You know Marian Hill from their 2017 breakthrough hit ‘Down,’ and as the electronic duo gears up to release their sophomore album, it’s clear that this year is going to be even bigger.
Marian Hill has debuted the visual for “Differently,” and it’s consistent with the band’s specific brand of hypnotic, head-bop-inducing music. Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol break the track down for us here, and you can watch the video above.
Lyricially, “Differently” has the singer speaking to another woman, which is a first for the band. “It actually is…different!” Sam laughs. “We’ve never written to another girl before. It’s a narrative and it has an arch to it,” she adds. The song exemplifies female empowerment, as the storyteller works to support a friend who’s seemingly been dumped and replaced by another woman: “It’s all about him/He hasn’t grown/And we both know you’re so much better on your own.”
Jeremy is eager to get into the nitty-gritty of the track’s production. “It was a song we had written and the beat needed something special, and we were working with [producer] Boy Wonder,” he says. “I brought it up and he immediately had ideas. It was cool to get that vibe so right. It took the song from something we liked and felt good about to being a dope, dope song.”
“Differently” sets the stage nicely for the duo’s forthcoming album Unusual (May 11). “We really want people to feel strong when they listen to it,” Sam says. “On Act One, there’s more vulnerability,” she continues, referring to their 2016 full-length debut. “This record is shorter and tauter, and while there are more reflective moments, the character is still very aware of her emotions and is in control.” With that in mind, Jeremy aimed for a “hard-hitting and more emphatic” sound, fusing the production with the lyrical content.
When asked to clarify if Marian Hill is actually a “character” in some mysterious, overarching story, Jeremy shakes his head. “I don’t like to draw too tight a line to it. The majority of pop music in general — and it’s a great thing — if I’m singing the song, it’s my life and my truth. Our thing is more in between. It’s about writing a song that’s true to a feeling we’ve had. But the specifics fall away in favor of that.” Adds Sam, “The character Marian Hill was more of a blueprint for later work. It’s less so that I’m getting on stage and playing Marian Hill.”
The songs on Unusual are very much about the duo’s experiences, and it includes a breakup song, though “neither of us has been through that recently,” Jeremy says, literally knocking on wood. “We hear stories and we can channel that,” he offers. “We pull from whatever we can to make a song unique and special.” As for the record’s title, Jeremy considers it to be autobiographical. “Unusual is how we’ve always felt in the pop sphere,” he says. “It’s hard to categorize us and know what to do with us. We don’t operate like any convention you’re used to. Here, we’re owning that.”
That being said, Marian Hill is happy to embrace other, more conventional pop artists. They teamed up with Lauren Jauregui for 2016’s “Back to Me,” which served as the Fifth Harmony member’s first solo collaboration. The duo agrees that working with Lauren was almost effortless. “We had the song in process and sent it to her,” Jeremy says, “And she wrote her own verse and was ready to record.” Lauren joined them onstage at the SnowGlobe Festival in 2016 to perform “Back to Me” live, and Jeremy is eager to work together more. “We’re still in touch — I’ve been sending her stuff every now and then,” he says, listing Drake and Usher as other names on the future-collaboration wishlist.
Marian Hill’s spring tour will begin with a debut performance at Coachella. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Jeremy says, promising that there will be some surprises. “It’s overwhelming, but we’re trying to chill,” Sam adds. Unusual comes out near the end of the tour, so the duo plans to incorporate a few new songs into the setlist without going overboard.
A Marian Hill live show is captivating and dynamic, partly due to the presence of saxophonist Steve Davit, a sort of pseudo-bandmember. “The duo makes the records, but Steve is very much part of the live show, always,” Jeremy says. Indeed, they rarely perform without him, and he is an undeniable crowd favorite. “It’s become hard to follow up to,” Sam laughs. Jeremy sees it a different way: “We can play a song that’s brand-new and the crowd will love it if there’s sax in it. It’s sneaky.”
Finally, when asked about “Down’s” success story, there is a quiet enthusiasm, but it’s clear that they don’t consider Marian Hill to be defined by that one song. “I was not expecting much,” Jeremy admits. “We’d had music in commercials before that, and we’d been through it, where they were like, this is going to be huge.” Yet when the track appeared in an Apple AirPods commercial, it quickly gained popularity and created, as Jeremy puts it, “a perfect storm.” Things have calmed down somewhat, but who’s to say that this next act won’t bring something even bigger?