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Marian Hill’s New Music is Empowered

This genre-defying duo open up about their sophomore album Unusual

Who is Marian Hill? Is it a woman? Are they a duo? Is it pop music? These are the questions Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd have been asked in the past regarding their musical partnership, Marian Hill. “Just listen to the music. Forget the rest. I think the music says a lot,” Lloyd says of his retort to these curiosities. With huge recent radio hits like “Down” and a collaboration with Lauren Jauregui on “Back to Me,” the duo know no boundaries when it comes to their musical style, which stems from their studious beginnings. Gongol studied music business in college, teaching her the inner workings of the industry, while Lloyd majored in theatre and took as many music courses as he wanted, granting him a broad catalog of sonic familiarities.

“Sometimes I wish I knew more, because Jeremy is such a breadth of knowledge from music theory to history,” Gongol admits. Lloyd interjects and credits her to teaching him most of his industry jargon. “I’ve done music in so many contexts. I’ve sang in choirs, played in bands, taken piano and violin lessons, musical theatre songwriting classes. It taught me that there are so many ways to make music, talk about music and to think about music,” Lloyd says of his background. With endless musical references, Lloyd admits that in the beginning, his musical style was a little all over the place, until he collaborated with Gongol on their first song “Whisky.” “It was just fun. We weren’t consumed with figuring out ‘our sound,’ we just knew what sounded good and we followed it,” he says. “It wasn’t until afterwards that we realized how unique that first song really was.” On the artistry behind Marian Hill, Gongol adds that there is a big different between being a talented singer and being an artist. “When Jeremy and I started working together was the first time we really felt that,” she says of finding their artistic direction together.

Marian Hill (photo credit: Hervin Lainez)

Marian Hill (photo credit: Hervin Lainez)

With their release of their sophomore album Unusual, both Gongol and Lloyd are in agreement that Marian Hill is empowered more than ever. “The biggest thing we wanted to do but make our music stronger and harder,” Lloyd says of diving into the creative process for Unusual. “I really don’t want to tie it too much to the election, because everything is right now, but… this was our response,” he reluctantly adds. With a more dramatic sound and a louder voice, Lloyd says the album should make listeners feel like they’re still strong, despite the state of the impossible-to-ignore political sphere in America. From the heart-thumping track “Differently” to the sexy sounds on “Subtle Thing,” Unusual gives listeners all the feels.

With Lloyd as the main producer and “beat-maker” in Marian Hill, Gongol is the vocal champion. Her presence is delicate at first glance, but on stage–and even as she speaks to me–her words cut through all the noise with such pure articulation. “In Act One there was room for more vulnerability. We still have those vulnerable moments on Unusual, but the narrator is in always in control. She is always strong and she is always confident,” she says. Lloyd adds, “Even when she makes mistakes.” Gongol agrees that the narrator on Unusual is very conscious of her mistakes and she owns them.

Though Gongol is the voice behind Marian Hill, she refers to the narrator in their songs as a separate character from herself because as a duo, they write and create music completely cohesively. There is no frontwoman and these songs do not explicitly depict either one’s experiences alone. Rather, the “narrator” is a vessel used to express emotions and situations derived from friends, themselves and societal moments.

Being self-aware and confident within lyrics is not a major departure for Marian Hill but, to Gongol, it is a continuation of their original vision, with an added certainty. “When you make our style more certain, you make it stronger and you amplify what’s unusual about it,” Lloyd says, echoing Gongol’s sentiments.

With sensual, sexy jams complimented by moments of bold, dramatic tracks (and their signature saxophone player, Steve Davit), Marian Hill offers a strong storyline and an even stronger sound on their newest album Unusual. Following their first appearance at Coachella this year, the duo will be bringing their music to the live stage this summer at Firefly Music Festival, Electric Forest and more to be announced.

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