Unless you’re a board game fanatic or a small child, the name Candyland conjures up images of two grinning faces who, despite their initial odd-couple vibe, seemed like the perfect pair on the surface. Fun-loving party jams and searing bass tunes on steady flow, Josie Martin and Ethan Davis looked to be headed out on the first stretch of a serious tear of a career powered by a never-ending sugar high of inventive tunes. But all is not gumdrops and licorice whips in Candy Castle, as Josie Martin, the iconic afro-rocking half of the Santa Barbara duo, has decided to split with her longtime friend and production partner Ethan Davis. Confectionary humor aside, Josie Martin is now heading down Candyland’s historically colorful path solo, and she says things are about to get a bit darker as she continues her sonic experiments as Candyland by herself.
Outside of music, Martin is no stranger to the darker side of life’s experiences. After moving 29 different times throughout the Santa Barbara area growing up, she was eventually without a place to stay, which was when she met Davis and the two started Candyland.
“After moving to a spot with my mom for a couple months, I moved to Orange County to live with my grandparents… and Ethan was couch-surfing and living at his parents’ house for most of that time too, so starting up definitely wasn’t easy,” Martin said of their early days.
Ethan Davis (left) With Josie Martin of Candyland
But while a consistent bed was sometimes uncertain, family was never out of reach. She credits Candyland’s survival to her grandparents and others on whom she has leaned for support over the years.
“They helped my get my sh*t together and helped support my vision for Candyland. If it wasn’t for our friends and family, Candyland would have never happened.”
While close relationships have always been the backbone of Candyland, perhaps it takes a lifetime of lessons in self-reliance to recognize when it’s time to go it alone once again. Martin recalls when she first noticed Davis drifting away from the project for good, both mentally and physically.
“Not many people know that Ethan had quit and rejoined Candyland multiple times. He couldn’t really figure out what he wanted to do–if he wanted to travel, or just make music, or be involved in dance music at all. There was a lot he was figuring out for the last couple years–just on a personal level too–and he just detached from Candyland. I was happy to take on the role of being the face of the group and taking the lead on everything, but I think we just spent too much time apart, and Candyland kind of became mine.”
As has been the case with numerous other musical acts in history, Davis’ attendance problems signaled the beginning of the end.
“When he decided he didn’t want to perform or travel anymore, that was the biggest sign it wasn’t going to work out,” Martin said. “Because the live show is so important to us, having him not there was just confusing to everyone. Out of the 65 shows we did on the Krewella tour, Ethan was there for nine of them. His decision to not do shows was what built that separation between us.”
While Davis might no longer be an official member of Candyland, his long-term influence won’t fade away so easily.
“Ethan was my biggest inspiration when it came to music,” Martin said. “Until I had met him, I didn’t know anyone as excited about music as I was–someone so moved by music. I think if it wasn’t for him, I would have definitely drifted towards something else eventually–just for survival purposes.”
Martin first met Davis while playing at his 17th birthday party and, after about six months of performing and DJing under a different name, Candyland was born and with it, the production careers of Martin and Davis.
“It wasn’t until we changed our name to Candyland that we started making originals. So we were both really learning everything at the same time,” Martin said. “It was really so new to us.”
Although the two gelled musically, their values were sometimes in two different places. While Davis was very vocal about his Christian faith, Martin was not on board with the central role it sometimes took in the project.
“Our families share the same faith for the most part, so it was easy for me to relate to him and be able to understand where he was coming from. But we definitely disagreed when it came to expressing our beliefs through our music. That was something he really wanted to do, and something I was never super comfortable with,” Martin said.
Nowadays, Ethan Davis is devoting himself to other projects. So what will Candyland sound like without him? Actually, if you’ve been following the past year or so, you’ve been experiencing it already.
“It’s been my own for the last eight months,” Martin said. “Most of our fans don’t know that. When he left, I had a lot of things to figure out–how to announce, what the new Candyland was going to be like. We both knew we would be happier apart and being able to express ourselves as individuals.”
This means that the last productions to include Ethan Davis’ musical input fall somewhere around the duo’s collaborative remix of Adventure Club’s Gold with Revoke sometime in 2014. Since then, Josie Martin has penned around a half-dozen originals and remixes on her own, including today’s blistering release on 12th Planet’s SMOG Records, Murda. Her latest rocks rudeboy vocals atop a relentlessly aggressive trap beat and illustrates her tendency to bring the harder sounds to the Candyland mix.
“Ethan was definitely very bubbly and flamboyant at times. I think his music reflected that, so I would say my music is a little darker than his,” Martin said.
But as they part ways, they remain friends and mutual fans.
“He’s a f*cking musical genius and I know whatever he does is going to be killer. He said he likes the new Candyland music and is excited to be a fan… we will always support each other at the end of the day.”
And when all’s said and done, Martin shows that it matters less what happens to you than what you take away from it.
“Every hardship in my life has taught me so much. Not just about myself, but about other people, and friends, and who and what is important in life. The last six months I have been really just figuring out what the f*ck I want to do–how to make Candyland fully my vision. I have so much planned.” Martin said.
As a thank-you, Candyland fans are in for a very special year.
“I really want to give back and thank everyone for being so patient and understanding during all of this, so Im going to be releasing more music this year than I ever have before. I’m finally excited about dance music again and really ready to get back to it.”
Pick up a copy of Murda here, and follow Candyland on SoundCloud for more music to come.