Some artists describe their music as a labor of love. For Marley Rae and Brian Frederick of Subtle Smiles, that sentiment is truer than for most.
The two met at a Porch Party Records event in the summer of 2015. Marley was singing backup vocals for Bootleg Orchestra and Brian was brought in to record, mix, and master the group’s first EP. The two quickly formed a bond over their shared affection for downtempo, drum and bass, trip-hop, house, and dream pop music. By the start of 2016, Brian and Marley were an item.
To celebrate their one year anniversary, the couple recorded a one-minute demo. That song inspired Brian to create close to twenty short songs for Marley. From there the two began collaborating in earnest on a full-length album. Marley brought her experience as a classically trained vocalist who had been singing her whole life in school choirs, high school bands, as well as the groups PollenLand and Bootleg Orchestra. Brian, a drummer since the age of twelve, was also a performer in his high school orchestra, bands with friends, and more recently a DJ with the group Trifecta, putting out 5 albums and numerous singles on his own.
Marley and Brian spent 2017 recording the bulk of “Significant Other” at Hybrid Studios in Santa Ana, CA. The two also recorded sections of the album in their apartment in Long Beach and even in one of the cabins of the Queen Mary Hotel during a staycation in 2018. Influenced by artists like Cocteau Twins, Bonobo, Lead and Thoughts and Spears, Thievery Corporation, Mark Farina, Sylvan Esso, and Bjork, “Significant Other” is a drum forward, harmony-rich collection of songs.
Over the course of its thirteen tracks, the record gets up and grooves as often as it lays back in the cut with chill atmospheric vibes. In their debut record, Subtle Smiles have created something that demands that you get up and dance, asks if you want to have a deep conversation, and shows listeners that the music of a couple in love can be more than just a saccharine sacrament to romance. “Significant Other”, like any real, strong relationship has breadth, range, highs, lows, joy, and melancholy, and is well worth the while.