María Zardoya is no stranger to eclecticism.
The singer-songwriter is the frontwoman and namesake of The Marías, a band known to fluidly mix and meld genres and styles. Their music feels hazy and familiar, a kaleidoscope of images from a dream; yet as its oeuvre grows and expands, the group maintains a bewitching sense of cohesion. Instead of offering a smatter of stars, The Marías form a constellation — interconnected and ever-expanding.
In an interview with The Daily Californian, Zardoya underscored the importance of retrospect, the bridge between past and present. “I have a tiny little Moleskin that I take with me everywhere, and I’ll write in it every few days because I love going back and reading where my headspace was years ago,” she said, her voice low and fond. “I’ve been keeping a journal from the beginning of The Marías, and sometimes I’ll go back, and it’ll just warm my heart.”
In the last few years, the Los-Angeles-based band has amassed a devoted following. Its previous tour endured its share of hardships, but Zardoya found solace in her writing. Softened by time, her journal entries offered a form of relief, especially when she shared them with her bandmates.
“It was cathartic reading back and just all of us (were) laughing at the dark moments,” Zardoya recalled. “There are plenty of those on the road, but I think it’s all worth it in the end.”
The Marías is currently on tour to promote their newest album CINEMA, a star-dusted and sumptuous album guided by mood. Zardoya regarded CINEMA as a sonic evolution from earlier releases, such as Superclean, Vol. I (2017) and Vol. 2 (2018).
“(CINEMA) is a little bit more synth heavy, a little bit moodier,” she explained. “We wanted the live show to be a little bit more cinematic, with the lighting and the overall mood from start to finish with a setlist. We wanted it to feel like a real experience around the album.”
Plucking inspiration from their favorite films to translate a sense of immersion into CINEMA, The Marías internalized their roles as storytellers. Zardoya’s taste in movies is as sundry as her sound, in a range that includes “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Double Life of Véronique” and “Paris, Texas.” As of late, however, Zardoya has found a new obsession.
“I’ve been binge watching “Grey’s Anatomy” on tour,” she confessed. “I’ve never seen that show before, and now I’m just completely hooked. But that’s, like, a guilty pleasure.” (Her favorite characters are Christina Yang and Dr. Bailey, of course.)
The fast-paced nature of the tour is both invigorating and exhausting, and Zardoya relishes the moments of respite when she’s not shuffling between soundchecks and flights to different cities. She exudes a strong sense of self-possession, an understanding of her limits and the measures needed to take care of herself. Before performances, she collects her bearings with relaxing music, the likes of Marvin Gaye, Santo and Johnny, Greenflow and Manduka.
“(It’s) just to cleanse my palate before we play the shows,” Zardoya shared. “Anything relaxing, I will listen to.”
Along with her collected demeanor, there’s a quiet fire in Zardoya’s tenacity, smoldering long before she was performing full-time. When she first came to Los Angeles, she worked a litany of odd jobs to make ends meet — everything from listing her apartment on Airbnb to teaching music at a preschool.
“I worked at a creative agency as a proofreader and copywriter, and I worked at a Spanish restaurant in Los Angeles for a couple years. I managed social media for the restaurant, and for a couple other restaurants,” Zardoya rattled off with disarming ease. “I was just straight up hustling … I was doing anything that I could to make it in LA because it’s so pricey.”
The singer is still based in LA and lives with her boyfriend Josh Conway, the drummer for The Marías. Her close ties to the city have come in handy during the tour, especially since the couple couldn’t bring their beloved pet along for the ride.
“It takes a village to take care of our dog Lucy,” Zardoya laughed. “She’s an Australian Shepherd, and she’s very energetic and spunky and sassy. One of my best friends is staying at my apartment and watching her, but all of the neighbors contribute … she’s in great hands.”
With the homestead secured, Zardoya and her bandmates are set for smooth travels — both the alluring sirens and the nomadic sailors. Throughout the band’s journey, there seems to be a sense of cosmic alignment, as if the minutiae of the past have always been building toward the present. The CINEMA tour is a labor of love and resolve, but for Zardoya and her band, this is only the overture.