Meet The Marías: The bilingual band thriving after romantic breakup, singing with Bad Bunny

Jesse Perlman, Josh Conway, Maria Zardoya and Edward James in promotional art for their sophomore album "Submarine," out Friday May 31.
Jesse Perlman, Josh Conway, Maria Zardoya and Edward James in promotional art for their sophomore album "Submarine," out Friday May 31.

The Marías are no longer the band they used to be – and they're embracing it.

Since their 2021 debut album "Cinema," the Los Angeles indie pop band has gone from playing indoor clubs to a stadium show with Bad Bunny. They’ve navigated the romantic breakup of singer María Zardoya and drummer-producer Josh Conway, managing not only to stay whole as a group but find a new level of creativity. Even their sound is shifting as they lean into trip-hop and experiment with heavier electronics.

Change serves as the thesis for their sophomore album "Submarine." Just look at the album cover, in which they abandon their signature red for an ominous navy blue to depict the Puerto Rican frontwoman swimming in the deep ocean free of fear and driven by curiosity.

"With 'Submarine' I wanted just a big change because we had all gone through so much change before writing the album and during writing the album that shifting the color palette completely was something that was very intentional," Zardoya tells USA TODAY.

The aesthetic drew inspiration from the 1993 French film "Three Colours: Blue" about a woman grieving the loss of her husband and daughter who forces herself to reenter reality after detaching herself from it. The album, out May 31, tackles the sense of freedom that can be found within loneliness and isolation. Like the color blue, what can appear completely sorrowful could covertly hide serenity.

Here's what you need to know about the group known for their hypnotic bilingual discography and who they've become with "Submarine."

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The Marías shattered their former dynamic and formed a stronger one

The bond between Zardoya and Conway was never easily defined. The two navigated a romantic relationship while being creative collaborators, business partners and parents to their Australian shepherd Lucy.

The pair created something special alongside Conway’s childhood friends guitarist Jesse Perlman and keyboardist Edward James. The end of their relationship may have shattered their former dynamic but only empowered the group holistically.

"When Josh and I were together, I was like, 'I'm in a band with my partner and his best friends'" Zardoya says. "Now that we're all individuals, I see it more like I'm in a band with three of my best friends."

Zardoya relates to "No Doubt" members Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal, who continued to make music together after their 1994 split. They knew their band meant far too much to allow their breakup to fracture the group, a sentiment Zardoya echoes with the Marías.

It wasn't easy (Conway refers to the early post-breakup days as an "Eat, Pray, Love" situation), but he and Zardoya became stronger collaborators. And, it strengthened James and Perlman’s creative involvement.

"The discontinuation of the romantic relationship allowed the exploration of what our individual relationships are, what they were and what they could be," Perlman says. "So that's just been a whole new source of life. A whole new different kind of fuel that the band hasn't really had before."

The Marías on why it was 'so special' to share a stage with Bad Bunny

After the release of "Cinema," which landed a 2022 Grammy nomination in the best engineered album, nonclassical category, the band collaborated with trailblazer Bad Bunny, the Grammy album of the year nominee for "Un Verano Sin Ti." Last year, they appeared on Puerto Rican record producer Tainy’s debut album "DATA" with the track "mañana." The projects were especially meaningful for Zardoya who felt an unrivaled sense of pride to share her culture through music.

"Being a part of Bad Bunny’s album, which was a love letter to Puerto Rico, was so special to me. I had my whole family in Puerto Rico feeling really, really proud," Zardoya says. "I just felt even more proud to be Puerto Rican."

The singer also got a taste of stardom while performing live with Bad Bunny during his World's Hottest Tour. While playing at smaller club venues for the "Cinema" tour, Zardoya accompanied the King of Latin Trap on stage singing the summer tune "Otro Atardecer" to tens of thousands.

"I had never even been to a stadium show in my life, let alone performed in a stadium show," she says. "I'd be backstage with my in-ears and hearing this entire stadium, and I'd be like 'Nope, I'm going to walk away.'"

Once she started singing the nerves vanished, she says. The milestone experience helped her feel comfortable in the face of fear. Instead of fleeing from a formidable task, Zardoya dives head first.

'Submarine' is ready to emerge to the world

While the album is its own era separate from "Cinema" and their "Superclean" EPs, the group assured listeners they have not lost their mesmeric charm. Like most of their work, the project has a cinematic essence as Zardoya said the group’s love for film is an integral part of their DNA.

The album will also feature Spanish tracks including the single "Lejos de Ti," something Conway said has always kept the band exciting. Despite Zardoya being the sole Spanish speaker, she said the guys have always embraced incorporating the language from silky-smooth lullaby "Cariño" to reggaeton bop "Un Millón."

"Making songs in Spanish was the first thing about the Marías that got me really, really excited about it," Conway said. "I'd certainly never made any songs in Spanish before. I mean, I don't speak it so there's a reason for that. That was what really sealed the deal for me."

Zardoya encourages listeners to let "Submarine" sink in with no interruptions. She also urges them to first listen to it wherever they feel most comfortable being themselves.

"Whether it's in your car, in your bed, in your apartment, by the ocean, in nature, wherever," she says. "We would love for people to listen to it from start to finish. I think all the songs mean so much more as a collective than just individually. We just invite people to listen on headphones in an isolated experience."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Marías talk new album, navigating romantic breakup and Bad Bunny