The electronic alt-pop duo Marian Hill’s first full-length album was 2016’s “Act One.” But the band’s actual first act as a duo may have ended in January of 2017, when an Apple commercial starring dancer Lil Buck moving to the band’s “Down” premiered and seemingly made the entire country, at once, ask “what song was that?”
Since then, vocalist Samantha Gongol and producer Jeremy Lloyd have played on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” topped phone app Shazam’s chart of most frequently searched songs (as of Wednesday it’s been looked up more than 5.6 million times), received their first RIAA distinction as “Down” went Platinum, and hit the festival circuit hard, including a performance at this year’s Coachella.
amNewYork caught up with the duo to talk about “Down” and the upcoming album, “Unusual,” which drops the day of their show at Brooklyn Steel on Friday.
What did you learn from the success of “Down”?
Samantha Gongol: If anything, it gave us the validation to stay true to ourselves, our music and what we wanted to make. There can be a lot of pressure and a lot of people trying to influence you to do certain things because you have a hit song, and of course you want to recreate that success. But I think we learned that it’s OK to say no, and OK to continue on the path that we feel we had in the first place.
Jeremy Lloyd: I’d agree with that. “Down” was already on our record, thought of as a single, written by Sam and myself only, and for that to be what gave us the biggest success is a real affirmation of our process, how we work together. It told us we didn’t need to do anything more or anything less to be successful, we can focus on just making the kind of music that we love together.
“Unusual” is that dreaded second album, and one that’s coming on the heels of smash success, at that. Was there more pressure this time around?
JL: There’s definitely some pressure, but more than that, there’s just relief of it not being the first album. Your whole career is going toward the first record, and there’s so much weight on it. It was liberating and fun for me to be like, ‘all right now we’re making the second record, and then it’ll be the third,’ etc. There’s a lot of less pressure on us to be representative of everything Marian Hill can do and more just get to be where we are in this moment. It doesn’t have to be everything.
“Unusual” comes out less than two years after your debut. What, if any, are songs on the record that you feel were stretches for your band and its aesthetic?
JL: I’d say “Sideways” or “Go Quietly” are the most outside of what we’ve become known for, but they both justify themselves and make sense. “Sideways” has this classic songwriter vibe to it. We put the Marian Hill production aesthetic to it, but at its core I can sit down at a piano and Sam can sing and we’d give you the song. Not all of our songs translate like that, but I think it’s a really cool thing.
SG: “Go Quietly” kind of reminds me the most of the very early Chvrches, Sylvan Esso — it doesn’t have sax or the vocal sampling. It feels like the biggest departure.
IF YOU GO: Marian Hill performs on Friday at 8 p.m. at Brooklyn Steel, 319 Frost St., Williamsburg, bowerypresents.com