For Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd, lifelong friends who met in a middle school production of “The Music Man,” it all began with whisky. Or rather, “Whisky.”
“Jeremy came home on a break from college and showed me the beat that would become ‘Whisky,’” Gongol explains of Marian Hill’s seminal song which appears on their 2015 debut album Sway. “He wrote it, released it to a handful of blogs and they picked it up. The, we decided to be a band.” “I had been producing music as kind of like a hobby, as a thing to do for fun for a while I was studying composition and theater,” adds Lloyd. “I was trying out a bunch of different sounds and styles, and the beat for ‘Whisky’ just happened to be one that Sam really reacted to. Then when we recorded it her voice sounded really good on it. When we sent it out, it was the thing that people really responded to the most out of anything I’d produced or that either of us had made. ‘Whisky’ became the template that we built out from in building our sound.”
While you may know Marian Hill from their ridiculously catchy tune “Down,” streamed hundreds of million times and featured in Apple’s AirPods commercial for the wireless earphones, one listen to “Whisky” and you can hear the seeds of sound planted in the rest of their amazing three-album catalogue. “It has a lot of the benchmarks of the Marian Hill sound,” he continues. “Really big drums with heavy bass present, a simply produced vocal that has a lot of space around it so you can really hear the intricacies of it. It has kind of a bluesy feel to it–new production elements that feel very forward-future mixed with a retro style of singing and musicality and we just keep building forward in that mold.” The pair’s creation process together has become like second nature, and instead of worrying about how to make sure their sound is what it is, chances are whatever they make together will bear the benchmarks of the one-of-a-kind Marian Hill sound and style.
This is well-illustrated in the band’s new album, Unusual, produced by Boi-1da (Drake, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, Lana Del Rey)set for release via Republic Records on May 11th. The record features all those deliciously quirky sonic elements to which we’ve grown accustomed, ramped up with an even more intense sound and message, an exploration of empowerment and gender dynamics. “From the beginning, we have really championed female empowerment, but I think we wanted to be a little bit more overt in this album,” explains Gongol. “Even in terms of production, it’s a little more powerful, a little bit stronger. On this record we wanted to explore the nuances in complex relationships,” she continues. “A few of our songs feature a twist at the end where you think it’s one thing and then it turns into another. Especially with everything that’s been going on with the election and continued national conversations, we wanted to continue our narrative of having a strong female and of female empowerment and making our fans feel confident.”
Fans have overwhelmingly supported the music, evidenced during the creation of the band’s video for album track “Differently,” as the duo cast the video with fans who submitted audition videos. “You meet fans in lots of different contexts, but usually it’s at a show or a meet-and-greet which are very specific and structured and it was really cool to do work with a bunch of fans to make a video,” recalls Lloyd. “To see all their submissions really connected us to how many like different types of women there are who love our music and that it makes them feel good. And you can see in the way they lip-synced in their video submissions auditioning for us, seeing the way the music is making them feel,” he says. “It’s definitely really gratifying and we derive a lot of inspiration from that.”
”We’re really excited,” Gongol says about the album’s release. “We’re currently on tour and will be finished May 16th. and then we’re touring internationally.” “With any album, you’ve finished it months before it comes out. So we’re really excited and ready for it to be out. We’re really excited to bring this tour to Nashville,” Lloyd says of their May 6thshow at Marathon Music Works. “I think this will be our first official headlining show in Nashville, and, I really love this set. It’s got a great light show going on and it’s also been really fun for us to be pulling from three records as we picked the set. It really spans a wide range of what our music can be and takes you all over,” he adds. “It should be really cool.”
[Click HERE for tickets and show information.]