SoundBetter Stories: The Marías on Creating, Collaborating, and Connecting

Erica Campbell / May 14, 2021

LA-based indie-pop band The Marías tells us how they used SoundBetter to realize their music's full potential.

LA-based indie-pop band The Marías are no strangers to collaboration. Drummer Josh Conway and singer María Zardoya (who prefers to go by her first name alone), have been writing and producing songs together since a chance meeting back in 2016 led to a creative and romantic partnership.

“Josh and I were both working on our own projects when we met at Kibitz Room,” Maria shares over the phone. She happened to be performing as the sixth (or seventh) slot on the bill that night at Canter’s Deli’s infamous adjoining cocktail lounge. Conway happened to be running sound for the show. “We started recording very shortly after writing songs for film and TV pitches and all of those songs we had written weren't placed in any of the film and TV shows we pitched them to. Lucky for us, we were able to use them and release them. That's kind of how it started from just writing songs and then realizing, hey, we could actually put these songs out. We should actually call this a project and make this a thing. And so that's where The Marías was born.”

Making it SoundBetter

The band’s latest collaboration is their upcoming debut album titled Cinema, a nod to their inception story, that will be out this June. But before that, they set the foundation for their music and introduced themselves to listeners by way of two EPs, Superclean, Vol. I and Superclean, Vol. II. With tracks like "Cariño" and "Clueless" the band leaned into their pop propensities, backing Marías ethereal bilingual vocals, with funk grooves and soulful jazz tones.

During the creation of those tracks, however, they ran into a challenge. They wanted to push their sound to the place they knew it needed to be before it was ready for release. They felt that bringing in a mixing engineer would give them a fresh perspective on tracks they’d been working on forever while also bringing new life to their sound. The problem was as independent artists they didn’t know who to go to for sound mixing. That’s when they discovered the music-talent platform SoundBetter — though the jury's out on who found it first.

“I actually think Josh discovered it,” María shares before handing the phone over to Conway.

“Actually, I'm pretty sure [it was] María,” Conway pauses before they both break into laughter. “Either María or I was just looking on Google for mixers. At first, I was confused as to what it was and almost thought it was too good to be true. I was like, wait, so there’s all these mixers, then I saw that it's not just mixing it’s engineering and vocalist, everything. It was like a Postmates for music. I started scrolling through all the options that I could reach out to and saw Brent [Kolatalo] who had worked on a Kendrick Lamar song, and that kind of sold that for me.”

They were confident that Kolato, a Grammy-nominated mixing engineer and producer who had also worked on tracks for Kanye, Drake, and Taylor Swift, was the right fit for their music. Although they never spoke over the phone and kept their communication to texts and email, Conway describes the process as “very easy,” adding that the turnaround time was quick, and Kolatalo pretty much nailed the mix from the get-go. Not only were they happy with the efficiency, but The Marías were also happy to find someone they could trust with their vision.

“If you're a producer more specifically, let your instincts guide you,” Conway shares while offering his advice on keeping artistic vision intact while collaborating. “The goal for a mixer is to enhance whatever you've done up until that point. Unless you want a mixer to add their own flare and take it in a new direction, I'd be pretty set on what you want. Trust the mixer to enhance what you've already created.”

Building a Connection

Thanks to the internet, independent artists have access to more tools than ever to create their music without having to deal with middlemen between them, their collaborators, or their listeners. With SoundBetter, The Marías were able to collaborate with someone who could bring the best version of their music into fruition. Their advice to other independent artists thinking about doing the same thing? “Why not.”

"Thanks to social media everyone is getting much more connected and you could have best friends all around the world just by talking with each other. So, as far as SoundBetter and music, that just applies to that as well. You can collaborate with anyone in the world now. It opens the door to so many possibilities for artists to collaborate and hopefully find their holy grail to help them get across the finish line. If there's something missing in your mix or your song why not use SoundBetter or give that extra push to get your song to where you always envisioned it?”

Enjoying the Process

The Marias know how important it is to keep going, and how collaboration and persistence, can help you overcome any obstacle. They’ve done that from the beginning, first pivoting from making movie syncs to starting a band, and more recently, through pushing the boundaries of their music with SoundBetter. For them, meeting challenges head on is just part of the process.

“I know it’s cliché or whatever, but I've always said that everything happens for a reason,” Marías reflects when looking back at the band’s career so far.

“If you get denied an opportunity, that just means there's another one on the way, as long as you enjoy making music and doing everything that goes along with putting it out. It's not just making music. The second you decide for that music to be public, there's a lot of work that sort of goes into it. So, if you enjoy that process, then there's nothing stopping you. Even if you get denied an opportunity, that doesn't mean that it's the end, that just means that there's another one that's going to take its place.”

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