The Marias
[Photo by: Ashley Seryn]

The Marías formed from a mutual appreciation for both film and music. Born in Puerto Rico, María Zardoya, who prefers to be addressed solely by her first name, met producer and L.A. native Josh Conway back in 2015 when she first moved to L.A. from her family home in Atlanta, aspiring to become a musician. They soon began creating songs for movie scenes and TV shows, using some sort of visual aid to help them envision what the track would sound like. That soon blossomed into a relationship and a plethora of songs, which they decided to release as a musical group.

2017 saw the release of their debut EP, Superclean Vol. I, followed by Superclean Vol. II the following year, with guitarist Jesse Perlman and keyboardist Edward James rounding out the band. What helped secure the group a devoted fanbase was the idea of having songs in both English and Spanish, something important to María. “It’s been a very natural decision,” she says, which best describes the music: strong, captivating and natural. This allowed many listeners to relate and feel represented in the ever-expanding music industry. 

Read more: Get Better Records is a label as well as a vibrant community for artists

Come 2021, the band have signed with Atlantic Records and are releasing their first full-length, Cinema, out June 25. Each track invites the listener to create imagery in their minds, acting as an escape from the devastating year of 2020 that’s only now beginning to ease up. Talking with Alternative Press, María and Conway share their musical beginnings, what keeps them bonded in both the band and their relationship and their ode to film.

You can listen to Cinema and read an exclusive interview with the band below.

The name of the album is Cinema, which relates to the idea of film, and the band owe a lot to that concept. Can you describe how the title came about?

MARÍA ZARDOYA: I was on a walk, and for some reason, it just popped into my head. Like, “What if we call the album Cinema and pay tribute to those early days of us writing for film and TV?” Because the Marías wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for those opportunities. It’s really a tribute to the conception of the Marías. The title is also spelled the same and means the same in English and Spanish. When we were trying to figure out a title for the album, I was like, “Well, should it be in English or Spanish.” Both of these languages are part of who I am. I grew up speaking both languages. We have songs in both languages. I think cinema is the perfect middle ground.

Speaking of having songs in both English and Spanish, is there a process in determining which track will be sung in which language? It’s often said that everything sounds more meaningful in Spanish as opposed to its English translation.

MARÍA: When singing in Spanish, it just comes from a different place, and writing in Spanish, but I think for us from the beginning, it’s been a very natural decision. It’s not even really a decision or a subconscious thing, whether the song is going to be an English or Spanish. It’s never a decision where Josh and I are like, “OK, this is going to be in English, and this is going to be in Spanish.” It’s never forced either way. I think it’s just what works best for the specific melody. It usually happens at the same time; the lyrics appear with the melody. At least so far, that’s how it’s happened.

The band refer to Radiohead, Tame Impala and Selena as some of its influences. How does everyone in the band work together with all these separate artists playing a role in what the Marías will sound like?

MARÍA: For Josh and I, what came before the music was our relationship, and with that, you need patience and understanding. We were embracing each other’s differences because we were raised in completely different parts of the U.S. I was raised in the Bible Belt; he was raised in Los Angeles. My parents are Latin, and his parents come from a Jewish family. We embraced those different parts of ourselves, so when we sat down to make music, it was the same way. Even though we had very different influences growing up, we understood each other’s perspectives. At the same time, we’re pushing each other, and I think that’s what makes music special for us. [It’s] the fact that we do love each other, and we do understand each other on a deep level—the music is just another layer of that.

JOSH CONWAY: The fact that we’re in a relationship and also roommates, business partners and dog owners brings that level of understanding. At first, there was a bit of a learning curve to juggle everything, but now it’s all the same.

The band released a few tracks, along with music videos, during 2020, both of which are not appearing on the album. How did this choice come about?

MARÍA: I think 2020 was an interesting year for everyone. We were making music during that time to cope with everything that was happening in the world [and] we agreed that the songs created last year would be independent from anything else that we’ve created with a different mindset. We wanted to see these ideas through and release them for the world to listen to, even though they were separate from the big project, being Cinema.

CONWAY: We already had some songs that would be on Cinema written before we even wrote some of those songs. “bop it up!” and “Care For You” were two ideas that we were originally thinking about putting on Cinema. We finished them sooner and realized that the styles didn’t quite fit with what we were looking for on our debut, so we decided to release them as an A-side/B-side instead.

Would you say there’s a narrative to go along with the album, or is each song telling its own movie or its own scene and you want to see what the listener thinks about or imagines when they’re listening to a certain song?

MARÍA: What you just said is how we approached it. For the project as a whole, we wanted it to sound like a movie, but we approached each song independently. Each song has its own scene or its own movie in a way. We just wanted it to read as a movie, but once it’s out, it will be up to everyone to decide what that is for themselves.

There’s a bittersweet track, “Fog As A Bullet,” that stood out to me. Can you talk about the inception of that song?

MARÍA: Well, that song came about because of the death of Kobe Bryant. A couple of days prior to when that happened, I was just in our living room, looking at the nice little view that we have of the hills, and it was really foggy. When the fog is there, it just makes the world look softer, almost as if there’s a different lens over your eyes, and I thought it was just so pretty, so beautiful. Then two days later, it was that same exact fog that also brought death to a lot of people, so it’s just like, “How can something so beautiful cause so much destruction?”

It was the start of 2020, and being in L.A. when that happened, there was collective mourning. Shortly after that, the fires happened and then the pandemic, so I think that was the start of this shared mourning. I wrote that at Josh’s dad’s house in Josh’s childhood room. I was there by myself, sitting on the bathroom floor, just singing the song, and I thought, “This is so sad, but it’s how I feel.” I feel like it’s how a lot of people felt and still feel right now.

You can read the full interview in issue 395, available here.