When we last checked in with Nicolle Maroulis in April of 2021, they were promoting the lush indie- and dream-pop sounds of their third LP as Hit Like a Girl, Heart Racer. But because that album’s personal lyrics summed up emotional themes that largely preceded the pandemic, it may not be all that jarring when you think about it that their latest release—additionally following an EP of Heart Racer acoustic covers—veers hard into the realm of metalcore. After a few years of being quarantined with nothing to do but contemplate the escalating exploitation and other evils of the industries we work within and re-binging our favorite TV series, it’s surprising fewer artists made this rebrand.
Becoming is a relentless 15 minutes of pummeling guitar and guttural snarl largely inspired by the anxieties of being a musician in the present era of Ticketmaster monopolies, Spotify’s various degradations, and an unhealthy reliance on a functioning tour van. Also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “OK, not every song on the EP is about Buffy, but the second half of them are,” Maroulis clarifies. Elsewhere, though, the songs are as razor-sharp lyrically as they are instrumentally. “The lyrics are all really blunt and intentional, not a whole lot of dramatic metaphors here.”
With the EP out today, you can stream the project in full and read Maroulis’ track-by-track breakdown below. Mind the Buffy spoilers—though honestly, folks, it’s been two decades. What have you been doing that you haven’t watched the series yet…
“Dismay” is honestly about the music industry and how jaded it’s made me over the years. It’s about my “compare and despair” problem, where I look at bands around me and compare my work and progress to theirs and find myself angry at the differences between the statuses of our bands. I always feel like I work so hard trying to appease the industry monster and its algorithm minions—i.e. with pumping out music often, making content, being present on social media, touring as much as I can, etc. I’m doing everything I’m “supposed to be doing.” It never seems like it’s enough.
2. “It Only Gets Worse”
“It Only Gets Worse” is about a reoccurring dream I’ve been having for the past, like, six years, or for as long as I’ve owned my tour van, where I’m driving the van and the brakes always give out. It’s like, is this dream some sort of foreshadowing? I don’t know. Then I think about how much work I’ve put into trying to keep my van alive to tour in, and can’t even find people to want to tour in it with me, and it’s extremely discouraging.
“Noose” is about how oftentimes I find myself feeling stagnant and stuck. It’s hard to look forward to anything in life. I feel like everyone around me is able to get ahead and I’m always left behind, so why bother anymore and just hang yourself!
4. “In the Crypt”
“In the Crypt” is about Buffy and Spike—spoiler alert—fucking for the first time and sneaking around their friends and keeping it a secret.
“Ascension” is about—spoiler alert—Buffy dying and her gay witch friend Willow bringing her back to life in the coolest way with a spell. The spell puts Willow through a trial to determine if she’s worthy and if Buffy is worthy of returning, such as being able to withstand a snake crawling through her body. Just overall xtoughx.
6. “The Abomination”
“The Abomination” is about crushing your enemies, smashing the patriarchy, and ruling the weak, I don’t know.