Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd aka Marian Hill, a duo from Philadelphia, talk to us about TV dramas, feminism and Olympic horse back riding.
Samantha is responsible for the sweet howling and Jeremy for the flawless production. The pair met in middle school after getting into musical theatre, they went their separate ways when Jeremy headed to college and Samantha learnt more about songwriting in New York, then came full circle and formed a band. ‘Got It’, one side of their double A release, exhibits a rather more sultry and seductive side to Samantha’s layered vocals, whilst the infectious melody flickers back and forth hypnotically marked by a soft bass synth. ‘Lips’, the more recent release is fresher and cleaner but no less exciting, with a staccato squeak of synth punctuating the track. The duo take some time to tell us about what inspires them, what they think about the other and what they enjoy most about being musicians.
What does the name Marian Hill mean?
J+S: For the past year and a half we’ve been coy about the origins of our name, but we’re finally telling people! We met in a production of the ‘Music Man’ in eighth grade. Jeremy was Harold Hill and Sam was Marian Paroo. And the rest is history.
The story of how you formed is like a musical fairytale, how would you describe how you’ve changed (or not) since those days in middle school?
S: Haha. As anyone would, I would say that we’ve both matured (if only slightly) since our middle school days. As you get older, I think confidence learns to run with you instead of behind you.
J: I’ve certainly gotten a lot more confident. I went through a definite shy stage. Oh and I used to want to play in the NBA when I grew up. So that’s changed as well.
What inspires your work?
S: Relationships (esp. complicated ones), life, disappointments, sex, colour, music, dance, jazz, New York, Hollywood, cities, travel, love, The Great Gatsby, 20s, happiness, horses and a plethora of other things.
J: Everything Sam said (except horses), memories, the specifics of human behaviour, emotions, other forms of art (stories, theatre, visual art, and I’m absolutely obsessed with television dramas…there’s a lot of ‘The Affair’ in some of our recent songs haha), and perhaps most of all, music – I’m always looking for new artists to inspire me and spark me creatively. And also looking back at the great tradition of songwriting – everything we write begins with an idea from one of these myriad inspirations but then goes through the filter of songwriting form and finds its focus.
How do you divide the input to your music and do you ever find it difficult to translate to each other what you want?
S: Jeremy handles production, and we both write melody and lyrics. I would say for the most part we’re on the same page. Of course we have disagreements here and there, but we don’t usually have difficulty translating our musical ideas. That only happens when I’m trying to describe something in production to Jeremy and I lack the proper vocabulary. One day I’ll learn 🙂
J: Haha yes every now and then Sam will make a production suggestion and I’ll be like “I don’t think that means what you think it means” but we’re always in a dialogue about music and lyrics so there’s a pretty incredible level of understanding between us.
How would each of you describe the other?
S: Jeremy’s very driven. He’s incredibly smart, well-read and hardworking, and always takes the time to create not just the best track, but the best song. He’s romantic and sensitive, and I joke that he’s a bigger feminist than I am. He also stays up every night until 4am on average making music.
J: Sam is the best vocalist I’ve ever worked with. There’s an ease to the way she sings that I haven’t seen in anyone else, and people are always amazed when I reveal that I never tune her vocals. She’s got sharp pop instincts, a tendency to fall into fits of laughter without warning, and holds herself to a very high standard. And with just a little coaxing she’s always down for an adventure.
Could you/would you ever swap roles and having Jeremy singing and Samantha doing the production etc for one day?
S: I would LOVE to learn how to produce, but I’ve lacked the patience up until now. Ableton and I just need to get a lil cozy and explore each other. (One day in the near future I want to surprise everyone and out of nowhere drop a crazy track… 😉 SO we’ll need to hold off on that plan for now, but Jeremy is certainly welcome to sing! We actually just recorded an acoustic version of One Time and we harmonized! Jeremy does in fact sing.
J: I was a singer primarily for a long time, so it’s definitely in the back of my mind, but I’m in no rush – when it feels right for me to sing on a track I will (and I’ve also sung some backing vocals hidden in some of our released tracks…)
What do you want to achieve from your musical careers? Do you have a particular goal?
J+S: Our goal is to reach as many people as possible with our music, and to continue to elevate ourselves to a position where we can write and perform music that we love for a long, long time. It’s the best feeling in the world to make a thing that you love and be able to share it with people and make them feel something.
What’s your favourite part of being a musician? Writing, performing or recording?
S: All three are forms of art that require a different set of skills and dedication. It’s why some artists are incredible performers but don’t necessarily write their own material, and why some incredible writers don’t always enjoy or want to perform. Personally, I love writing- it can drive me crazy but I’ve learned to love it. Recording I find can be a bit sterile- sometimes I get it on the first take, and sometimes it takes me a while to warm up to the character and emotion of the song. Performing is an interesting one- there’s really no comparison to the feeling you get onstage when people are dancing to your music, cheering for the songs you’ve written and singing along with you. There is a palpable, tangible energy that fuels you. It’s also taken me a little while to learn to let go of the expectations and pressure. Every live venue and crowd is different, and it’s been really incredible to navigate every show. I can’t wait for 2015!
J: If you asked me a year ago, I would have definitely said writing – I love love love making something where there wasn’t something before. There’s nothing like the thrill when you get an idea or finish writing a song. But recently as we’ve been playing more and more shows, I’ve come to be obsessed with that as well…the rush of the crowd, the joy of connecting with hundreds of people who connect with our music…so I’d say right now it’s a toss up.
What would you be if you weren’t a musician?
S: This is a hard question- I really don’t know! Maybe a writer of some sort. When I was younger I wanted to be an Olympic horse back rider. I’m so glad that ship has sailed.
J: The honest answer to this question is that I could not imagine not being a musician – I wouldn’t be me. But if we’re just talking hypothetically…probably I’d be acting – I did a lot of that in college. Or maybe I’d be in the NBA.
Purchase “Lips” & “Got It” 7″ here.
Words: Lily Walker.