Isla June’s “Knew You When,” whose video is premiering exclusively below, is “a bit of a milestone marker in my life,” according to Jenna Maranga.
The singer, songwriter and guitarist, who studied at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, launched Isla June near the end of 2012 as a “semi-solo project” — and side job to her regular gig at a Los Angeles advertising agency. Maranga decided to quit last May, and “Knew You When” is her first effort as a full-time musician.
“It’s definitely a meaningful one, for sure,” she tells Billboard with a laugh. “I think I ultimately was just jealous of all the artists I was placing and pitching for things. That just made me want to be the artist again. I kept thinking back to the last time I really put music first…’Knew You When’ is that bittersweet nostalgia for a time I missed early, for a version of myself I missed dearly…It became the push I needed to finally say, ‘F*** it.'”
The gauzy, textured “Knew You When” also gave Maranga a chance to make her first Isla June video, filmed in the living room of a friend’s house that she wallpapered for eight hours the night before this shoot — “Which I don’t recommend. Now I have PTSD whenever I see wallpaper,” Maranga says. The clip itself, however, also has the same kind of retro and nostalgic feel that’s part of the song.
“We wanted to create a space that felt familiar,” Maranga explains. “So it all takes place in a living room and the scenes change, and I wanted to make things that were familiar for people — the party/prom scene, the homecoming scene, everything evokes a familiar feeling, like lying on your couch at night when you’re home sick and it’s very hot, or just hot summer days, hanging out at the house bored, frustrated with the heat, not sure what you’re going to do with yourself. It’s kind of nostalgic and comforting, I hope.”
After rotating through a variety of players, Isla June has settled into a consistent corps of five or six players that includes Maranga’s brother and co-writer Justin Maranga on guitar. Another Isla June track, “Strange Times, Dark Days,” was placed in CW’s Riverdale, and Maranga acknowledges that she finds her musical career heading in parallel directions now — one with the band, which will release two more singles before the end of spring, and another on her own, writing with and for other artists and for film TV and advertising.
“What’s great is I can write in a ton of different genres, which is something I always wanted to do,” Maranga says. “Isla June is one vehicle for me to put music out there; Obviously it’s my project and my heart and my soul, but I’m also really loving to get to work with people outside my band, which has been really freeing for me. I didn’t use my own name for a reason with this project, and I love what that’s allowed me to do in the last year. It’s a pretty tight community so I’m just trying to connect with as many people as possible and get the music out.”