Marian Hill know they bring “sax-ual” vibes; it’s intentional. The Philadelphia-bred duo made up of producer Jeremy Lloyd and vocalist Samantha Gongol couldn’t have more wholesome roots — their band name comes from “Music Man” characters Harold Hill and Marian Paroo, whom they portrayed in a production at Havertown Middle School. However their sensual, hip-swaying full-length debut “ACT ONE,” instigates not so innocent themes.
“We like each song to be its own world,” says Lloyd from a car en route to Colorado with Gongol. “On almost every song on [‘ACT ONE’], the sound came first — the instrumental won’t be fleshed out, but I’ll have an idea of the beat. Then we’ll sit in that world we want to create with that beat, and figure out what the song’s melody and lyrics are all about.”
This time, it’s the horn-heavy, come-hither track “I Want You” or the smoky beat dropping “Down.” With “ACT ONE,” the duo take a step away from the boudoir — a domain they owned with their 2013 EP “Play” — creating tunes that are more likely to get you on your feet than into bed. But still, getting in the groove is important for Gongol, whose sultry vocals define the act.
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“For me, it’s about feeling each song very specifically and getting comfortable with their maturity levels,” she explains. “Each song [now] sounds a little bit different than when we first started out with the album. I try to make it a little bit sexier depending on the vibe of the show.”
Marian Hill liken themselves to the modern day equivalent of a piano man and a jazz singer — instead now with a different set of keys. “Sam and I have that similar dynamic,” explains Lloyd. “Except now I’m a computer making music happen.”
Their live show also calls back to an earlier era, where the two can hold the stage with a minimalist set with the addition of bassist/sax player Steve Davit. Lloyd says the group designed the illuminated backdrops to create a “Marian Hill world,” lighting the deco-inspired panels to follow the beat of each tune.
Following the tour, Marian Hill — who admit they tend not to do much songwriting while on the road — will head back to New York to start on their next album.
“I’m pretty excited about putting out new stuff as early as next year,” Lloyd says.“That’s pure speculation — the timeline — but we don’t want to stop for too long in terms of releasing new music.”