story⎯he learned that “the only time I have peace is when I simply let go and stand on the promises of what God has called me to do. I’ve also realized through being married that life is a journey and often times never goes the way you want it to go,” he concludes. “The biggest change in my life came when I understood that Jesus is never disappointed in me. Since His love is unconditional, I view Him as a Father who is always there with kindness, gentleness and unwavering joy for how I handle each hardship. There will always be disappointment, hardship and pain. The game changer is accepting unconditional love, which is extremely hard to do when you view love based on pleasing God like most religions preach.”
Hitting rock bottom and ambling through various seasons of life strengthened his ties even more. “Whether it was being completely broke, living in a trailer park or selling DVDs just to have enough gas to get to work, there were many times when I was angry and yelling at God, asking ‘why’? I was living in awe and wonder. The the beauty of having faith is you will never run into a dead end; you will always go beyond what you thought was impossible.”
Growing up, his parents forbade him from listening to any non-Christian music, an often misguided and dangerous resolve to shelter innocence from the world. “Christianity likes to live in a very conservative bubble. It tries living separate itself from the world we live in. So, you have this thinking to where if we say ‘no’ enough to our kids, they will never try it. As a parent I defiantly try to watch what I listen to when the kids are around. Music has the power to enter your heart without its permission, so what I hope my daughters will learn is what you open up your heart and mind to can have the power to influence you. But it is very toxic thinking that all non-Christian music is bad. In fact, all music can heal people.”
The singer is now based in Fargo, N.D. (his wife’s hometown), which actually became the impetus for his music. As MAON continues branding the industry with his smart signatures of pop and hip-hop, he eyes fusing his cultural heritage into his work going forward. “You have to write a lot of crap to eventually find that one idea that starts the whole process. Fortunately for me, I have a lot to say and write about. It took me a long time to be comfortable being a Chicano from Whittier, Cali. Studying about Chicano history has inspired a lot of new ideas. I want to sing more bi-lingual songs in the future.”
Listen to “Green Apple” below: