More than three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, musicians are still releasing the work they created during this turbulent time. One such example is twin sister duo Maris and Bryce O’Tierney, who play the role of Maeve & Quinn. Making smart, interesting and serious pop music for discerning listeners, these Alaska natives recently released their first full-length album, “Another Door.” For the O’Tierneys, creating the record has been a journey of discovery for themselves as a creative duo and what they hope to bring to the world for other people.
All of the songs for “Another Door” were written at the beginning of the epidemic, when the duo was living together in the city. It was their fourth year of living together. Like other artists, urgency and uncertainty helped them create art with a mission.
However, they broke up again at the end of August 2020. Bryce moved to Colorado for a teaching fellowship while Maris remained in Chicago.
Their previous concentrated style of songwriting evolved into long-lasting creative bursts, with Bryce regularly returning to the city so they could record, produce and refine their efforts. Ultimately, they say, this time apart (something they had experienced before) became a growth opportunity for their relationship as twins and artistic collaborators.
“Exploring and discovering more as individuals — artistically and in friendships, in two different places — has allowed for new dimensions of trust and collaboration when we come together again,” Bryce said.
There is richness and excitement in their reunion. Maris agreed, adding, “Every bandmate and also sister relationship is different. I think we thrive when we have periods of intense togetherness, and then we’re able to take those independent paths and reconnect.”
Clocking in at just 28 minutes, “Another Door” serves as a concise introduction to Maeve & Quinn’s music for new listeners. But these handful of minutes definitely have an impact. The moodiness, eclecticism, unusual melodies and song structures sound familiar, like a sonic throwback to the female singer-songwriters of the 1990s and early 2000s. Think Tori Amos or Regina Spektor. But inspiration only goes so far, and what one hears “Another Door” is an intriguing brand of indie pop and rock that bucks contemporary trends. Ultimately, the album is its own thing, just like the past music they have released. Or rather something. they have.
The album’s standout track “I Am Her”, which features the interaction of electric guitar and piano, focuses on mental health. The genesis of the song was written while Bryce was living in Ireland. “It was a period of deep depression for me, and the lyrics came out of that, reflecting those times when you look in the mirror and you don’t recognize yourself when you’re in that state,” Bryce said.
Born from a personal place, the quiet, quiet piece has become a communicative gesture for anyone struggling with their mental health. There’s a kind of self-acceptance that permeates the piece, helping it end in a more hopeful place than where it began. For listeners longing for works that address the realities of contemporary life, “I Am Her” (and indeed the album as a whole) may seem like a soothing balm.
“I would say this new record feels very true and in the moment in terms of where Maris and I are in our femininity, our twinship,” Bryce added. “The instrumentation, the interactivity, the lyrics, and the process itself of making these songs are very aligned with our values.”
New works of art have given rise to more reasons for reflection. How can they better align their values with their actions and behaviors? So how can music embody this? Some of these values include expanding the possibilities of other artists. This echoes the title of their album, “Another Door.”
“The value we feel there is the idea of really seeing the opportunity to open doors for other people in our lives and in our community,” Maris said. “From our upbringing in Alaska to pursuing a creative career in Chicago, I think we are so grateful to the artists, mentors, friends, and extended family who believed in our work and helped open doors for us. Than to build another door and go through it, build another door and go through it he it passes through. To me, this truly embodies our joy, our hope, and our determination to empower and engage others.
Britt Julious is a freelance critic.