Imagine walking into a 70s bar-lounge and sitting in a velvet booth, the air thick with a perfumed nostalgia and smokey intimacy, your head in a spin from the sultry voices and feverishly groovy notes being elicited from the small stage in front of you. Now close your eyes and press play on “I Don’t Know You,” the debut track from the LA-based band The Marías–let it transport you to someplace where sensuality and ecstasy drip from the lips of those around you. Comprised and led by couple María and Josh Conway, The Marías have no qualms about making music that is a sultry, midnight rendezvous of their many tastes, which include jazz, funk, psychedelia, and lounge. With only one song out but their debut EP titled Superclean Vol. I staged for release in the fall, the only real morsel one can get of the band right now is from the members themselves or those who’ve caught them live. Viewers have described their sound to everything from having sex in the 70s to pouring cream into coffee, alone these might seem like arbitrary comparisons–but then you hit play on “I Don’t Know You” again, and it all just oozes out like a fever dream.
Of course, a band that’s led by two lovers is bound to overflow with sensuous sentiments and The Marías essentially began with Conway and María’s relationship. María had just reluctantly left the Atlanta music scene behind and moved to LA, she was playing a solo acoustic set at the Kibitz Room where Conway was running sound. After the show, he came up to her to tell her he really liked her voice and had a studio he wanted to record her in.
“It’s really great to have a studio to use as a pickup line,” Conway says with a laugh. “But regardless of my immediate attraction to her, I really did enjoy her songs and especially her voice and wanted to record her songs. So really, it was a win-win for me…unless of course, she said no.”
María obviously didn’t say no. With María on vocals and Conway on drums, the duo decided to flesh out their sound by adding some of their closest friends and fellow musicians into the mix. New Orleans-native and self-taught blues pianist Eddie Friedlander sits in on keys, LA-bred Jesse “tones-that-can-melt-steel” Perlman on guitar, and Canadian-born and Berklee-trained bassist Carter Lee. With such a close-knit group passing their varying musical appetites onto one another, The Marías sound is a veritable melting pot of bubbling influences that range from D’Angelo and Radiohead to Erykah Badu and Little Dragon.
As a couple recording music together, and especially as a group of friends, María emphasizes the need to mediate their individual ideas with one another in order to create something even better. The couple record mostly everything from their Hollywood Hills home–which María describes as simply magical, while Conway jokes that whenever they write or record, they’re both always naked.
“No, not really,” he chuckles. “But there have definitely been really special moments in writing and recording where the intimacy we capture in the recording comes completely natural because we feel open and comfortable around each other.”
“We just moved here a few months ago, and it’s amazing being able to record in our home,” María adds. “If we have a random idea in the shower, we can just walk a few feet and record it. We’re also surrounded by so much nature, light, and overall good vibes.”
A lot of those songs recorded within the walls of their home have been for the yet titled EP that’ll be released in the coming months. It’s a collection of songs that’s been nearly two years in the making, with some of them written before the band was even together. Conway points to one song in particular, “Déjate Llevar,” which translates to “let yourself go,” was one of the first songs he and María recorded together.
“We recorded probably four versions,” Conway says of the song. “The last one we did at Dave Sitek’s (TV on the Radio) studio where Maria was living for a time.”
“We’ve gone through numerous versions of all of the songs,” María adds. “They started completely different than how you’ll soon hear them. It’s been an evolution–an evolution in our relationship and our overall sound as a result.”
The EP is truly a collection of the band’s personal experiences, distilled and reconfigured into a collective vision that Conway, as the sole producer, puts together. As a result, the band’s studio sound is just as raw, unfiltered, and true to their vision as it can be. Dreamily melodic and hypnotically sensual, there’s a timelessness to their sound that spurs a certain wistfulness–like they have one foot in the past, but are continuously wrestling out new ways to evoke the tiniest of intimacies from their music.
While their experience thus far as an LA band has been rather grand, as a transplant from the Atlanta music scene, María gets the sense that there is a lack of community among artists here–undermined perhaps by the sense of competition that’s emitted from the strong presence of the entertainment industry.
“There’s definitely some of that sense of community here in LA, especially among those who, like myself, moved from somewhere else and also craves that sense of community,” María explains. “But I feel there’s a greater sense of competitiveness and individualistic culture here.”
The Marías themselves are a perfect example of that sentiment, of artists from different parts of the country or world collaborating together to create something so blissful to listen to. When they play live that community comes together in the most spectacular of ways, but María warns anyone who goes to their live shows better come prepared to make out.
“When we played at the Fonda Theatre a few nights ago, apparently a lot of people in the crowd were making out. Aside from that, they can expect a tight show,” María says. “Each player in the band is a master at their instrument. I’m speaking for all the guys. They’re all incredible. They each bring their own unique perspective to the performance. And together, it creates something really special. Also, ladies, you can expect to see some very good-looking, suave guys up there.”
You heard it first here, ladies.
Words: Steven Ward
The Marías will be playing a string of dates around Los Angeles, including a date at the Hi Hat on July 17, tickets available here, and multiple dates at the Freehand Hotel. Their debut EP Superclean Vol. I will be released in the fall, followed by Superclean Vol. II in early 2018. Stay up to date with those releases and LA’s sexiest new band by visiting their website and Facebook.