Johnson says she started playing violin in middle school, but it was TV networks like MTV2 and Fuse exposing her to bands such as Modest Mouse which really got her interested in making music of her own. She played in an assortment of Jacksonville bands, including her first band, comprised of Tori Austin, herself, and occasionally other people, as well as the more formal pursuits of White Light White Heat, Vertical Lips, Holiday Road, and most recently Foreign Trade. Foreign Trade was a good step for Johnson, though she aspired to head in a different direction. The progressive surf rock band began in Melbourne without Johnson but hit a stride when she joined as their lead guitarist. They were one of the best bands in Jacksonville to listen to recorded, and they also had an extremely fun and energetic live show. They disbanded last year on amicable terms. Joining a band that was already formed was a breeze for Johnson, “almost too much of a breeze.” Woven In, on the other hand, is her baby.
For Woven In, Mariah Johnson has finally embraced the idea of a solo project. Though Matt Rumbley does play drums for her at most live shows, the EP is all Johnson, and it shows. Her affinity for surf rock and instrumental music comes forward more prominently than ever before. She did not, however, create an entirely wordless album, stating, “I feel like instrumental music is boring to watch, and I’m all about presentation. I like dancing, just having a fun time on stage.” She continued to say that she wants to engage people, and if she has to throw lyrics in, they won’t be meaningless. “I’m going to speak my mind. But, I’m more concerned with the music of Woven In than anything.”
Listening to the self-titled EP, one can hear all the influences Johnson mentions, from surf to spaghetti western music, but there underlies a darker and dancier vibe than is implied. Hurricane party music might be a good way to describe it in this respect. Johnson gave one of the more accurate descriptions of the EP I have ever heard: “It starts off kind of soft, and it grabs you and gets a little dancy, and by the end you just want to cuddle up.” She describes it as sensual, which is high achievement for a recording whose first track concerns itself with the downsides of Florida weather.
Though Johnson admits, “I’m just not cut out for Florida,” and is planning her fast-approaching move to Atlanta, she notes that it has been a good run here. “We’ve got the beach, and the beach is very influential. And I also really like our downtown scene. It seems to coordinate with everybody’s work schedule. I went to a show the other night, and it got out at like twelve thirty, that’s pretty reasonable. In Jacksonville we understand that you have to work in the morning. But on the weekend…it gets real.” She continues to talk about the joys of Jacksonville nightlife, which will sorely miss her. Specifically she praises Rain Dogs and Shantytown, but her final scheduled show before the move will be at the Riverside Arts Market in May. There will be a going-away show that is yet to be formally announced, and it should be watched out for. I’ve seen members of an audience in another city cheer for Mariah and heard more than one conversation about how she lights up a stage or a living room when she plays, and it’s not without reason. If you have the chance you should see that for yourself. Woven In’s self titled EP is available at wovenin.bandcamp.com/album/woven-in.