One of the longest-lasting duos in electronic music just recently put out another album. Marian Hill, who first wooed us in the mid-2010s, have had more staying power than most duos, and today we have the pleasure of discussing with them just how they do it.
Their new album, why can’t we just pretend? is their first full-length studio album since 2018’s Unusual, and according to them, it almost didn’t happen. Like many of us, both Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd of Marian Hill were faced with a crossroads right as the pandemic took shape. Overpowering feelings of doubt and affirming their passion for the project, they created their most eclectic album to date.
why can’t we just pretend? contains 12 tracks, where the two take their most bold risks to date with both their songwriting and production.
You can listen to Marian Hill’s new album below. Be sure to check out our conversation with the pair as well. Enjoy!
Marian Hill – why can’t we just pretend?
Congrats on the album release! What does the title why can’t we just pretend? mean to you both?
Samantha: thank you! Well, it felt like we wrote this album in the apocalypse, so it feels good to finally have it out in the world. why can’t we just pretend? was a nod to how we were feeling at the time. Separated indefinitely by a global pandemic with no end in sight, we still had to figure out how to make music together. Why can’t we just pretend that everything is ok, that the world isn’t spinning out of our control? Making this album became an anchor.
Jeremy: It’s about music as an escape, as a refuge. When Sam and I were writing the album we could pretend everything else wasn’t so bad as we got lost in each song… we hope our fans can do the same!
You two are approaching a decade of making music together. How do you keep the dynamic fresh?
Samantha: Time really flies doesn’t it. I remember meeting you guys back in, what, 2014/2015?? I think we just try to keep pushing ourselves sonically, lyrically, vocally.
Jeremy: If the music we’re making wasn’t fresh, we’d both get bored! I think writing together longer in some ways forces us to be more inventive to keep each other interested. We’re never trying to do the same things we’ve already done.
What’s one crucial part of your creative process when working together?
Samantha: We established a long time ago that we both have to agree on an idea before we move forward with it. We used to call it the “lovit” rule. In the early days, we spent a lot of wasted energy on a song that would end up on the cutting room floor because one of us was afraid to hurt the other’s feelings. So it would be hour two and (honestly, it was mostly me haha) I would finally chance, “you know, I’m just not sure this is the one…”
You wanted to go outside your creative boundaries on this project, in which ways was that the most challenging?
Samantha: I’ll speak for myself, but I actually didn’t find it to be that challenging for this record. One of the biggest departures for us is a song called “Pretend (2003),” where we briefly describe our younger selves growing up in the suburbs. We’ve never directly referenced ourselves in any of our previous music to date, but it felt like the right time.
Jeremy: For me, it was trying to find new sonic and harmonic textures for us. A lot of our music habits come from the chord progressions I’m most comfortable writing, and I pushed myself a lot on this project to make vibes we hadn’t written to before. On songs like “Remember Me,” I tried to write a simple piano-vocal singer/songwriter type chord progression and then complemented it with rock-style drums instead of our usual trap hats, etc. And on songs like “Visions of You” and “Spinnin,” I tried to see what we could do with very little harmonic mooring at all—letting the vocal tell you what key the song is in and letting the beat just set the vibe.
Before the pandemic, you were considering concluding the Marian Hill project. What’s a piece of advice you can give to artists who are currently facing similar struggles?
Samantha: Does the project still bring you joy? Are you doing it because you love it and can’t imagine doing anything else? It sounds cliche but I really think that’s an essential question to ask yourself, because this business is really, really hard. And in some ways I think in the last few years it’s gotten even harder. But I also think it’s important to know that you can walk away. It doesn’t have to be forever, or even a long break! But in a culture that demands constant output, maybe taking a moment will be the thing you need most, in order to find new roads and inspiration, musical or otherwise. We all have our own timelines, our own creative journeys. And despite external pressures, as artists, we should never be afraid to pursue them on our own terms (advice I should really follow myself haha).
If you could perform why cant we just pretend? for a live audience in any location, without any restrictions, where would you choose and why?
Jeremy: Gotta be Red Rocks for me. Such a gorgeous venue that I’ve always dreamed of playing!
Samantha: Wowww this question! Because I’m very much lacking a creative location at this particular moment, I’m going to say EITHER: A very intimate venue, like 150 people. Or an arena, because I’ve never played one and I’d still like to in some capacity. Philly or New York. Because they’re the hometowns.