I'll often be playing a list of previously saved songs or a curated playlist, courtesy of Spotify's mysteriously impressive algorithms, before stopping everything to ask myself, "What is this absolutely amazing song?" When it comes to The Marías, this phenomenon is commonplace. By no means is The Marías a forgettable band.
As a matter of fact, The Marías is a band that is entirely unforgettable, emanating an otherworldly quality in their music that separates them from their musical peers. It's this surreal quality that makes them so hard to place, so much so that I will still likely long after writing this find myself stopping everything I'm doing to once again ask, "What is this?" It's music that sounds like something you feel you've heard once long before yet at the same time feels like something quite never heard before.
So, when I was offered the chance to interview this band that has established themselves as the backing soundtrack to my daily life –and happens to include one of the finest looking couples in the game– it would be an understatement to say I was elated. And in sitting and speaking with Maria and Josh Conway of The Marías, I was lucky enough to gain insight into this otherworldly band who pull inspiration from everything from Puertro Rico to Wes Anderson.
Plus, stay tuned for a special video of The Marías recent Baño Flaco performance!
OTW: Let's start from the very beginning. How did the band all come together?
Maria: I was playing a show at The Kibitz Room for this Laurel Canyon music revival and Josh was running sound. Then after the show, Josh told me that he really liked my voice and my songs, and he really wanted to record in his studio.
Josh: That's how it went.
OTW: What's it like working in a band with not only your romantic partner but your closest friends as well?
Josh: It’s a lot of fun, both ways, recordings as friends and recording as a couple. Maria and I live together, so it's a lot of fun to have an idea right when you wake up or just before going to sleep and immediately start working on something together. At the same time, it's a lot of fun recording with our friends, because they're our friends and it's really fluid. It's all very open. It's easy to say anyone in the group, "Yeah, that's part dope" or "Let's not do that part," because we're all really close and there's no hard feelings.
OTW: The first instinct when talking about bands or artists is often to compare them to one another, but when it comes to your particular style, there's no one that readily comes to mind. What's it like to have such a distinctive style; to be in a class all your own?
Maria: We listen to pretty much everything, and it’s always been that way. Where I pull influences may be different than where Josh pulls influences, so when you put those together, it’s pulling from a lot of different areas, so I think it’s just a mesh.
Josh: There’s a lot of new bands that I personally think are in a similar position where you can’t really classify them with any certain genre and that is a genre now. There are obviously so many different ways to listen to music now, so I think that people just gravitate to hundreds of different styles, and what they create is a manifestation of all those different styles. For us specifically, we both pull from different influences. She's got a very smooth R&B, Erykah Badu meets Sade.
Maria: I love Sade, but also the Latin side. I grew up listening to a lot of Latin music.
Josh: And I grew up listening to The Beatles and more of the psychedelic side. Then we both have influences that we share– D'Angelo, Radiohead, Tame Impala.
OTW: So this unique blending of jazz, funk, indie rock, smooth R&B – did it come instantly when you two first stepped into the studio together or what did the earliest stages of The Marias sound like?
Maria: I think the earliest stages were us just trying to get to know each other. So, when we realized this is something more than the music, then the music came after the relationship. With the comfort that we felt with each other and the moments that we shared, we put that into the music. From there, we were just open. Josh came to me one day and said, "I really want to write a Spanish song, but I obviously don't know Spanish." And I was like, "Okay, let's do it." That was the first song we wrote together, "Déjate Llevar."
Josh: In fact, the first time we hung out after The Kibitz Room, was in the studio and recording one of the songs Maria had played that night.
OTW: Speaking of your Spanish-sung songs, you have multiple sensual and swooning tracks that are sung primarily in Spanish, which, being a romance language, lends itself terribly well to the overall feeling you as a band give off. So, when approaching a song, at what point do you decide what language it'll be sung in?
Maria: "Déjate Llevar" started that way, but with "Basta Ya," I was taking a walk to go get a coffee and then a melody came to my head with the lyrics. So, sometimes it'll come naturally in Spanish, and then we work on it that way. Or we'll be working on a chord progression, and then I start singing in Spanish. It kind of depends on the situation.
Josh: I can't imagine "Basta Ya" in English, and I think that's a fitting thing. If it's not already set that it's going to be in Spanish, and we have a chord progression and a melody, we'll know for sure that this one is in Spanish. A new one on Superclean Vol. 2 sort of happened that way. Maria came up with a melody and once we started playing it together, we just knew immediately that this has to be in Spanish. It's super organic and natural.
OTW: You mentioned Superclean Vol. 2. So, how's that coming along?
Maria: It's coming! We have a good chunk of them already done, so I think you'll be seeing two singles upfront and then the rest of the EP probably a little bit after Coachella. It's a six-song EP with a surprise.
Josh: We're over halfway there.
OTW: In addition to pulling from such a wide range of genres, the band's background is pretty diverse as well, from Puerto Rico, Atlanta, to Los Angeles. How would you say the band's disparate upbringings inform the music?
Maria: I would spend Summer and Christmases in Puerto Rico or Spain, and I grew up in Atlanta. I think the different landscapes of each of them have influenced our visual side as a band. In terms of sonically, I would just say Atlanta is super eclectic, and it's obviously the hip-hop capital of the world, so that's where I was introduced to R&B and soul, which I love. Puerto Rico and Spain would always introduce me to new Latin artists, because my cousins and I would go to the record stores and ask them for recommendations and we'd go home with 10 CDs.
Josh: The environment that you're in really adds to it. It's also about who you surround yourself with. Jesse, the guitar player, and I have grown up together, and he's always been very forward-thinking in terms of music. He's usually the one to introduce me to new artists, and more often than not, they're artists that I love. Everyone's got to have a Jesse in their friend group.
OTW: As you just wrapped up your first tour, what did fans who were lucky enough to catch you live experience?
Maria: All of the guys are insane musicians, so I think just the musicianship is really spot on and really great.
Josh: I think they should expect to see what they've heard for the last couple months.
Maria: And some new stuff. We're throwing in a couple songs that are going to be on Superclean Vol. 2, so they get a sneak peek into Vol. 2 if they go to the live shows.
Josh: I second that.
OTW: You also played play Coachella – how did it feel to find out you were on that lineup?
Maria: It didn't feel real. I almost thought it was too good to be true. I felt like it wasn't even real. And then seeing the guys celebrate because they've grown up here and looking at the lineup of whose playing year after year.
Josh: Extremely excited. Half the band grew up in LA, and I'm one of them. I've been in bands for 10-plus years, and every year it's always like, "This'll be the year. We're going to get Coachella, guys. We're going to get Coachella." And it never happened, so, I kind of gave up trying. And when I gave up, it happened. Every April for god knows how long, it's always been Coachella talk. In high school, it's all anyone talked about. I'm not in high school anymore, but if I was, I'd be the coolest kid in school.
Maria: We were one of 13 Latin artists there this year, which is really cool. I think it's the most that have ever been at a Coachella. Cuco is going to be there.
Josh: I love him.
Maria: Kali Uchis, Helado Negro, Buscabulla. There are some good ones.
OTW: So, when did you two first start getting involved with music, outside of just listening to it?
Maria: For me, my family. They all play music, so I was around it. I was always more of a writer. I'd go to my room, super emo, and just write.
Josh. Super emo.
Maria: Then my dad taught me a few chords on the guitar, and I just merged the two.
Josh: Same. Familywise, I have two older brothers who are both really great musicians. One plays drums, the other plays guitar and piano, and out of the womb they were like, "Here's a G chord." I made up my mind, a long, long time ago that music was going to be what I wanted to do.
OTW: Outside of recording, what's your relationship with music?
Josh: For me, I'd say it's equivalent to my relationship with food and water.
Maria: I'd have to agree with that. I can't imagine going a day without listening to it or playing it in some way. Whether it's whistling or humming, there's music in everything. So, I think it's ingrained in people's lives if they only listened.
Josh: I'm pretty sure the Earth turns at an F sharp if I'm not mistaken.
OTW: As far as spectacular things are concerned, the sense of beauty you put into your work also bleeds over into your visual elements. When it comes to making your music videos, are there any particular places you draw inspiration from?
Maria: I think it goes back to the question of all the different places that we've been and seen. I'm really drawn to old Spanish-looking things, textures, golds and reds. I definitely pull that from living in Puerto Rico and going to visit my family in Spain. Also living in LA, it has a ton of Spanish influence in its architecture, its colors, its people. Then, films, all the films that we love. Almodóvar, he's my favorite director. I grew up watching his movies with my dad. In terms of the visual part, in the videos and the pictures, we see that as another form of art that we really love.
Josh: In addition to that, there's also the merch that we also love as another form of art. I think with The Marias we're not going out of our way to make it more than the music. It's naturally more than the music because of where we draw inspiration from, and it creates an overall aesthetic.
Maria: It's like when you watch Almodóvar, Wes Anderson, or any of your favorite directors. The scene itself can be accompanied by music and they lift each other up. It moves you more, seeing it with the music. Individually as well, but I think putting them together moves and inspires me more.
OTW: So, what are some of your favorite movies then?
Maria: The Shape of Water is my newest favorite. I thought it was a great story, it had great music. Phantom Thread was really great. Ladybird.
Josh: We'd seen it before, but we just rewatched The Grand Budapest Hotel. I forgot how much I loved that movie.
Maria: It's so pretty.
Josh: We've recently gone through a big Wes Anderson phase.
Maria: Talk to Her by Pedro Almodóvar is great. All of his are great, so if you haven't seen them, definitely see them.
Josh: We just saw the Selena movie. Great film.
Maria: I saw that when I was little, but he'd never seen it before. He made me turn it off. It was better when I was younger.
OTW: Finally, who are your Ones to Watch?
Josh: Sam Evian
Maria: Mild High Club. Men I Trust.
Josh: Royaljag. Awesome band. Probably right now, my favorite in LA.