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Photo: Max Ziman
The Marías have released their debut album. Photo: Max Ziman

The Marías release inspired debut album, a loving tribute to film: 'CINEMA'

The Marías are a Los Angeles-based psychedelic-soul group.

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Who are The Marías?

In late 2016, The Marías formed in Los Angeles, created from a sparked romance between key members María (who goes by just her first name) and Josh Conway.

The next year, the group released their debut EP, Superclean Vol. I, a project featuring two of the band’s most beloved hits — “Only in My Dreams” and “I Don’t Know You.”

On June 25, The Marías released their debut album, CINEMA

The Marías are self-described as the “psychedelic-soul lovechild of Puerto Rican-bred, Atlanta-raised” vocalist María, and the native Los Angeles musician Josh Conway. 

The duo write, produce, and record the music by themselves. 

When on stage, The Marías are joined by guitarist Jesse Perlman, keyboardist Edward James, and trumpet player Gabe Steiner: musicians described as their “closest friends.” 

The pop group made themselves known with the aforementioned EP Superclean Vol. I, and its followup, 2018’s Superclean Vol. II, as well as a handful of singles.

The Marías are also a bilingual band, with a collection of songs sung (or partially sung) in Spanish. These songs include “Basta Ya,” “Déjate Llevar,” and the loving ballad “Cariño.” 

The group also makes a point to incorporate a substantial amount of bilingual songwriting on CINEMA. In total, the record features five Spanish-sung or partly bilingual tracks.

The band's tendency to write effectively mood-altering tracks is not a by-chance development. 

Originally, The Marías made music for movies.

“The reason Josh and I started writing music together was because of cinema,” María told Grimy Goods. “We were connected to a music supervisor who would send us requests for music for films. We’d receive a synopsis of a scene, and then we’d write music to it within a couple of days... It taught us how to think like filmmakers.”

The debut album, CINEMA

Foremost, The Marías made a name for themselves for their unique, smooth instrumentation — a collage of influences and cultures — and the dreamy, longing vocals of María herself.

The María-Conway songwriting duo makes for an intimate, inspired and passionate pop, neo-soul and funk project.

CINEMA was announced in April, and was introduced by the single “Hush,” a head-bopping, disco-inspired track with clean bass, an infectious chorus, and strong, driving rhythm reminiscent of the late 70s-style the group takes inspiration from. 

The record opens with the subtle intro, “Just a Feeling” — a gentle soundscape of lone instrumental arrangement. Another moment of slowed, evocative instrumentation is showcased with the mid-tracklist interlude, “Hable Con Ella.”

“Just A Feeling” transitions into the more rhythm-focused pop song “Calling U Back.”

“Calling U Back” features a defiant chorus focusing on personal pursuits, challenges, while the verses see María ruminate on shaky relationships and acquaintances.

“All I Really Want Is You,” is a vivid summer ballad. The track is a loving portrayal from María, where the lead singer reminisces on a romance within the nostalgic setting of a June rainshower. 

Overall, CINEMA is an album that pays homage to the group's origin of providing music for films. 

Similar to how The Marías originally wrote songs to play alongside imagery, the album motions through its tracklist as if a film — each song representing varied scenes and emotions. 

Listeners may take notice of the album’s knack for recurring themes. “To Say Hello” exhibits further themes of summertime as a time of transition, echoing the imagery of “All I Really Want Is You.” 

“I called to say hello / take the summertime to grow,” sings María.

Album singles subsequent to “Hush” are “Un Millón” and “Little by Little,” which both arrived earlier in the month to promote the incoming record. Both singles find The Marías implementing an interest in the same bilingual songwriting.

While both tracks feature Spanish songwriting, “Un Millón” incorporates no English. Instead, the track is built on reggaeton-inspired rhythm and instrumentation that pairs seamlessly with María’s Spanish-sung verses and chorus. 

In an interview with Grammy.com, María elaborated on the inspiration behind “Un Millón.” 

“Being from Puerto Rico, I grew up listening to reggaeton,” María said. “The lyrics are inspired by places I would go when I was little in Puerto Rico.”

“Little By Little” stands out as a quiet, more paced slow-jam beside the bravado of tunes such as “Hush.” Other notable CINEMA slow jams are “Heavy” and “Spin Me Around.”

The record’s back half sees The Marías venture further into bilingual songwriting with “To Say Hello” and “Fog as a Bullet.”

CINEMA finishes with “Talk to Her”: a fitting track for the album’s film influences. The closing track primarily features a spoken-word passage from María that paints images vivid enough for cinema itself.

When CINEMA concludes, listeners are left with an album of multicultural influence — both in storytelling and instrumentation — that pays tribute to The María’s love of film while portraying their own collection of songs for listeners to navigate as if they were movie scenes.

Influences, and the music past CINEMA

Even before the release of their record, the indie darlings had cemented themselves as a strong undercurrent within the industry.

The group has a collection of popular and fan-cherished tracks under their belt — including covers of an array of artists and influences.

Prior to the album’s release, the group listed on Twitter all the artists they have covered; remarking how each was an inspiration for CINEMA. These influences are a wide range, including Bad Bunny, The Ink Spots, Billie Holiday, Brittney Spears and Radiohead.

Listeners may take notice of slight tonal, instrumental and vocal influences in CINEMA’s “The Mice Inside This Room” that are reminiscent of Radiohead’s despondent “Everything in Its Right Place” from 2000’s Kid A.

The Marías’ own Radiohead cover — for the English rock group’s song “Exit Music (For A Film)” — holds particular significance in The Marías’ career, as film was vital to the band’s inception.

“If it wasn’t for… film, TV and cinema, The Marías definitely would have never existed,” María told Grammy.com.

The aforementioned Radiohead track — like early Marías recordings — was written specifically for the screen. “Exit Music (For A Film)” was written directly for the 1996 Baz Luhrmann Shakespeare adaptation, Romeo + Juliet

For CINEMA, The Marías took film inspiration from their own favorites. This includes the likes of Wes Anderson and Pedro Almodovar.

Almodovar’s 2002 drama Talk to Her may have influenced the title for the CINEMA track of the same name. Both directors were in mind when creating the music video for “Hush.”

The visual artistry of The Marías — observed through their eclectic music videos — will also soon be seen on the stage.

They will be returning to tour life in early 2022, when the band will play over 25 shows across the U.S. between January 26 and March 12. 

Tickets to The Marías’ CINEMA Tour are available now. The debut album CINEMA is available now on streaming platforms.

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