The triumphant return of Trends

Trendsetting with the expanded band (and brand) of LA’s trends. (press photo courtesy of the band)

Trendsetting with the expanded band (and brand) of LA’s trends. (press photo courtesy of the band)

Amid the sprawling Los Angeles excesses of maximalism and celebrity culture infatuation began a humble DIY pop project of visions and great aspiration. Launched at home circa 2013 was the start of Trends, a labor of love that was a solo act for Marina Paiz which has since expanded to a quartet that includes percussionist Karen Moreno, guitarist Abe Arnak and bassist Jose Valiñas. With word of the group plotting a west coast tour later on in 2019, Trends lives up to the stylish chic of their chosen moniker with their most magnificent and massive single to date—"Ampersand". The title allusion to the logogram for and speaks to the collective consciousness of uncertainty, exploring the anxiety of what the world might have in store with an honesty that trades the vulnerability of fear for swelling builds of unrelenting confidence in the face of mass confusion.

The long awaited new Trends single is a track with an aesthetic that defies conventional connection to any specific era. The sentimental, soft, then gradually fierce high rising arrangement is the type of pop heroism that the early to mid-90s never gave us. "Ampersand" opens with warm textures that mix anxiously arranged audio with inflections of hope that soothe like a blanket of serenity in verses that see Marina's thought trails of lyrical questions like, don't know where I'll go/be. The production supplied by Andrew Murdock, who also produced the entirety of the upcoming debut Trends album Palettes, emulates the internal negotiations of thought patterns where whirling wheels of thoughtful wonder are translated to washes of sky coasting chords that leads to the penultimate apex of the anthem. As soon as you arrive at the 2:21 mark, the tides grow more rapid and energetic as the guitars becoming a towering inferno of honest and aware angst with the roaring refrain of, & I don't know nothing about my head, feeling kinda sad & I'm feeling kinda brain-dead, don't know nothing about my head, feeling kinda sick & I'm feeling brain dead...and it just goes on & on & on & on & on & on &.... Trends’ “Ampersand” is a catchy and cool reminder to us all that it is okay to not have all the answers (or even the properly formulated questions) about the vagueness of the future and the obfuscated splendor and fear over what events and/or opportunities may arrive tomorrow. The single lets us know that it is okay to go through the motions of complicated feelings that surround what may (or may not) be awaiting us in the mysterious roads of time that lie ahead beyond the sunsets of a new day’s horizon.

Trends founder Marina Paiz shared the following about the grand return of the underground pop outfit, along with all the progressions and evolutions at work: 

Thoughts on Trends now and then.

Back in 2013 it was just me in my room, not really knowing what I was doing in terms of recording or production, but having a go at it anyways. I had always wanted to write with people I could call bandmates. Definitely every angst-girl’s dream to shred in a garage a-la Pink Slip style. Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday was iconic.

But anyway…the band thing wasn’t happening at the time, and I wasn’t going to wait around for the right people to get Trends moving forward. My parents did me a solid and bought me a Digitech multi-fx and loop station. So a lot of the early material was written around looped bass lines. Harmonically it was exciting trying to sonically differentiate a chorus from a verse when the progression itself had to remain the same. It was an experimentation of colors and just trying to push one musical motif as far as it could go. That was fun for a while and I learned a lot, but I was still missing the band element.

Expanding the project to a proper band.

Over the course of the next few years, I met Karen Moreno (drums), Abe Arnak (guitar), and Jose Valiñas (bass). This is the current Trends lineup and I don’t expect it to change. It took some time to start writing new material again. We all agreed that a strong sense of trust needed to be developed before calling ourselves official members. We wanted it to feel like a band and we wanted to be a part of each other’s lives. None of us had had that experience before, writing music with people that actually matter to you. We feel really lucky to have found each other. It’s difficult to meet one single person you actually resonate with. I met three and we write and perform original music together. Nothing has come easy, but it’s been an amazing experience to work with my friends.

Observing aspects of creative evolution.

So before we started writing what would become our full length, we’d all get together and listen to these obscure and abstract 2013-2015 Trends demos. We would play through the tracks in rehearsals and try and get a sense of whether or not the parts were making each player happy. We had to figure out what sections or ideas had the potential to become a song that would sound like all of us.

Eventually, we started tracking and demoing ideas. From the start, we all had this great sense of communication and brutal honesty. And at the end of the day, as a musician, I think it should be a priority to surround yourself with people who only want to better the music — not carve out holes so that their own virtuosity or musicality can shine through. We quickly agreed that there was no place for ego when creating together.

Insights on enriching the soundscape.

The band spent five to six days a week for an entire year just writing and rewriting songs in a very small room. And by very small, I mean that if you were holding a bass and tried to move, the headstock would definitely hit someone. So I’d top-line over a progression and if it wasn’t working, Abe and Karen would vote it out. If Abe wrote a line that he was proud of but we felt wasn’t right for the section, it was thrown out. Jose wasn’t in the picture yet but if he had been, our harsh democracy would have probably been a lot gentler. The Trends writing process is very blunt and sometimes it does cause for some tension. But again, we were— and still are— aware that it’s about improving the overall work. It can be scary to put yourself out there in the songwriting process and sing or play something ugly. It’s going to happen. You’re creating and trying and you have to push the envelope to get to a different place, away from familiarity and comfort. And inevitably when the ugly sound comes out, it’s good to know that you’re in a room with people who will only continue encouraging you to come out of that shell and keep messing up. Something good is bound to come of it.

Checking in with Trends. (press photo courtesy of the band)

Checking in with Trends. (press photo courtesy of the band)

Meditations on items of influence and inspiration.

Everyone wrote everything on Palettes. By that, I mean that Karen was just as much an innovator of melodies as I was a creator of drum grooves. It was really important for everyone to have a direct influence on every part of every song. Because we started off demoing in the isolation booth, progressions and riffs came first. I’d start off with a simple idea on the guitar and Abe would come in and add color and complexity. Karen would give most of the creative direction. She knows how a song should sound and is great at recognizing what crucial elements are missing. People often assume that Trends is one songwriter— me— because I am at the front with a guitar and a mic. I wrote the lyrics and sing them, yes. But our sound is the amalgamation of four friends that are at their humanly best when playing music together.

Notes on process and other generative methodologies.

For most of the songs in this record, creating the drum part came last. Once the musical skeleton was complete, it was Karen’s job to figure out what she could do — not to just fill in the blanks, but to give the song more motion and express her voice as an instrumentalist. Drums are very much a melodic instrument. So, to add to music that was already so rich in color was a very complicated thing to do. Not to be biased, but we all think she did so successfully. Jason McGerr (Death Cab for Cutie) was an inspiration and a big help in creating the drum parts for “Ampersand”. His approach in writing drum parts for Tegan and Sara’s The Con showed this immense amount of innovation and it definitely helped in opening up our minds. That whole record is incredibly inspiring.

I always say that our upcoming record, Palettes, contains material written over three years, but honestly it’s taken a much longer time to get here. And by here, I mean this place where, as a lyricist, I can reflect on all the things I’ve said and done — on all the things I’ve experienced thus far. It’s a place where I can sing and write songs with my friends about old experiences and try to give them new meaning, purpose and added depth. With this record, we’d like to invite listeners to take inventory. Have you grown? It’s very likely you have, but if you think otherwise, why is that? Have you fallen? Is it hard to get back up? And if you’re already up, can you see and remember everything that it’s taken you to get there?

So maybe I’m just at this existential point in my early-adult life, but these questions are important — to me, at least. I think it’s very easy to continue on in life without thinking. A lot of people don’t take time to think about their individual roles, both on a micro and macro level. Where do you fit into this equation? I believe that in order to find the answer, we must allow ourselves to make mistakes, to learn, to grow. And in the process, forgive others, forgive yourself and feel everything. Try to do no harm, though sometimes it is inevitable. I think these themes are at the core of the record, whether we were consciously writing about them or not.

So, I’m very proud of our first single release and our upcoming record. I’m sure this goes for all types of creators, but I find it difficult to make something and love it entirely. There’s always this instant joy when I’ve completed something meaningful and then over time the self-deprecation and doubt creeps in. I’ve had moments where I seriously just want to burn my old hard-drives filled with demos and ideas. But Palettes feels different and I’m sure it has to do with the fact that it’s not just me in the recordings. My friends and I wrote every fucking blip and blip on this album. We get to play the material together on stage, sometimes up to four times a month. All the songs come from a really honest place and we have fun playing the record live in its entirety. There is a lot of love here. I think all these things really show and we hope it’s enough to keep everyone coming out to the shows and listening to our music.

Future reflections.

Future Trends. Because all these songs were so thought-out and we came into the recording process with very finalized and produced demos, I am very curious as to what could happen if we were just thrown on stage without any sense of direction. I think the next releases could benefit from taking on a more relaxed approach. I love Warpaint’s dynamic as a band and I think that their jam-style approach to songwriting can lead to some really beautiful ideas. In the end, it’s about how well you know your bandmates. At some point, you don’t have to guess what they’re going to play next. You can feel it. We lead separate lives, but there’s definitely a four-way umbilical cord when we’re playing or writing together.

Everyone brings something to the table. I’m going to finish up here by bragging about my babies.

Abe is an amazing player. We try not to feed his ego, but we’ll let this one slide. Despite being a pop guy, he brings a really unique sound to the music.

Karen is an inspiring musician. Her dedication and discipline are incredible. She definitely pushes all of us to become better at everything we do. Karen spent a lot of her time during school as a drum performance major playing jazz. She’d just practice straight-ahead jazz for eight to twelve hours a day. I make fun of the fact that it was only until very recently that Karen learned to appreciate and enjoy the music of Toro y Moi and Snail Mail. Truthfully, I think it’s this lack of awareness of indie music, or current music in general, that enabled her to focus on figuring out her own sound.

While Jose was the last member to join Trends, he transitioned into our family with ease. His sense of optimism towards the band is ridiculous. All our gear could fall off a cliff and that guy would find a way to make us see the bright side. While he wasn’t a part of this record’s writing process, Jose plays the bass lines with an intense focus and passion.

The band has a fifth unspoken member, Andrew Murdock, who produced Palettes with us. He gave us the space and time to work through ideas together as a band. The album was tracked and mixed at his studio, The Hobby Shop, in Highland Park. It’s Andrew’s extensive experience that really pushed the record to become even bigger.

And I guess I’ll speak about my role a bit. I’m not a great guitar player, nor am I a professional singer. I don't know if I'll ever feel comfortable calling myself these things. But I have ideas and motivation. I have focused direction and zero back-up plan. It’s Trends or nothing. And most importantly, I have an amazing group of friends that share this love for music with me. I am grateful to work with humble musicians that are far more skilled and talented at their craft than me. It doesn’t matter what your trade is. If you want to grow, always be the worst person in the room. Realize it, digest it, cry a bit and just try to get better.

Listen to more from Trends via Spotify.