Popping Up: Marian Hill

Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Rihanna and Katy were once unknown, too.

The training wheels are officially coming off for Marian Hill. The Philadelphia electronic-R&B outfit – composed of Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol – first climbed the music blogosphere ranks with glossy, sax-laden numbers like “Got It” and “One Time.” Now, as they near the release of their endlessly lush debut full-length ACT ONE, the duo is making a play for the pop big leagues.

“It’s the proudest I’ve been of anything I’ve made,” Lloyd tells Idolator. “I’m so excited for it to finally be in the world as a piece.”

Gongol and Lloyd are also making their rounds at all the major music festivals this summer and set off on a 23-city North American tour later this fall. Read more about the rising duo as they talk to us about their influences, guilty pleasure music and their upcoming album below.

How did you guys get your big break?JEREMY LLOYD: For me, there was a very clear moment. This is before we signed. I remember I was home in Philly (I forget for what). I got home at the end of the day, and I pulled up TuneCore because we had just put our EP [Play] on iTunes ourselves. It was the month when the Leonardo DiCaprio vine thing with “One Time” in it had taken off a little bit, and we had made like 15 grand in a month on iTunes just ourselves. At the time, I wasn’t sure where my next check was coming from. So I was jumping around my house, called Sam immediately, and we took our parents out to dinner. We were like, “On us, guys.

What are some of your all-time favorite songs or albums?JL: I’m in my room right now, and I’m looking at my two favorite albums hanging in here – Drake’s Take Care and Kanye’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Those are just perfect albums to me.

SAMANTHA GONGOL: When I was younger, I was a huge Nora Jones fan. The first time Jeremy heard me sing was at a talent show in seventh grade, and I sang “Don’t Know Why” … It might be kind of strange to say that I loved her in seventh grade, but my voice kind of sounds like that. Because I loved old jazz records, but I didn’t sound exactly like Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald.

Do you have any music that you would call a “guilty pleasure?”SG: Oh my god, it’s embarrassing. Like the sugariest pop. I was a huge Britney Spears fan.

JL: I’ve got a great guilty pleasure song. “Wiggle Wiggle.” That beat on “Wiggle Wiggle,” I can’t deny it. Sam makes fun of me, but I can’t help myself. For me, often what people call a guilty pleasure I’ll think is a work of genius. Like Usher’s “I Don’t Mind.” Some people would be like, “That’s a guilty pleasure,” and I’m like, “That song’s perfect. That melody is the best.”

What’s the most unusual place you’ve written lyrics?SG: Under [Jeremy’s] table. Remember that?

JL: It’s funny – we tend to just like have the places we write, and we hardcore write in them for long periods of time. The whole record was either written in my bedroom here in Brooklyn or in the studio at Republic.

How did you end up writing under the table?SG: [Laughs] We were at Jeremy’s parent’s house in Philly, and we were writing in his den. I think we were kind of stuck on a lyric, and I wasn’t feeling open space, I guess. I wanted a different, protected vibe. I just sort of curled up underneath his table and tried to write.

When was the last time you Googled yourself?SG: Yesterday. I just typed in “Marian Hill” into Google, and then I typed in “Marian Hill Bonnaroo” to see what came up. And, it was cool. I keep tabs every once in a while. You can’t go too far down the rabbit hole. But, you know, the first page is fine.

What would you be doing if not for music?JL: I didn’t really have a path that didn’t involve music in some way. But before Marian Hill took off, I was exploring like all different kinds of music paths. I was writing musical theater. I had a show that I was working on at Ars Nova. I was doing scoring work here and there. And I was also an actor and singer, so there were several avenues. But I’m very happy with the one I ended up on.

SG: Yeah, I can’t really imagine a life without music. Before Marian Hill, I decided to move to L.A. to do toplining and be a writer. But then Marian Hill took off, so those plans aborted. Not aborted – I gladly chose Marian Hill.

Do you have any artists that you look to as role models at the moment?JL: In a very zoomed out way, in a what he does from album to album way, I think Kanye. And I just want to clarify because I mean this in a super specific way. But it’s just every Kanye album sounds distinct. He’s pushing his sound; he’s pushing what pop music is sounding like. I always look to that to remind myself to keep pushing myself and to keep growing as an artist. I think we’re all very lucky to have him.

What was your favorite song to make on ACT ONE?JL: Honestly, I’m going to throw in “Good” right now. “Good” was exciting to me because we usually start with a beat, and “Good” we started with an idea, a melody. It’s always this sort of thing where I chop her vocals (often on a chorus), and I’d been thinking what if [the vocal chops were] part of the song throughout. And so that’s where it started. It was me singing and playing piano in the studio, and then the song just came so fast after that.

SG: I would say my favorite song is either “Down” or “I Want You,” especially to sing. But I really enjoyed writing “I Want You” because we never write anything in major. It was definitely a challenge, and I think we second-guessed ourselves like, “Is this ok?” But it’s just really happy. I enjoy that song a lot.

ACT ONE will be available for purchase on iTunes this Friday (June 24). Keep up with more pop music news by hitting us up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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