My mom used to tell me that what is meant to be, will always find its way. The story of The Marías is one that gives meaning to these words; it makes you believe in fate. After moving from Atlanta to Los Angeles, María was singing in different venues. Josh Conway, the band’s the co-founder, was at one of her shows one night, which is how they met. “I wasn’t looking for love, but it found me”, María reveals to us.
The Marías was born after they decided to start making music together. The unique, sensual and dreamy aura that surrounds their songs caught people’s attention around the world. Even though they never thought about how their sound should be, their distinct style is the result of the chemistry between them that made “the writing process very fluid”. They talk about love, their relationship or past experiences. For María, “where it gets interesting is when we write lyrics in a stream of consciousness – and we really get to know each other’s subconscious thoughts through this process”. We talk with them about this as well as the writing process of their new single, Jupiter, released just a few days ago.
Sometimes, fate brings us things we didn’t expect… just like the day you both met at María’s show at the Kibitz Room in Los Angeles. How did things go for you to be where are you now?
Josh: After the Kibitz Room, we arranged a time to record at the studio where I was working at the time. We didn’t record anything, instead, we just hung out and went on a walk around the neighborhood. When we met up again, we started writing and recording together. One thing led to the next and we had gone on a trip to Joshua Tree, where we recorded a demo of I Don’t Know You. We posted it on Soundcloud, and Chris Douridas from KCRW expressed how much he loved the song and so he started playing it on the radio.
People started calling in to find out who made the song, and that’s when we realized we should probably turn this small idea into an actual project. From there, we formed the band and continued to write and record more music. Next thing we knew, we had a handful of songs we felt were ready to be released.
María: Even though I definitely believe in fate, I also think that you have to be clear about what you want and go after it. When I moved to Los Angeles from Atlanta, I promised myself that I’d work as hard as I could. I left everything behind, so in my mind, I had to make it worthwhile. I started playing in any venue that would let me so I could explore the music scene here and get to know the different neighborhoods and meet other musicians. The night I played at the Kibitz Room, I played for maybe five people. But that was the night I met Josh. I also wasn’t looking for love, but it found me. That’s where I believe in fate. But it was my determination that brought me there.
Each person is unique and has a personal background. For example, María, you grew up listening to a lot of Latin music, but you also love R&B. On the other side, Josh, you say you grew up listening to The Beatles – and more on the psychedelic side. And, of course, you also have shared influences like Tame Impala or D’Angelo. How was The Marías’ personal and hypnotic sound born?
Josh: There was never a time in which we sat down and said, ‘What should our sound be?’ The writing process was always, and still is, very fluid and true to what we like and enjoy listening to. I guess ‘personal’ and ‘hypnotic’ are just simply in our DNA.
I think there’s a new generation of artists emerging that gravitates around lots of different styles and don’t like being defined or labelled under a certain genre. Do you think this is the result of a more global and connected world?
Josh: I don’t think they don’t like being defined or labelled; I think it’s just difficult for listeners to define or label them because of how many different influences the artist may have. And the result of that is 100% because of a more global and connected world. Anyone with Wi-Fi can look up almost anything that’s ever existed. I would imagine that twenty or thirty years ago, it would’ve been much harder to find some ‘60s instrumental psychedelic bossa nova music made in Japan (I just made that up, but I can guarantee it exists somewhere on the Internet).
My point is that we are exposed to such a wider variety of music, compared to the days when the only music you heard was the same twenty songs being played by your local DJ for a couple hours a day. The breakthrough artists were the ones that sounded different from the rest because they were probably the ones in the record stores trying to find music that wasn’t on the radio. Like some ‘60s instrumental psychedelic bossa nova music made in Japan.
You have two EPs: Superclean Vol I, and, Superclean Vol II. Was the initial idea to split the concept into two EPs, or after Superclean Vol I, you felt the need to record a second part?
Josh: Having two volumes was always the plan. Before volume 1 was conceived, we had about ten to fifteen songs. Some of them fully finished, some just ideas, but because we were a new band and no one knew about us yet, we thought it would be smarter to only release the five or six best/most finished songs first. Mostly because of people's attention spans – ours included. When you’re a brand new artist, it’s hard enough to get people to listen to one song all the way through, let alone five, let alone twelve!
Will we get a Vol III, or is there something new coming?
Josh: There will not be a Vol III, however, we are very much in the recording process of a new album.
Both of you write the lyrics of the songs. But in addition to working partners, you are also in a romantic relationship. How do you manage this? Do you write about yourselves?
Josh: Personally for me, I used to think I had to wear different hats at different times. Boyfriend hat, business partner hat, writing partner hat, etc. But at this point, we know each other so well that whether we’re writing, brainstorming music video ideas, taking our dog on a walk or watching a movie, it’s all one and the same. And yes, sometimes we write about ourselves, other times we write about a relationship that may not be ours but speaks about ideas that do ring true to us.
María: From the beginning, our songs have been a fully collaborative process between the two of us – from writing lyrics, melodies, chord progressions, production ideas to editing videos and coming up with more conceptual ideas. All of this stems from our personal experiences, both past and present. Since we’re so open and honest with each other, it makes it easy for us to express ourselves artistically around each other. Sometimes the songs are about our relationship, but other times they’re about past relationships and heartbreaks. Where it gets interesting is when we write lyrics in a stream of consciousness – and we really get to know each other’s subconscious thoughts through this process.
Do you feel being in love with each other fosters your creativity? Do you fuel each other creatively?
Josh: Definitely. When you love someone, there’s this constant, underlying desire to impress them. And we’re always trying to impress each other, creatively or not. I think that helps a lot because by doing that, we inevitably push ourselves and each other to do better.
María: We’re both so different that we constantly learn from each other and also admire each other’s differences. I’m always in awe with him, and that inspires me to be a better artist. When it comes to music, our differences really compliment each other so well. Josh thinks more musically, and I think more conceptually.
You have multiple sensual and captivating tracks that take the listener to a dreamlike world. María, you explained that in a concert, two people started kissing and taking off their clothes, and that was a shocking yet beautiful image. Is there another reaction that you can’t forget because of its allure? What do you want to convey with your songs?
María: One reaction that I’ll surely never forget was during our first performance in Mexico City. There was a guy in the very front row just inches from the stage, and as soon as we started playing Only in My Dreams, he started sobbing. He had his hands over his heart and face turned toward the sky. It wasn’t a sort of sobbing that was desperate and sad. I started crying when I saw that, and we both just shared this tearful magical moment together. That was the first moment that I realized how a song we write in our bedroom can affect someone so deeply.
María, you are the only one in the band that speaks Spanish because of your Puerto Rican roots. However, you have songs like Cariño or Basta Ya, which are in Spanish. You say that in the songwriting process, the language comes as a natural decision. Other singers with Latin roots such as Cuco also tend to use both English and Spanish. Do you think that using both languages helps people with a similar background to relate to you?
María: Definitely. In a country where English is the primary language, speaking and singing in Spanish helps unify us culturally. It serves as a form of identity. I’m grateful that my parents forced and inspired us to speak Spanish growing up because I’ve retained the language. With my dad, we didn’t have a choice because he barely spoke English. When I sing in Spanish, it comes from a different part of me than when I sing in English.
Not only your tracks are captivating, but your visuals, videos and even merch with a retro dreamy aura are too. Deeply inspired by film directors like Pedro Almodóvar and Wes Anderson, your videos – as the one for the cover of the iconic Britney Spears song Baby One More Time – have such a cinematic feeling. Is this a response to your other artsy interests? Or is it also a way of unifying your image as a band?
María: It’s definitely a response to my deep interest in film and visuals in general. In some of my favorite films, the directors set the mood and tone of a scene using both striking visuals and music. We wanted our videos to do the same.
And talking about this cover, I was shocked. Why did you decide to create it?
Josh: In January 2019, we decided to go to Joshua Tree for two weeks to write and record music. We rented an Airbnb and brought our whole studio. Once everything was set up and we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere with a studio and a daunting task of writing the next album, we got writers’ block. After a few days of dabbling in the studio and playing board games, María had the idea of recording a cover to get the juices flowing. I asked, what song? And she said, Baby One More Time. Once she said it, I immediately heard how it could sound in my head, and a few hours later, it was done. And sure enough, that got the juices flowing; in the days after that, we wrote and recorded Hold It Together and Jupiter, our new single. 
And finally, what are your plans for the upcoming months? Is Spain involved in them somehow?
Josh: Definitely not traveling anywhere for the foreseeable future, although had COVID-19 not blown up, we’d probably go on a vacation once we’re done with the album. But for now, the album is in full swing.