Cool, lush, and sultry, The Marías’ distinctive sound is emblematic of a timeless sensuality. Fusing jazz, lounge, funk, and other vintage sounds, the L.A.-based band sings songs of love and longing that transcend genre. Their music’s eclectic nature bridges — and reimagines — ’90s indie pop with the psychedelic sound of the late ’60s and early ’70s, all while incorporating contemporary rock and electronic influences. Add the eponymous lead singer María’s airy voice, and the collective Marías bring renewed nostalgia to the West Coast indie music scene.
The Marías’ music crosses cultures and languages unselfconsciously. Lead singer María Zardoya, who prefers to be referred to as either the mononymous María or as one of the Marías, was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Her father is from Spain. When we spoke over the phone, María talked about her experiences growing up in a Latin American neighborhood. “Spanish is my first language, and I began learning English in preschool,” she recalled. “So I was pretty much raised reading and speaking both languages.”
To María, writing bilingual music is an intuitive choice, as opposed to an intentional, political one. “Maybe it is a conscious choice for other artists to sing songs in Spanish and showcase another side of their culture,” she said. “But it just comes natural for me to write music in both languages, because that’s who I am.” In the context of a divided national conversation about identity, the casually bilingual nature of The Marías subtly represents and helps give voice to the majority of Americans who continue to embrace our diverse, multicultural demographics.
María writes lyrics in the language that best carries the tone of a melody or the harmony of a chord progression. “It also depends on the feeling of the song,” said María. “Spanish comes from a different part of me; it’s a different feeling and a different part of my brain, almost.”
On stage, María is the voice and soul of The Marías; backstage, Josh Conway is the “María” of production and engineering. The couple met at Canter’s Kibitz Room in Los Angeles: María was performing an acoustic set as Conway, an L.A. native, filled in as sound engineer for the night. He told her he liked her voice, and he invited her to record music at his studio. They’ve been making music ever since. “We know each other very well and are very comfortable around each other,” said María. “We are not afraid to share ideas with each other, and it translates into our music.”
Together, their complementary artistic strengths and inspirations merge into a symbiosis of language, culture, and genre. Their apartment doubles as their studio, where they collaborate closely and serendipitously on their musical love child. “We rarely create music in a structured environment,” said María. “Our songs usually start from a small idea in thin air.”
The song “Cariño,” for instance, started off as a melody María sang as she hopped into the shower. Inspired, Conway encouraged her to keep singing as he started to mix an accompanying soundtrack. The resulting song embodies their signature style: a blend of atmospheric, nostalgic instrumentals featuring a groovy bass, jazzy trumpet, and flippant yet moody wah-wah pedal. Although Conway doesn’t sing, Maria’s chorus is a bilingual confession of the couple’s passionate admiration for one another: “Cariño, eres un amor / There’s something about you, babe.”
The rest of The Marías are all male and made up of the couple’s close friends: Carter Lee (bass, vocals), Jesse Perlman (lead guitar, vocals), and Edward James (keyboard, synthesizer, vocals). The band formed in late 2016 and has since released two EPs, Superclean Vol. I and Superclean Vol. II.
4•1•1 | The Marías perform Saturday, May 18, 9 p.m., at SOhO Restaurant and Music Club (1221 State St.). Call 962-7776 or see sohosb.com.