Gliding through warm water in the furthest-back parts of your mind until submerging completely in it, immersed in the reflections of stars– there’s something about The Marías and their seamless, psychedelic pop-soul-funk that creates waves in your soul, blending the ocean into a painted sky across the horizon. “It’s like if you were in a pool, but it were the temperature of a hot tub, so you could swim through it at night and see the mist rising into the air,” says lead singer María, “it’s all the senses that just feel good and look… beautiful.”
Kicking off their tour with a show at The Loft at UCSD, The Marías led the crowd through the tracks from their newest release, Superclean, Vol. II, and further back in their discography. “We record everything right in our living room,” says drummer and producer Josh Conway, “booking a studio, paying by the hour… that type of deal can sometimes be stressful and halt creativity.” María adds, “it’s just like a camera– it doesn’t matter as much what type you have, it matters more who’s behind the camera and what’s done with it.”
The Marías, consisting of María, Josh, guitarist Jesse Perlman, pianist Edward James, bassist Carter Lee, and trumpet player Gabe Steiner, bring together a mosaic of backgrounds that create the foundation for their distinct style. “I get ski lodge vibes from the stuff we make,” says Carter, “fireplace, rug, all that warmth.” With influences ranging from blues to Spanish rock, each song transports its audience through time. “I lived in New Orleans for some time… I sometimes find myself doing things in live shows that may be derived from stuff I picked up when I was there,” says Edward, “I grew up on the music… when I was in high school, I’d always drive people but they’d constantly have to listen to recordings from, like, the 90’s.”
Superclean, Vol. II is packed with songs that capture the band’s essence. ‘ABQ’ proves to be a consistent favorite with the members– “it’s one of the most out-there songs we’ve put out, so I always look forward to playing it,” says Jesse. “I like ‘Ruthless,’ since it’s been such a long time coming,” María says, “it was written about five years ago and went through, like, ten different versions.” “It’s the song she played at the Laurel Canyon revival show where we met,” Josh adds.
“My favorite is ‘Cariño,’” says Edward, referring to the gentle, jewel-toned ballad, “I don’t really speak Spanish myself, but the song has that transcending quality of music that lets me understand it.”
“My mom’s side of the family is from Puerto Rico, so from that side I get salsa, merengue, even reggaeton,” explains María, “We were obsessed with reggaeton. And then from my dad’s side, I get flamenco, classical guitar, Spanish rock… I can’t name one single artist that I draw inspiration from, but the overall influence from so many is there.”
“I definitely see it, even if some of it is a little subconscious,” agrees Josh, “‘Basta Ya’ and ‘Cariño’ started off with just melodies that María sang, and I think it was the Spanish influence that ultimately made us think the song should be in Spanish. We don’t really choose what’s going to be in Spanish or English, it just happens.”
‘Cariño’ was the first release from Superclean, Vol. II, accompanied by a music video shot between rolling hills and vast fields against red and white backdrops. “I feel like the color red symbolizes sensuality, passion, and also that fiery Latin influence again– like, my mom’s favorite color was red,” María reflects, “that’s why it shows up so much throughout our work. When the song is written, if we visualize something we do a video for it, but if we can’t, we don’t want to…” “Force it,” Josh finishes, “All the videos that have been up have had a very clear vision.” From its red and white outfits to dance moves and dogs, the video for ‘Cariño’ exudes pure love; especially after hearing about Gabe’s encounter with tiny bugs in the field where they recorded as he played the horn, ‘Cariño’ hints that love doesn’t have to be perfect– which is exactly what makes it so beautiful.
The Marías embody the desire to feel. Between vocals bouncing back and forth, soul-strumming guitar and bass lines, and wistful horn solos materializing into cheers from the audience, their collective warmth could melt a glacier. Every object, every note, and every word, is strung together as it comes; everything is purposeful, but nothing is forced. The group has the rare quality of simply clicking into place, both on and off stage, which lets them connect so deeply with such a broad audience. Even with such different backgrounds, their organic creative process lends itself to a unique yet universal story told through each song.
Some stories can only be told by certain people, and The Marías continue to share gems not found anywhere else.
Listen to Superclean, Vol. II and more here.
Interview by Tino Tirado and Arya Natarajan.
Photographs by Aili Hauptmann.