The Marías are truly born from cinema — in just 3 minutes, the LA-based indie pop band hypnotizes listeners with their tender, psychedelic vocals and perfect blend of English and Spanish lyrics, in every song. Well amassing over 2 million listeners around the globe and millions of streams, the band breaks boundaries with sounds that are irresistibly alluring and utterly intoxicating.
Led by the power duo María Zardoya and Josh Conway, the band spontaneously came about back in 2016 in the famed Kibitz Room Bar in Los Angeles. “Josh and I met at a place called Kibitz Room. It’s a small little club here in Los Angeles. After that, we started dating and making music together — and The Marías came to be,” María told NBGA. Soon after, the couple were joined by Jesse Perlman on guitar and Edward James on keyboards.
Even just the name The Marías leaves an impression. What started as a joke soon became their ultimate trademark. “It was actually our keyboardist Edward who came up with The Marías,” said Josh. “He said it more or less as a joke at first, and I thought it was actually pretty cool. We brought it to María, and she did not like it. It took her some convincing to do, but eventually, she came around and realized that if her name wasn’t María, it’s still a cool name.”
With the pair both hailing from musical households, they create a refreshing dynamic by integrating cross-cultural harmonies that complement one another. “Both of us come from very different influences,” María explained. “I grew up listening to a lot of Latin music like reggaeton and Latin folk, and R&B and soul. Josh comes from a more psychedelic rock background.” Artists like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Tame Impala, and Queens of the Stone Age are some of many influences that craft their current sound.
Growing up between Puerto Rico and Atlanta, María combines the best of both worlds. “It’s extremely important because both languages and both cultures make up who I am as a person,” María told NBGA. “We would never have it all in English or all in Spanish because I grew up in these dual worlds, so it’s really important to reflect that in the music that we make together. Music is like a universal language. Regardless if you can understand the words that are being said, if you can just feel it, then that’s most important.”
When it comes to the process, their first steps to the perfect song are essentially spontaneous but ever-changing. For the most part, the duo said that the music usually comes first. “There’s one song on the album called Heavy that was inspired by a photograph,” María explained. “Josh found this picture and he was like, ‘Sing a melody that matches this picture.’ Then, he wrote a chord progression to it and it just evolved into this really pretty song on the album. But I would say that’s the only song where the visual aspect of it came first on the album.”
Josh added, “It varies throughout different songs. A lot of the time, we will do something like where I show a picture and she just sings a melody, or maybe there’s no picture at all and she’ll just sing a melody and we go with that. Sometimes, we’re playing guitar or piano for a while and writing a song that way, or there’s a beat. It changes all the time.”
Most recently, the band is releasing their highly-anticipated debut album titled Cinema, coming out on June 25. Cinema pays homage to the early days of writing songs for films.
“Josh and I pretty much started writing music together because a music supervisor reached out to us and asked if we were interested in writing music for film and TV and of course, we were really interested in it,” María said. “He would just send us descriptions of scenes from movies in hopes that we could write a song that matched the scene. We would just write hoping to get a placement on one of these films and nothing got placed, but we were able to use all of that material for Superclean Vol. I & Superclean Vol. II. So, calling the album Cinema was basically like paying homage to those early days of why we started writing music together in the first place.”
María continued, “Cinema comes out on June 25 and it’s an album that we hope from start to finish that listeners can just sort of like transport themselves into a different world for a few minutes and sort of create scenes in their own minds like movies in their own minds.”
The Marías is its own cinematic love story. Inspired by Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, the group intentionally laces red hues in their visuals that tell a story of love, passion, and a hint of temptation.
“It’s definitely intentional,” María told NBGA. “Growing up, red was my mom’s favorite color, and it’s also a symbolic color of love, passion, and luck. From the beginning, I was very heavily influenced by a director named Pedro Almodóvar who has pops of red throughout his movies. I always thought that it was visually striking to have the color in so many different scenes almost as a through-line of the movie itself. So, we were like, ‘How can we incorporate this color into the visuals that we make?’ and it’s continued since then.”
So far, the group dropped two tracks Hush and Un Millón ahead of the album, and both songs evoke opposite yet equally invigorating sounds. While Hush oozes sultry and seduction, the latest single Un Millón is a feel-good summer love song and an ode to nostalgia, inspired by her home back in Puerto Rico. The group experimented with the concept of “if The Marías made a reggaeton-influenced song.”
“[Un Millón] is a song that’s heavily inspired by Puerto Rico, which is where I was born. My mom’s side of the family is from there and I spent a lot of time there throughout my entire life.” María told NBGA. She also explains the meaning behind the lyrics, which were inspired by a beach called Luquillo. “Luquillo is a beach in Puerto Rico that my family and I would go to all the time. [I remember] going there and eating passion fruit ice cream, which is always my favorite. I just have a lot of fond memories of my family at this beach and so I call it out in the song. I think that is my favorite part of the song because of the memories that I had there.”
There’s also been fond memories throughout their careers so far. The group recalled a few memorable moments that reaffirmed their impact and success in the music scene.
“We played our first show outside of Los Angeles in New York and people were singing along to ‘I Don’t Know You.’ That was the first time at a show that people sang along with us,” María recalled. “I remember I choked up and got super teary-eyed. It was just such a great moment. Then, there was another one in Indonesia where the audience was singing along to the Spanish songs. In Indonesia, English is their second language, but for them to also be singing the songs in Spanish was something that was just crazy and beautiful to see and experience.”
“Mine would definitely be the New York show. I don’t think any of us on stage could believe what was happening,” Josh said. “I had to do almost a double-take to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing. And the fact that María’s family that she hadn’t seen for a couple of years, were all there was just really, really powerful. The next one would probably be Indonesia as well and also when we found out we were playing Coachella. I’m born and raised in Los Angeles, so Coachella has always been a very big deal and something on my mind since I was a young teenager. And so finding out that we got Coachella, I was like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’”
If there’s anything to expect in the future from The Marías, the duo says don’t expect anything.
“From the beginning, Josh and I have always been in an agreement to try to make a song that doesn’t sound like something that we’ve just created,” said María. “Obviously, it will because it’s got our influences and our touch on it, but for the most part, we try to approach each new project with a different perspective to try to make it different. I know that it makes it difficult for some fans and some audiences to grasp because some of the new songs are so different from what we did in the past but if you look at Superclean Vol. I & Superclean Vol. II, I feel like they were also so different.I think in terms of what to expect in the future is don’t expect anything because it might not meet your expectations or it might hopefully exceed the expectations.”
Get The Marías new album Cinema on all streaming platforms from June 25th.