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MARIAN HILL "Around the River Bend, Opera Class & Ella"

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An Interview with Jeremy Lloyd & Sam Gongol Of Marian Hill 

<@Phil_enn/CHPTR> We’re going to be totally honest here and count us as some of the folks that should be included in the Shazam’ers (is that a thing?!?) that discovered you doing the AirPods launch last year. How much of that do you think has been integral to your success and ability to gain such a following? Do you think that said services are now an important part of being a musician or artist these days?

<Jeremy> I think we’re super fortunate to have built up a fanbase and a solid touring career before the Apple ad hit, which meant we were super ready for the influx of attention – ready to play bigger shows and seasoned enough to embrace new fans. That said, it was obviously huge for us and I definitely think that now more than ever, with all music available at your fingertips and less and less revenue coming in through conventional sales, a sync in a commercial or movie is one of the best ways to get your music in front of new people who might like it.

<Sam> Shazamer’s can totally be a thing. We were fortunate to have a few mini breaks out of the gate,  but this Apple ad was massive.  Syncs are coveted, and industry now often relies on apps and services like Shazam to determine the pulse and potential of a song.  It ‘s great that apps like Shazam exist, so when people don’t know a song, they can turn to it and immediately get an answer. I definitely love Shazam haha

<C> As far as being artists in this space, how long have you been working together and how long have you been involved in music and such? 

<J> We’ve known each other since middle school! We were both in plays and in choir and were aware of each other’s songwriting aspirations as we both started to play around with writing in high school, but we didn’t really work together until we were both in college – it was the way we’d catch up over breaks. And on my last break from college we wrote Whisky – we put a name on it and I had a friend shoot the cover art for free with a friend at a theater in college (that friend is Zach Bell who is our creative director now which is pretty awesome) and then I emailed it out to 60 or so blogs and a few of them bit and it just took off from there. It was crazy because I don’t think it was ever the main plan for either of us until it suddenly was. We both had other lives charted out for ourselves and then when we realized Marian Hill was a possibility we got very serious about it very quickly.

As far as being involved in music I was just staggeringly lucky to have grown up with two parents who are musicians – my dad is a choral director and composer and my mom is in arts development now but still sings and met my dad in an opera class in new york, so I grew up with music everywhere and as the story goes I asked my parents if I could learn the violin when I was 4. I started singing soon after and started taking piano lessons when I was 10 and then sometime in middle school got the idea from listening to Ben Folds albums that I could write songs and saved up for an Mbox 2…8 years of casual bad beats later I noticed I might actually be good at it.

<S> I was always singing, for as long as I can remember. Cliche answer I know, but it’s true. I sang Just Around the River Bend in my first grade talent show , and from there I rocketed to stardom. Just kidding – but it was the first time I performed onstage. I was in choirs and took piano and guitar lessons, and started writing music in high school. I actually never used to like writing songs, but I was always performing covers at open mic nights, and the host was like “you really should start writing your own music” haha. I just always loved to sing. I sing when Im happy, when im sad, when im angry, when I want someone to pass the fries. Literally. My friends will just be like, really? My brother interrupts with, “that was not an invitation to sing.” I stop for the moment and then I’ll proceed with pass the mustard.

<C> Are you surprised by the outpouring and support that you’ve received? We were pretty excited to see extra dates added to your tour… was this a surprise to you guys? 

<J> I wish I had something more unusual to say here but truly it’s just been really good. It feels so good to know that this many people think the weird music we make is dope – and to be able to play in these big beautiful venues, and to play two nights at the Fonda in LA…its a dream.

 <S> I actually was surprised – I held onto Whisky for close to three weeks before I’d let Jeremy release it. And 4 years later I’m super glad he convinced me to do so – and all the credit goes to Jeremy on that one. If the decision was left to me Marian Hill might not have become a project. I mostly avoided music blogs at the time haha. But in terms of this most recent Down success, yes, I agree with Jeremy. It just feels like the right time. I think we’re just ready for it. Surprised? No, but definitely grateful. I will say that I don’t think anything can prepare you for the schedule, and swiftness with which it all happens –

<C> What is your typical studio process like? How have you been preparing for playing your sound live? Any collars (i.e. Big Sean, Lauren Jauregui, or Steve Davit) that you’re going to bring to stage with you? 

<S> Jeremy usually plays the skeleton of a beat, and if we both like it we write to it. Every once in while we have to persuade one another on the merits of a beat, but usually we’re both in agreement. Steve Davit is always on stage with us (spare a few) , and a lot of time it depends on someone’s schedule. I love performing with Lauren – if she wasn’t busy slaying Strangers with Halsey and touring with 5H maybe we’d be able to sing more. In terms of preparation, we rehearse a few days before tour, and from there we take it on the road. We’ve been performing a lot of these songs for a year now, some of them (like One Time and Got it) for almost three haha, so we’re lucky that with the Down tour, there were less nerves and it was more about delving into the music and character even more.

<C> With regards to collabs, what was it like working with the folks mentioned above? We’ve read on the history with Davit that really helps to make his contributions very organic to your sound. It was a surprise to get that sort of organic sound from Big Sean and Jauregui’s appearances on ACT ONE’s complete collection. Many times when an outside artist is thrown in to the mix the collab/remix can feel really disjointed (see Lil Wayne’s appearance on Khalid’s Location Remix)… in these cases it didn’t feel that way. Do you think that’s more to do with your sound or other factors?

<C> Thanks so much for noticing this – super flattered by this question. Its always been really important to us that whenever the Marian Hill name is on something it is up to our specific quality standard.  And Lauren was the first collaboration we ever really did outside of Steve who’s a part of our stage show and very enmeshed in the whole thing, so it was definitely on our minds that we had to do this right. With Lauren it was fortunately easy because we first connected because she was a Marian Hill fan – we sent her the first verse and chorus, she loved it, she wrote her own verse, and then I’m super grateful that she was open to letting me mix her vocal in my way. I don’t tune and I’m very light on reverb and compression because I love a natural sound, and Lauren sounded amazing in that context. With Sean we were just specific about the structure we wanted and I had a lot of fun slightly editing the track around Sean’s verse to make it all feel right.

<C> Final question. We typically try to end our interviews with this question. If you had 30 seconds to leave your mark with the people checking this interview… Basically a pull quote that would be the first thing people see/read about you… what would that thing be. 

What if Ella Fitzgerald came back from the dead for one night and did a concert of new original music produced by Kanye West and 40?

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