The Marías Dive Deep on ‘Submarine’: ‘We Played Through’ Romantic Breakup Between Members, and Deluxe Album Reveal (EXCLUSIVE)

In “Blur,” track six on the Marías’ new album “Submarine,” vocalist María Zardoya proclaims herself as an avoidant. Zardoya’s breathy voice sings about refusing to elaborate on any questions about the “mess” she’s made of her life, mainly because she can’t bare to recall the painful memories.

It’s a brave acknowledgment to make considering Zardoya, now sitting in her ex-boyfriend Josh Conway’s home studio, is openly discussing her life-altering breakup, what also happens to be the material for the Marías’ 14-song sophomore record and the follow-up to their critically acclaimed Grammy-nominated debut, “Cinema” (2021).

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Jazz-tinged and decorated in red, “Cinema” was a breezy collection of love songs narrated by Zardoya’s sultry sweet vocals that slide between English and Spanish. “Submarine,” mainly consisting of English lyrics, got its inspiration from films like Krzysztof Kieślowski’s 1993 drama “Three Colors Blue,” in which the protagonist of the film endures isolating, emotional pain after losing her entire family in a car accident. Alone and depressed, she begins a rewarding yet agonizing journey through self-discovery. In similar ways, “Submarine” gives credence to the notion that every heartbreak serves a purpose.

In the case of “Submarine,” the plotline begins with the electric “Ride,” and ends abruptly with “Sienna,” largely because there is a deluxe version of the album (“an extension of ‘Submarine’ since we felt we still had more to say”) on the way. They are also already working on the follow-up to this album.

The process for “Submarine” began in February 2023, a little less than a year after Zardoya and Conway officially cut romantic ties after knowing each other for nearly a decade. At the time, the Marias — Puerto Rican-bred, Atlanta-raised Zardoya and LA native and producer, Conway, with friends Jesse Perlman on guitar and Edward James on keys — had just ended a successful, yet grueling, American tour that launched with a slot at the Coachella music festival. The trek included guest appearances for Bad Bunny’s blockbuster “World’s Hottest Tour” to sing their “Un Verano Sin Ti” collaboration, “Otro Atardecer,” which introduced the band to new and dedicated listeners from all over Latin America. (The Marías are also touring North America this year.)

“The album’s material, from the songwriting to the details in the sound, is substantial,” Zardoya tells Variety. “I think with this level of honesty, obviously, came really awkward moments between us as a band. We had to learn to fight it and then embrace it, and ultimately, honesty is what’s best for the music and for the songs. We played through it and I’ll always look back it fondly because of that.”

The band spent four months apart between their last tour date and the the jam sessions that would eventually become “Submarine.” During that time, the future of the Marías was up in the air. Conway took a trip to Europe, in an “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of way, while Zardoya — who has written a majority of the Marías’ discography since the band started playing local shows in 2016 — expressed her grief on paper.

“There was no end goal,” Conway remembers. “We were just trying to see if we could still write and make music together. It wasn’t until we had finished all the songs on the album that we finally sat down and acknowledged that we could and we did create something we are all proud of.”

Once the band met up in person to play together again, “I remember I knew what I wanted to say,” Zardoya says, “but I hesitated to say it out loud because I was scared of how it would make Josh feel. There were a lot of those moments throughout this album that I was like ‘I know what I want to say, but I’m holding back.’ I was nervous to show the album to Ricky [Reed] and Brad [Haering], so I must’ve warned them a million times that the album wasn’t finished yet but they quickly were like ‘No, this is done. This is ready.'”

Breakup aside, “Submarine” sticks to its voyeuristic theme in its production and instrumental arrangements. Like most of the Marías’ records since their first two EPs, 2017’s “Superclean Vol. I” and 2018’s “Superclean Vol. II,” trumpets and strings accentuate the album’s more jazzy crescendos. The richest textures often come courtesy of undulating synths and Pearlman’s “secret guitar pedals” that can be delicate or rough, adding atmospheric reverb that mimics rippling water and similar sounds.

To create the album’s glistening art work (the band is even selling a vinyl “water cover” variant that has liquid inside the vinyl sleeve), the Marías spent hours uncomfortably submerged in a pool. “I was miserable,” Zardoya says. This was true not because Zardoya spent the most time underwater to capture the album’s cover art, but because her father (whose voice you hear at the end of “Ay No Puedo”) had suffered a stroke in the days before the shoot and she was emotionally shot.

“I got through the day and in the end, the visuals look beautiful,” she says, noting “that feeling is the foundation of the album: it was uncomfortable to make at times but we got through it and made something beautiful.”

Below, Zardoya and Conway share five stories behind the songs of “Submarine,” including the songwriting session about their would-be child, why Tom Waits is co-writer on “If Only,” and more.


There’s a bit of dancehall feel to this and a bit of a return to reggaeton. Before Maria, I didn’t know much about reggaeton, let alone producing it and I could make what we consider to be reggaeton, the things we hear on the radio but I feel like I would be stealing from people who really own that space like Tainy. So I find a way to make it ours, and I think this is the perfect example of doing that while still being the Marias. – Conway


The lyrics in “Echo” are painfully honest so it was one of the hardest ones to get through. Josh went to Europe shortly after “Echo” was written if that tells you anything. – Zardoya

“Echo” was also one of those songs that showed us pretty early on into the process that water would be a recurring theme. I’m pretty sure we had the bubbles you hear in the song already recorded before we even decided on “Submarine.” – Conway

“Real Life”

Josh is the best at bass lines. We were in Dominican Republic, and this song started as a full-band jam and lyrics came out, melody came out and Josh does what he does. When we write as a band its the easiest thing in the world, it’s very synergetic, I think. – Zardoya

It started with that one note, a C minor. I want to say María started singing and I was directing the band through note changes — “B-flat to G, back to beginning!” It came together the quickest. – Conway

“If Only”

We wrote this song as a tribute to Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s song, “Green Grass.” [Waits] has been a family friend of Josh’s and so we were able to send him the song before it came out and we asked him if he would be a co-writer. He technically didn’t write any of it but it was completely inspired by him and we’re honored he said yes. – Conway


This is written from the standpoint of a broken relationship and of what could have been: We could have had a child together and named her Sienna, who would have looked like you; Sienna would have acted like you, she would have jumped in the pool just like you, and she would have sang to all her pets like I do… she would have done all these things like us. But because we broke up, Sienna will never exist.

And so at the very end where I sing, “See her face in the forest, then it disappears,” it’s like seeing the future you wanted just completely vanish out of nowhere and that’s how this part of the album ends. – Zardoya

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