In a music world overrun with auto-tuned vocals and booty-call lyrics, The Marías have fast become a refreshing change of pace with their lush and dreamy sound and the ethereal vocals of lead singer María. It’s a sound that makes viewers drift away on tropical grooves rooted in jazz, lounge, funk and psychedelia, all in a mellow mode that recalls vintage Everything but the Girl.
That tasty and unique combination has helped The Marías rise quickly in the music world, as they are currently the opening act for the long-popular Café Tacvba despite having formed in Los Angeles less than two years ago. As she looked forward to tonight’s (Aug. 30) show at the Ventura Theater, María explained the magic behind her partnership with co-leader and boyfriend Josh Conway, who plays drums and produces while lead guitarist Jesse Perlman, bassist Carter Lee and keyboardist Edward James round out the group.
“When I moved out from Atlanta three years ago, I just played as many shows as I could to meet people and find venues,” recalls María, who alternates singing in English and Spanish. “It was just me and a guitar at that point, and then I met Josh at the Kibitz Room [club] after a show when he filled in as sound engineer for the night. From then on, we combined both of our sounds and influences.
“He grew up in L.A. and I grew up literally across the country, so we had two very distinct upbringings and musical influences. But when we got together to write it was a big balance of both and that makes it special.”
María (who opts to keep her surname private) grew up listening to artists such as D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill and Norah Jones, but found that both her family home and hometown offered a metlting pot of many Latin countries and cultural influences. Her mother’s family came from Puerto Rico while her father’s family hailed from Spain, but she also harbored a big devotion to pure pop groups such as the Backstreet Boys and feels that all of those elements have influenced the sound of her five-piece band.
The tour with Café Tacvba is only the band’s second ever, and it’s a big step up from The Marías’ initial tour, which the vocalist recounts as “just me and six guys.” She’s bringing aboard a close female friend and musician on this tour to “even things out a little” and notes that the band hopes to incorporate the hard-won lessons from its first road jaunt: “After being together for six weeks, we all learned to move quickly and take it day by day with getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, taking enough vitamins and drinking enough water.”
The Marías bring a strong visual presence to their videos and live shows as well, a factor rooted in María’s lifelong love of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s colorful films. Her love for the auteur is rooted in her father introducing her to as many elements of his native Spanish culture as possible.
“My dad really related to and grew up watching them, and I grew a newfound appreciation of him the last couple of years,” says María. “For a kid it seems kind of weird, even though they’re all beautiful films. I rewatched them a couple years ago and noticed that they all revolve around strong female characters, who are shot colorfully and look amazing. His brother produces all his films, so they create magic together, and their attention to detail gets to me.”
For the video for the Spanish-language track “Dejate Llevar,” off the debut EP Superclean Vol. 1, The Marías shot in super 8 as they offered up a lush retro poolside vibe in which the band plays poker and sips martinis before hopping into a classic Mercedes-Benz for a sunny spin through Los Angeles. In another video, for the English-language tune “I Don’t Know You,” María jumped at the chance to use a red velvet couch that was dumped on a curb — a decision that led to her gaining access to the colorfully glam array of dresses (particularly a leopard coat and red velvet beret) left behind by the couch owner’s late wife.
Ultimately, María finds that while assembling an ever-bigger band — which occasionally has a sixth member she hopes to make permanent while continuing to grow even larger and who offers some good outside perspectives to the songs — it’s her partnership with Conway that will always be the true foundation for the group.
“We started dating before we started the band together, and for us it completely works,” she explains. “We’ve found other couples might not be able to relate, but with us it’s because we have a deep level of understanding. It helps writing songs together and we can read each other’s minds sometimes because we’re so close.”
“The other guys have been friends since childhood and have become part of my extended family, and we all get along great,” she continues. “Being on tour with Josh is great because we’re with each other all the time but at the same time he has friends he can hang out with every day because the band members are such close friends.”
The Marías open for Café Tacvba at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30, at the Majestic Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura. For tickets and more information, call 805-653-0118 or visit venturatheater.net.