Sound and Visual Feelings; an Interview with LA Band, The Marías

California band, the Marías have released their first EP, Superclean, Vol. I, last fall, and are getting ready to release the next volume later this year. The band is also touring around the U.S.

The band originated towards the end of 2016, by Josh Conway and Maria, the writers and producers of the group, who then recruited bassist Carter Lee, guitarist Jesse Perlman and keyboardist Edward James. In their Facebook page, they actually describe their music as “a psychedelic lovechild of Conway and Maria.”

The band shares what has influenced their music, like the fact that they live in LA and are exposed to the Hollywood Hills commune, as well as what other artistic outlets have influenced them, and what we should be expecting from their next EP.

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Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca. Maria performing at the Lowbrow Palace.

Aimée Santillán: If you can just start by just telling us a little bit about yourself; how you got into the band?

María: So we started about a year a half ago, I would say, and Josh [Conway] and I met at, like, different getcues, running sounds for me at a show. And then we started dating after that and writing music, and when we realized that we wanted to, you know, actually do shows and make it a more live performance, then we enlisted our best, uh-

Josh Conway: Recruits.

María: Our crème of the crop [everybody laughs] and yeah, it’s been us ever since.

AS: How did you guys get into music? I know that Josh, you’re more like a producer, you do a lot of TV stuff, how did you end up in music?

JC: Yeah, I do produce on the side, more so before The Marías were a thing, just because of time now, it’s tough. But, yeah, I started with music pretty young, just playing in bands, and pretty much all of [the other band members] have been- my friend Jessie [Perlman] here- since they were very, very young.

M: Since they were ten.

JC: And, yeah, one thing led to the next and I started producing and scoring some stuff for film. And, really all of that stopped once this became a thing, that I realized that’s what I wanted to do.

Edward James: My dad wanted to switch phone carriers [everybody laughs], one Christmas when I was five, and part of the package deal was a little Yamaha keyboard for switching to AT&T, so I got a free keyboard and that’s when I started.

 

Carter Lee: My dad was a bass player and I always wanted to play guitar, but they wouldn’t give me a guitar, so eventually I had to settle and start playing one of his old basses, and really liked it, you know, getting into it. Then I kinda- I started a little bit later, I think, than all these guys, I started when I was in high school. And then I really took to it and ended up going to college for music through playing bass and stuff.

Jesse Perlman: For me, also been playing music since I was very little. I started playing drums, and then started playing with Josh, and then moved to guitar, started taking lessons for guitar, still take lessons, like twelve years later.

M: I grew up with music. My dad plays guitar, and my brother, and, like, pretty much everybody in my family. I was always more, like a writer. I would, like, write, and then when my dad taught me a few chords on the guitar, I sort of merge the two, like my love for writing and music.

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Photo by Aimée Santillán. The Marías performing at the Lowbrow Palace.

AS: So you two, [Conway and María], are a couple, right? How does that play into when you write music, when you produce music, if at all?

M: In my opinion, it makes it a lot easier, because we can just be open and honest if one of us doesn’t like something, we’ll just be like, ‘yeah, I don’t like that.’ It’s just, for us, being in a relationship makes the creative process better.

JC: Much more open.

M: And it has taught me how to be more open, in terms of the songwriting process.

JC: Same. Taught me how to be much more open. I had never really been used to collaborate, like songwriting, like what Maria and I do today, and there’s a little learning curve in the early stages, but now it’s just very open. We have our studio in our living room of the apartment, and we eat some eggs while we record some vocals, and we make it work.

AS: I read in an interview that you guys wanted the Marías to create feeling to your audience through visualization and sound, how do you think you have managed to do that?

M: We love both. I, personally, am a very visual person, and, for me it enhances seeing something and then hearing, whether is like a song or just hearing something, and vice versa. For me, a lot of us are super visual, and it goes hand and hand, the visual and the music and the sonic part of it.

 

AS: As far as the next EP, the second volume, do you have the release date yet?

M: It’s a surprise. It’s gonna be in the spring.

JC: We don’t have a release date yet, but we’re looking around early summer.

AS: And is it gonna follow from the first volume?

JC: It’s gonna be a lot worse.

[Everybody laughs]

JC: I’d say musically- even throughout volume one we were changing, like from, “Dejate Llevar” is the first song Maria and I wrote together, and-

M: Like five versions of them.

JC: You can tell the difference between that and “Basta Ya,” I like it, which we wrote later one. So, even in just the Volume 1. itself there’s progression, you can expect more progression, in that regard. But we’re not at that point yet where we want to go, like so weird. We still love pop music; we still love to be accessible; we still love what we’ve always love; it’s just doing it different ways.

AS: And, Maria, you have Puerto Rico roots, right?

M: I was born in Puerto Rico. All of my mom’s side of the family is from Puerto Rico, and then my dad’s side of the family is from Spain. And, I grew up in Atlanta, and I moved to LA two years ago.

AS: How do you describe that heritage coming into your music?

M: I see it as just one and the same. The Spanish songs and the English songs are one and the same, like I wouldn’t have one without the other. The first song I ever wrote was in Spanish, and I grew up listening to a lot of Latin music, so it just kind of is. I wouldn’t have one without the other.

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Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

AS: So, Spanish is very close to you?

M: Yeah, it was my first language.

JC: She still speaks Spanish to her dad everyday.

M: I try every day. [Laughs]

AS: Do you think you can better express yourself more in Spanish or English?

M: It’s different. I think in Spanish it’s easier to write lyrics for some reason. I think it comes from a different place. It feels different, like, singing in Spanish and singing in English, but I like both.

AS: [To the rest of the band] Do you guys know Spanish?

JC: No. I’d say I know it more than most, aside from Maria. I can understand it a little bit more, and I can speak it okay. I’m working on it.

M: But they sing in Spanish.

AS: And do you guys know what you’re singing about?

[Everybody laughs]

JC: Actually, funny story, “Dejate Llevar” was the first song we wrote together, and I didn’t know, obviously at the time- she just had these Spanish lyrics and then later one, if you listen to the lyrics, it was a very touching moment in our relationship. It was funny because, when we finished it, I was like, ‘Oh, cool, great song! What’s it about by the way?”

[Everybody laughs]

M: I think that also gives me freedom because he doesn’t know what I’m saying and they don’t know what I’m saying, so I get to say-

EJ: Say whatever you want.

M: [Laughs] Say whatever I want.

EJ: I’m open to learning it. I’ve been trying for 20 years. [Laughs]

M: We’re going to Atlanta to spend time with my dad for a couple of days. After that, you’ll know Spanish. [Laughs]

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Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

AS: Do you feel [the fact that they don’t know Spanish] influences at all in how you guys play music together?

 

M: No. I think because, for me is like, you can switch back and forth between English and Spanish in sentences, it’s like one language, kind of, I guess, so, playing with them, it doesn’t feel any different playing the Spanish songs and the English songs, because I feel that even though they don’t know the language, they still feel the song. The melody and the chord progressions, just everything, they just feel the song. Because we listen to a lot of Portuguese music, and we don’t know what they’re saying, when we hear the song, you just feel it.

EJ: My favorite song of ours is “Basta Ya” and I don’t what any of the words are.

JP: But you know what it means.

M: There have been some people, like from Indonesia that have liked the Spanish songs, and they don’t know Spanish. So, I think it’s just really cool that the way that our group is made up that not everybody understands the Spanish songs, I think it’s universal, that not everybody is gonna understand them, maybe not everybody is gonna understand the English, but I think that beyond that, it just comes to it, just the music part of it.

EJ: It could be more accessible, in that regard, for people. International music as a genre, not understanding the language necessarily, but connecting in a more visceral level.

JC: When we listen to Antonio Joman, he’s Portuguese, obviously I have no idea what he’s saying, but I think that not knowing what he’s saying makes me feel more about what he’s saying, because I guess it paints a picture in my head about what he could be saying, based on his tone and how close he is to the mic. That time of thing. It’s the melody and everything about it. I feel like maybe even knowing what he said would detract from that in a way.

 

AS: I also read that you guys are inspired by films by Pedro Almodóvar, what kind of inspiration do you get from him?

M:I grew up watching his films, because of my dad. My dad and him grew up around the same time, so they were very relevant for him. And I always thought they were just super weird, but then I revisited them a couple of years ago, and I just fell in love all over again. And I think just, like, what we were talking about, about the visuals and the sounds and the music, like the music that he picks with his scenes is just perfect, and each scene is like a picture you can screenshot, like any scene is an amazing picture. So, I think just that level of detail and that level of, like, he came up with that in his head, and made it amazing is super inspiring, that a human can do that. It’s like, if you put five humans together [signaling the band], okay. [Everybody laughs]

JC: I think something, even like film, really anything, even food or fashion, anything that you see or sense in some way can influence. For instance, watching a Pedro Almodóvar movie, you’ll watch it and feel inspired and you’ll write something that may not directly feel related to it, but it was the inspiration.

M: Because it made you feel something.

JC: You know, music doesn’t have to inspire music, is what I’m saying. It can be anything. I think that’s a really awesome thing about art in general.

M: I think for the most part, like music does inspire music, but the songs are the idea and how they’re started isn’t from another song, but a film, or an interaction with somebody or a fight or whatever.

JC: There’s been a few times when we’ve written- There’s been a few times when we’ve gotten pitches for certain shows and films where they need a song, an original song, in 48 hours or whatever, and they’ll send us a scene, or a synopsis of the scene, and that’s been a lot of fun, writing wise, because one of them was like a guy walking into a casino and seeing a girl at the other end, and then he’s got to- I don’t know, some kind of very gambling-James Bond type of deal, and they painted a whole picture without a song, and then you immediately have to have the song ready to go. That’s just a like another fun way to experience writing, creating in general.

AS: Why did you guys choose music?

PJ: I had no choice.

[Everybody laughs]

EJ: Music chose me. My dad said it was the only thing I would have going on for me. [Everybody laughs]

JC: At one point, when I was very young, I kinda wanted to be- [to the band] I don’t know if you guys know this- I wanted to be stuntman.

Everybody: Wow!

JC: I went to a class once, and I saw- I was like eight- and I saw all these guys jumping through windows, like, out like six stories, and I was like, ‘maybe not.’

[Everybody laughs]

M: Yeah, I think there wasn’t a choice.

CL: For me, it was the only thing that I got into. I tried to draw; I tried to paint. I tried to create in a lot of different ways and it just wasn’t taking, then you get into music, and you start to create with other people, like-minded people, and there’s nothing better than that.

AS: Have you tried anything else other than music?

M: Yeah, I really like film, so I dabbled with, like, photography and video, and I’ve tried drawing and painting, but not- the visual aspect, I’m not very good.

JC: I beg to differ. She’s pretty good.

M: I’m not very good. But, yeah, I think that all around I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, but music is what I like most.

By Aimée Santillán

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