This Brooklyn Band Is Like Drake Meets Ella Fitzgerald
Meet Marian Hill — one half digital, one half acoustic; and possibly music’s most current poetic and stylistic oxymoron. They are perhaps the perfect mix of classic melodic songwriting and interesting beats & production. It’s easy to say that Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd have found an interesting match in each other’s musical talents.
Philadelphia natives Sam and Jeremy currently live in Brooklyn and have been making music together since they were in high school and have just released their debut album as multi-talented duo Marian Hill entitled, Act One. With their newest release, “Down,” you might at first think you’re in a 1920’s speakeasy listening to a talented lounge singer, until the beat drops and you find yourself vibing to possibly an entirely new genre all together.
Their interesting beginnings consisted of emailing their tracks to bloggers because they had no industry contacts, but that surely didn’t stop them! Now, they’ll be on tour this summer, showcasing their amazing one-of-a-kind sound at festivals including San Francisco’s Outside Lands in August and then headlining a show at Los Angeles’ famed El Rey theatre in September.
Check out our Q&A with Marian Hill below, and then check out Act One, available now on iTunes and Spotify.
Let’s talk about your song, “Down.” What is it about and what inspired you to write it? Was there a conscious decision in mixing the raw sounds of the piano with a very electronic drum beat?
Jeremy: “Down” happened pretty spontaneously actually! I just had a piano patch opened by default and I think we were in between writing a few different songs and I was just idly noodling around and not even thinking that such a simple piano thing could be a Marian Hill song. But then Sam was like “I like this!” and we played around with a few melodies and found a verse we loved and were obsessed with the sparseness of it all. But the lyric we had written clearly demanded some kind of party vibe. And then I heard the drums in my head and made them pretty quickly and we fell in LOVE. The chopped chorus then came a bit later, and the entire song pretty much existed by the end of that day. Then it was a long process of me trying to add different things and everything I added feeling like too much – the strength of the song was clearly in its simplicity.
If “Down” were on a movie soundtrack, set to a specific scene maybe, what would it be and why? Is it an anthem or a party song?
Jeremy: The main romantic couple of the movie haven’t gotten together yet but they’ve been flirting a bit and a chemistry has been established. They’re talking at some office party or on a golf course or on a beautiful rooftop and then the beat drops and we cut to them in bed together for the first time.
Sam: Hmmm. I think “Down” can be both a party song and an anthem. It can mark the beginning of your night, and it can mark the beginning of something bigger, momentous. Are you down?
If you were to describe your sound, like “Cyndi Lauper meets Guitar metal”, what would it be?
Jeremy & Sam: We always say Drake meets Ella Fitzgerald. Which we love because it really encapsulates all the aspects — old meets new, electronic meets acoustic, hip hop meets jazz/soul, interesting production meets classic songwriting.
We’ve heard you are playing Outside Lands and then touring with a performance in Los Angeles at the El Rey — will there be any differences in how/what you perform based on performing at a festival vs. a traditional concert venue?
Jeremy & Sam: We definitely made a special and specific set for festivals this summer, focused on introducing our music to a potentially new audience. But this fall is our ACT ONE tour, this one’s for the fans, and we’ll be going all out with design and playing a lot more of the album.
What is on your current summer playlist? Does it include any of the artists you’ll be playing alongside at Outside Lands?
Jeremy: I’ve been listening to a lot of Jamila Woods, Chance the Rapper, Drake (obsessed with “Views”), Kaytranada, and Tourist.
Sam: Drake (“Take Care”, “Redemption”), Chance, Son House, Flume, Halsey.
Does fashion play any part in your performances?
Jeremy: I definitely think it’s important to feel fly as hell when we perform. But I also think it’s important to not overthink it. We’re at a point now where we know what Marian Hill looks like (blacks with bits of flare, cool and classic and simple), and it’s just about finding stuff in that world that we feel amazing in.
Sam: I’ve grown to truly love, appreciate and be inspired by fashion. Three years ago I knew next to nothing, and now the majority of people I actively follow on Instagram are fashion accounts! Sometimes it’s hard to find perfect pieces, especially for stage. There’s nothing worse than performing and being worried or self conscious about the clothes you’re in, because it takes you right out of it. Heels too- I love them off stage but I don’t particularly enjoy performing in them. I packed heels for Lollapalooza, and as soon as I saw this massive stage I was like NOPE. No way haha. Although I think I’m getting better 😉 It’s just about finding the right ones, which I didn’t happen to pack. But as Jeremy mentioned, one can never go wrong with black. Adore black. I’ve been really into long jackets and sweaters. I also love a simple idea marked with something unique. Whether it’s a design or the cut of clothing (It should ideally have something interesting about it). It can also be difficult to find perfect pieces because I’m so small. Not enough brands have petite lines. Nothing fits and I have to alter everything lol. Sometimes I’m like, ehhhh, I don’t loove it but fuck it it fits so well I should get it! Haha. There was one fitting where the stylist brought tons of options and I just had to end up wearing the only dress that they wouldn’t have to cut in half.
If you could play an acoustic show like MTV Unplugged, what songs would you cover?
Jeremy: I think it’d be really dope to cover jazz standards. We covered Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out of You” a long long time ago and I get really excited about the idea of reinvigorating songs from a different era.
Do you think it’s easier to be an artist in the day and age of digital music and Spotify? Do you think it’s harder to connect with people in terms of getting the music out there?
Jeremy: I think that ultimately, it is easier. There are so many fewer gatekeepers and really anyone that makes a song can put it out there and see what the world thinks of it. I emailed “Whisky” to 60 blogs with no industry connections and it got us to where we are today. That said, there’s also a big degree of luck involved still – people have to open the email from the person they’ve never heard of! And also when it’s so easy to put your music out there, it also means there is definitely a lot of oversaturation going on – there’s just SO much new music and it’s all on the internet and the downside is that I think it can be easy to get lost.
Sam: To add to that, while Twitter and Snapchat and Vine and Facebook and YouTube and Instagram and every other social network are great ways to talk directly to fans (I use many of them), I’ve found that sometimes industry places a greater importance on the numbers surrounding those networks than they do on the music. And that can be overwhelming and disheartening.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you while on tour or while performing?
Sam: Well. There have been a few, and I’m sure there will be more to come. But the most recent snafu occurred at Electric Forest. I’m an idiot and didn’t properly wrap my in ear cord to keep myself from tripping on it. So what do I do? Halfway through “One Time” (I’m actually surprised no one has caught this on camera. I was preparing myself, but maybe people are just being kind souls and not posting it) I trip on it. Not once, but twice, and they rip out of my ears, and the pack crashes to the ground. Here I am supposed to be slinking around the stage during one of our most well-known songs and I’m stumbling backwards haha. I couldn’t hear anything but at least I know “One Time” well enough to follow along! Oh, “One Time.”
Have you found out anything about each other while touring that surprised you?
Jeremy: Sam is incapable of packing.
Sam: This is true.
To find out more about Marian Hill, or to stalk them on social media, check them out at the following handles: