An Interview with The Marías

Photo by Aili Hauptmann.

Los Angeles-based band The Marías has taken the underground music scene by storm this year. With only two extended plays (EPs) out, the up-and-coming group has reached more than one million monthly listeners on Spotify and earned a Coachella debut earlier last spring.

It’s hard to place The Marías under a specific genre—lead singer María’s Spanish crooning over jazz ambient-fused instrumentals produces a unique and soothing concoction of sound. The band’s new release, Superclean, Vol. IIoozes with jangly guitar riffs and piercing beats, ranging from the melancholic “ABQ” to the saucy rant on “Clueless.” 

María, a film major in college, takes an interdisciplinary approach to producing music. Her love for film works harmoniously with her intuitive musical ability, which she first noticed when she was making up songs on the piano as a child.

I got to sit down with María and the rest of the band—which includes drummer and producer Josh Conway, keyboardist Edward James, trumpetist Gabe Steiner, bassist Carter Lee, and guitarist Jesse Perlman—before their sold out show at The Loft last Friday night. We discussed performance jitters, tour essentials, and the creative process behind their two-part EP project, Superclean.

The Triton: What’s your creative process?

Josh: Right before we go to bed, right when we wake up. Whenever we have an idea, we go right into it. Every song starts differently and ends differently. Each song has a different journey. We don’t try to force anything; if we aren’t feeling a song in that moment, we just put it aside, but won’t delete it.

María: It just might not be the time. Maybe there’s one [song] we’ll listen to a year from now and get all sorts of ideas.

The Triton: I’ve noticed the common theme of red, velvet chairs in the EP covers. What’s the story behind that?

María: A lot of the first songs that Josh and I wrote were pitches for films, which is why a couple [of the songs from Vol. I] have the quality of being able to be in a movie. So we got the idea of shooting the cover in a movie theater. For Vol. II, we wanted to keep the red, velvet theme and still not see anyone’s face, even though you can see my body, to keep it elusive.

Josh: We found a red couch on Craigslist and shot it at my dad’s house, which is also where we had recorded a lot of our songs.

The Triton: How’d you feel about performing at Coachella with only one EP out?

María: It was my first festival ever so it was super exciting.

Edward: Josh and I have been going to Coachella since 2009, so it was cool to be going back six years later.

Josh: Yeah, we were born and raised in LA, so every February to April, everyone is just talking about the Coachella lineup that came out. We were in bands at the time and would always say, “Maybe we’ll just be on it this time.” Never were. [laughs] We found out about it in November last year, so it was six months in advance. We had to keep it a secret which was really tough. There were bands that we knew that had told us that they were playing at Coachella last year but we still had to keep it a secret.

Edward: When I found out I really wanted to tell my mom and dad and girlfriend, but they stressed the secrecy thing so I tried not to tell anyone. And when I got home, my roommate was like, “Dude congrats, Josh told me, man, you’re performing at Coachella.” [laughs]

The Triton: Do you prefer bigger crowds or more intimate settings?

Josh: We all might vary on this, but I prefer bigger crowds because I get more nervous when there are people that I know in the crowd, and those tend to be intimate.

Jesse: We are still such a new band that I feel that the bigger shows are the more exciting ones.

María: I prefer intimate crowds because there’s less pressure and it feels more conversational. Whereas in big shows, it’s harder to connect with the audience since there are so many people.

Carter: I think being able to do both as a band is really important. Being able to play to like 12 or 12,000 people is really essential. So, all of them.

The Triton: What’s your favorite song to perform live?

Carter: “ABQ

Edward: “Déjate [Llevar],” just because it’s the last song and we just go ham.

Jesse: I also love that song, it’s fun to play on guitar.

María: I like “Basta Ya.”

Josh: “ABQ,” I like watching Carter standing back and vibing.

Gabe: “Basta Ya,” definitely fun to play live.

Edward: If I played trumpet, I would say “Ruthless” because every time Gabe comes out, everyone always screams. Anytime he does anything, everyone always screams.

María: So many people come up to us after the show like “The trumpeter is my favorite María.” [laughs].

The Triton: My favorite song off this new EP would have to be “ABQ.” What’s the story behind that one?

Josh: That was done in March on tour. That’s the only song we’ve made remotely, on tour. It started on GarageBand when we were on the road. I just remember being on my computer, really bored and just adding and adding onto this track, and it just got bigger and bigger. Then María started adding vocals to it, and it was pretty great. She was underneath this blanket in the van and she got her headphone mic on and she was saying, “Can you put the window down it’s getting warm, and can you keep your voices down I’m trying to push record,” and it was mainly gibberish with a melody, but I loved it because it was very true to our environment.

Jesse: I remember the song was first made when we were coming out of Albuquerque, but you were working on it all tour. I remember tracking guitars in Toronto.

Edward: I remember [when] the song was first made we were driving around and freaking out in a huge parking lot like, “OMG this is amazing!” María made an analogy that it sounded like the galaxy, very ethereal.

María: Josh works on a lot of beats when we’re on tour and this one really stuck out to me, which made it very special.

The Triton: Lastly, do you have any tour essentials?

Josh: Pillows, we need our pillows.

María: I bring essential oils. I have a miniature aromatherapy thing that I plug in and I have a whole lot of essential oils. It reminds me of being in my own room and I need to feel like I’m in my own space.

The Marías are now on tour with Triathalon. You can see their tour dates here.

Heather Lim is a Staff Writer for the Arts and Culture section of The Triton.