Columbus expat Maryn Jones of All Dogs and Saintseneca gets comfortable with darkness as Yowler
Everything was going pretty well after pop-punk band All Dogs released its critically acclaimed debut, Kicking Every Day, in 2015. But Maryn Jones, the band's singer and guitarist who called Columbus home at the time, missed playing solo shows.
Still, something didn't quite feel right when she took the stage by herself. “When I used to perform under my name, the [show] had a vibe that felt super vulnerable, and the lyrics were very straightforward — matters of the heart. I kind of wanted to move away from that,” Jones said by phone, sitting in a park on a recent sunny afternoon, surrounded by mature trees and big, old houses in the West Philly neighborhood where she moved in 2016.
She also began thinking about a concept based in visuals or performance art and centered around the image of a dark figure. Eventually, the abstract ideas morphed into a new solo act: Yowler. “It set the tone for me, like, this is a totally different thing than all the other projects I've worked on,” said Jones, who also plays in Saintseneca. “I wanted it to be more of a direct line to what's going on in my brain.”
Yowler's first release, nine-song album The Offer, came out in 2015. It's an intimate affair, consisting mostly of Jones' close-miked voice and a guitar on songs that use that “direct line” to expose the darker recesses of the songwriter's brain. On “In the Bathroom,” Jones describes being “alone in the bathroom, filled with love for fluorescent lights and the dull edges of a knife.”
“There's been that [dark] element going on for pretty much my whole existence, but it's something I only recently started feeling more comfortable opening up about in that way. It just felt good to feel like I could do that, and people wouldn't be like, ‘Um, you're scary,'” Jones said. “I hope people don't think I'm trying to romanticize this really intense stuff. That's something I've thought about before, but I've talked to many people who have been like, ‘No, I'm really glad someone put that kind of stuff into words, because it's not always easy to. It's nice to know that another person feels that way.' … Sometimes it even helps me to listen to it. It's very therapeutic to hear those things, even if it was me.”
In the writing process, she also found herself repeatedly and unconsciously drawn to water imagery. “I have a very internal, inherent connection to nature and natural places. I also literally just love swimming in water. To me, it's a symbol of figuring out how to navigate life, and water being the substance I feel encased in at times,” Jones said, summing up the feeling with a lyric from an All Dogs song: “I am underneath the water, kicking every day.”
“It's talking about how every day is kind of a struggle, and I'm underwater trying to kick my way out of it,” she said. “That's the easiest way for me to explain it — suspended, and facing up to who you are and everything that's happening in your life, and figuring out how to get through every day.”
These days, with members of All Dogs touring in bands like Modern Baseball and Waxahatchee, Jones has been working on a new Yowler album with producer Kyle Gilbride. And while she'll perform solo at Two Dollar Radio as part of Flyover Fest on Thursday, May 10, forthcoming Yowler tours may be louder affairs.
“This [new] record is definitely not just quiet songs. Probably when I tour on this album I'll try to have a full band,” she said. “I'm trying to steer away a little bit from so much doom and gloom.”