If you haven’t yet heard of Marian Hill, it’s inevitable that you soon will. The eclectic duo, comprised of middle school friends, Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol, have been making huge waves this year in the music scene. In line with music’s current trend of genre-bending, their sound mixes jazz, blues, electro-pop, and heavy bass in such a way that is fitting for both a night out at the club or a chill evening at home.
Marian Hill is currently working on their debut album, but you can find a bevy of their tracks from their LP here. Make sure to listen to “Deep” and “One Time”.
I recently caught up with Sam and Jeremy to chat about their summer festival circuit, favorite Brooklyn bars and restaurants, and of course, their unyielding love for Jameson.
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Marian Hill has a very eclectic sound, and especially Sam’s voice has this jazzy, blues feel to it. Did B.B. King — who sadly passed this week — influence your music at all? Who would you cite as some of your musical influences?
Sam: Yes, we felt so sad about his loss, but like many people probably are doing right now, we’re just rediscovering his music. I grew up listening to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James. I love their voices.
Jeremy: We love a lot of old jazz and blues singers, and also more modern artists like Drake, AlunaGeorge, and Cashmere Cat.
I know you are Philly-based, but you spend most of your time in Brooklyn. What are some of your favorite bars and restaurants in the borough?
Jeremy: Obviously we love Roberta’s. I’m also a big fan of Tutu’s for brunch, which is right around the corner for me.
Sam: Yes, and Dear Bushwick has amazing cocktails! I recently got this ridiculously great whiskey concoction there. My drink had all these spices lining the rim. In Philly, I love to go to all of Steven Starrs’ restaurants; he does anything from Asian to Mexican to classic American.
If you guys were at a bar, Sam what would Jeremy order, and vice versa?
Sam: Jeremy would order whiskey on the rocks, right?
Jeremy: Yup. Or maybe if I’m feeling particularly excitable I’ll order a Godfather, which is probably my favorite, easy cocktail.
What’s in that?
Jeremy: Godfather ingredients are equal parts Scotch and Amaretto.
And Sam’s go-to drink?
Jeremy: Sam would order a Bellini, right Sam?
Sam: Yes! He’s on point.
You guys have played some pretty awesome venues this year. What’s been your favorite so far and why?
Jeremy: That’s such a hard question now that we’ve been playing more and more shows. It’s so funny, up until a few months ago we had only played under 20 shows total and we had really clear answers. Now that we’re touring a bunch, it’s all a bit blurry. I will say that our peak show so far was headlining in LA at Club Bahia in March. The room was packed, the crowd was so into it, singing along to every song. It was the first time we’ve really had that sort of experience, and it’s been a similar reaction with our fans since. Club Bahia is also a place filled with so much character. It’s a salsa club during the week, and it has a really fun, unique vibe.
I know you guys met in middle school, so there must be a lot of history there. How did you decide to come together years later?
Jeremy: Well, it wasn’t like we had a long conversation and decided it would be good for us to start a band together. It was much more that we started writing and making music together for fun, and then because we thought it was really good, I sent our music out to a bunch of clubs. Then when the buzz picked up, people started asking us if we were a band, and we were like, ‘Yeah, I guess so!’ And it went from there.
What does Marian Hill stand for?
Sam: Jeremy and I were in a production of The Music Man together in 8th grade, and Jeremy played Harold Hill and I was Marian Paroo, so we took on our character names.
That’s very cute! Your lyrics and your sound exude this deep sense of longing. It has this “so close, yet so far” narrative. Would you say that writing music is your ultimate antidote to heartbreak?
Jeremy: That’s very astute! And yes, I definitely think so. There’s also such a rush and excitement to making music, and it can really be an amazing force that keeps you going and excited everyday when you’re maybe lonely in other ways.
Sam: I would agree. There is no better therapy than writing music. We’ve also both been single for a while, so there’s a lot of fodder.
What should your fans look out for this summer?
Jeremy: We’ll be doing a few one-off gigs over the course of the summer, and a charity music event thrown by Connor Barwin of The Eagles in Philly on June 20th. We’ll be raising money to build a park in Philly, which is really exciting. The rest of the summer we’re finishing writing and recording our debut album, so stay tuned for that!
And last but not least, what’s your pre-show ritual?
Sam: Jeremy, Steve, and I take a shot of whiskey before every show.
Jeremy: A Shot of whiskey has definitely been a ritual for a while. We always drink whiskey before we play to take the edge off a bit.
And what’s your favorite whiskey?
Sam: Jameson. I didn’t always love it, but I’ve definitely learned to.
Jillian Scheinfeld is a writer and interviewer living in Brooklyn. By day she’s a publicist for a nonprofit and by night you can catch her at a concert or practicing yoga. See past work here and follow her tweets @jillianschein