The Marías are meticulous. Every element of the Los Angeles band is a perfectly cut jigsaw of an immaculate whole: a vibe as vintage as it is fresh and new, and it feels natural, unthinkingly but supremely cool. It’s a masterful aesthetic delivery, so smoothly conveyed it defies the very nature of the package it undeniably is. There’s a formula here — but somehow, nothing about The Marías feels formulaic.
Superclean Vol 1., released in early November, feels like velvet grazed against the skin — chill bumps included. Combining bossa nova, funk, coquettish 60s yé-yé, lounge, and psychedelic dream pop, The Marías offer a sultry pastiche, an instantly likable meld guided by the kind of soft-soothing vocals fit for ASMR gentle whispering. It’s the first EP for the band, a debut built on the seemingly fated meeting of singer María — as an artist, she uses her first name only — and drummer-producer Josh Conway.
María, an Atlanta native originally born in Puerto Rico, was performing solo at The Kibitz Room, a low-key nook in West Hollywood, attached to a deli dating back to the 30s and decked out in 50s decor, as part of a Laurel Canyon Music Revival series. At a friend’s request, Conway filled as sound engineer — something he’d never done before.
“We started writing songs like right after we met,” María says. “After we had written a few songs, we realized that we wanted to do this together, and that we wanted a band, so we asked a few of our close friends if they wanted to play with us and they agreed.”
It all sounds incredibly organic, but it’s that chance meeting that led to so many other lucky coincidences. The two are a couple; their close relationship affords their songwriting an especially intimate quality that, in the music, is palpable. That’s not guaranteed of any romantically paired-up bandmates. Conway creates scores for TV and film, and when he and María began teaming up for projects, they found the process helped them understand what they wanted “people to feel visually and sonically,” María says.
“We wrote two songs for a movie that didn’t end up getting placed, but that was kind of the start, the exercise for us writing to a scene, and then we worked on a few other pitches, and nothing ever happened with them. But in our opinion, great songs came out of doing those pitches, and one of the songs on the EP, ‘I Like It,’ was written as a pitch to a particular scene that didn’t get placed, but lucky for us that song came out of [that],” she says.
Their inaugural foray into co-writing, though, was “Déjate Llevar,” one of two Spanish-language numbers on the EP. Conway wasn’t too familiar with the Latinx market, he admits. María says Conway and the rest of the band, bassist Carter Lee, guitarist Jesse Perlman, and keyboardist Edward James, who contribute backup vocals at live shows, were happy to try something new. She’s not sure if they really know what they’re singing though, she jokes.
But in The Marías’ clear and thoroughly cohesive aesthetic, the lyrics aren’t just spoken, they’re conveyed; they’re felt. The accompanying video, shot on Super 8, is a dip into retro poolside luxury, replete with bandmates playing poker and sipping martinis and wearing tropical shirts. María is red-lipped and drinking from a champagne glass, wearing a thick choker of shimmering rhinestones and round wire-rimmed shades with rose-colored lenses. There are clean, white wicker chairs juxtaposed by busy floral patterns, there’s a joyride in a vintage Mercedes Benz, there are petals floating around María in the water — they are absolutely scrupulous in their presentation.
The films of Pedro Almodóvar, María says, are personally a major influence.
“I grew up watching his films,” she says. “If you were to screenshot any of the movies he’s done, every single picture or every single scene could be a still image and it would just be amazing. I think just the level of detail they put into the films, each and every scene, it’s really pretty amazing, and it just shows the level of passion. I think we pull a lot of inspiration from that.”
Attention to detail is a force of habit for The Marías; it is innate. And sometimes, the serendipity that seems to have followed them from the start gives a boost to their efforts. Before filming the clip for “I Don’t Know You,” the lead track with a nuanced 60s bossa nova lounge feel slowed to languidity, María happened to see a red velvet couch tossed to the curb in Conway’s father’s neighborhood.
She knocked on the door, the owner asked her in; she could have the couch, and then some. His late wife, actress and dancer Zina Bethune (who starred in Martin Scorsese’s first film), had amassed a beautiful wardrobe — and it became the core of the wardrobe for “I Don’t Know You.”
“He was starting to sort through everything,” she says. “He really wanted the pieces to go to somebody who would appreciate them.”
With little-to-no filming budget, the gifted (“he gave it to us for nothing,” she says) clothing was a boon to creating the opulence pictured: Fur outerwear, a leopard coat included, a red velvet beret that’s striking against María’s dark bob and all-black outfit. That their guitarist’s dad’s house is especially gorgeous helped, too.
“We just loved it, because it has the Spanish tile out back and a lot of greenery, and just had a lot of character,” she says.
Red is a recurring motif: It also plays a significant role in the video for “Only in My Dreams.” Pops of the bold hue are pitted against a wintery landscape, adding a subtle visual drama to the sedated, gauzy ballad.
Superclean — a phrase Conway says he finds himself saying frequently now in reference to all of the Marías’ visuals — is of course only the first installment; the EP is volume one of two that will form a full-length album.
As if basking in the band’s world — The Marías is truly a complete realm — through these six songs and the corresponding visuals wasn’t enough, there’s merch as well, from velvet chokers to snazzy bolo ties and shiny tees, all wholly unified within their Superclean aesthetic. Unsurprisingly, the rose-tinted glasses are already sold out.
The Marías make their New York debut at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right on Monday, December 18 at 8 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.