Written by Eva Barragan
Photography by Meghan Cummings
For a couple who stumbles when I bring up the term “soulmates,” Maria and Josh Conway of Los Angeles-based psychedelic dream pop band, The Maria’s, seem to have a love story designed by the Gods themselves. Maria is a stunning latin goddess born in Puerto Rico (raised in Atlanta) and Conway is a calm and collected Laurel Canyon-bred musician. Like myself, the two believe nothing is more attractive to a creative individual than dating someone who completely owns their craft. In fact, it’s this artistic attraction in one another that sparked an interest in them both. Three years ago, on a night like any other, the unlikely lovers first locked eyes under the smog filled skies of LA inside of the popular Kibitz Room. Disguised as a tiny hole in the wall venue in West Hollywood and attached to a deli filled with pickles and matzo ball soup as far as the eye can see, this 50s dive-bar is the serendipitous setting that lead us here today.
“Once I moved out here I started to play all the open mics, going to a bunch of shows just doing as much as I could to meet other musicians,” Maria tells me as we talk over breakfast inside a quaint Beachwood Cafe. We’re just a few blocks from the home she shares with Josh and their adorable pup Lucy. “One night a friend of mine told me I should go play at the Kibitz Room. It was a super small show. Josh was doing sound for the event. I remember seeing him and thinking ‘ooh, who’s that?’”
Conway tells me his attraction to Maria was immediate and he made it a point to speak to her after her performance. It was his first time doing sound for Kibitz Room. He was filling in for a friend. “He awkwardly came up to me and goes ‘I really like your songs. I have a studio, would you want to come in and record sometime?” Maria tells me, giggling as she takes me back to the night they first met. “We didn't even record that first time I came by. We just took a walk around his neighborhood and got to know each other. The next time we met we actually recorded something and the entire experience felt incredibly natural.”
Maria tells me the reason she became so attracted to Conway is largely due to the fact that she knew immediately he was an incredible engineer. “I’ve worked with a bunch of producers before and he was just very patient, very open and passionate about what we were creating,” she recalls. “He knew exactly what he was doing. It was effortless.”
“Her voice alone is obviously immediately what struck me the first time I watched her perform,” Conway chimes in. “ I knew right away she possessed something special. When we began to create music together, it became obvious that we compliment each other both artistically and in our everyday lives.” He goes on to explain that in music, everything he lacks when it comes to producing a song, Maria is exceptionally good at. “We know how to bring out the best in each other and we’re able to teach other how to better hone in on our individual skills.”
Maria tells me she’s dated other musicians in the past but the difference in this relationship from the rest is that neither her nor Conway have any interest in bringing their ego along for the ride. The story behind a track on their latest E.P. Superclean Vo. II is the perfect example of this.
“The last time we got into a major argument we were driving back from Malibu. I was in such a bad mood and I was just saying shit that I probably shouldn't have been saying,” Maria tells me. “I forget the actual context but I just remember saying “God you are so clueless,” and that really struck a chord with him.”
Conway, taken back by Maria’s statement remained silent for the rest of their drive. When they arrived at their destination he walked out of the car and instead of returning with a petty comeback or allowing the comment to sit and fester, he turned it into the missing lyric for their now single, Clueless. “He had the biggest smile on his face when he got back into the car and goes. ‘You know that song we’ve been having trouble with? I figured out what to do. He starts singing the song and one of the lines he came up with had something to do with being clueless. I couldn't help but smile and kiss him. That insult was the missing link.”
As our conversation continues, and the two discuss the intricate details surrounding their relationship, the making of their E.P., going on tour, the song they’d choose to describe one another (The Warmth of the Sun by The Beach Boys was a mutual choice), and the tune that takes them back to their first dance (Sweet Thing by Twin Peaks)... I have to admit, I’m beginning to fall in love with both of them, with their story. “They’re so cute. I can’t take it,” I think as I sip on my lukewarm latte and watch them laugh over their conflicting memories of their first kiss. “It was in an alley,” Conway remembers. “No no it was at that house party. The one you played at. Right?” Maria recalls, with minimal confidence.
Conway tells me while they don’t have issues dealing with egos, they aren’t perfect. “I feel like our fans think we never argue and we’re always on this spiritual high,” he says with a light chuckle. “It’s not realistic to always agree with everything your partner says. Otherwise you’re just going through life pushing things to the side.”
“We’re still separate individuals, we both have our own opinions about maybe what something should sound like or what to do with a certain song because we grew up listening to different types of music,” Maria says. “Our ears are different, even though in a lot of ways they’re the same. We come from different backgrounds. We grew up differently.”
In terms of producing, what Maria finds most important is getting the the lyrics down and the structure of the song. “And I like going all in,” Conway tells me. “Figuring out the melody from A-Z, while that energy is there and the inspiration is ripe.” The couple also experiences inspiration in slightly distinct ways. Sometimes this creates an argument. Other times, it creates magic. “When it works we’re like ‘woah how did we get that done so fast’ and when it doesn’t we just step back for a minute and revisit the song when the vibe feels right.”
Conway admits to me that this is the first time he’s understood the true meaning of being in a relationship, and that it took him a while to feel comfortable with the idea of being in love again. Their first Spanish single Dejate Llevar was inspired by his uneasiness.
“Writing that song in Spanish was totally liberating for me,” Maria recalls. “It was like I could still be honest about what I was feeling without actually explaining it to him just yet.”
The song is about the beginning of their romance. The lyrics read “si tu quieres puedes decir que no quieres mas de mi, (if you’d like, you can say you want nothing to do with me). Pero si algo pasa en ti que no puedes destruir...déjate llevar (but if a feeling arises in you that you can't’ destroy...let yourself go.)”
For Dejate Llevar, Conway had the chord progression and part of the melody written. When he played it to Maria, to his surprise, she began singing lyrics in Spanish. “I just remember being like, ‘Yes. 100% this song definitely needs to be in Spanish. It wasn't even a question,” he says excitingly. “I remember thinking wow this is really cool because I still feel something from this song even though I don't really know what it means yet.”
While dating and being in a band together comes with its fair share of challenges, the rewards often outweigh the cost. Since the two spent most waking moments together, they understand what the other wants in a song almost intuitively, often describing sounds using taste, visuals or touch…how a song feels. “The other day we were working on finishing a song and Maria goes ‘a little less starburst and a little more caramel,” Conway explains. “And with that alone I know exactly what she means. Sometimes we’ll understand each other without using any words at all. She’ll describe something just by doing a movement and to me, it’ll instantly make sense.”
With Superclean, Vol. II Maria tells me fans are going to see every side of her and Conway’s relationship with songs like Clueless and ABQ, which is about Maria’s discomfort of being on the road with all men and missing female energy. The advice she has for other couples who are both pursuing creative careers, is to not force each other to work together. “If you work better individually don't feel bad about that. But if you do work well together, the finished product is always going to be something really special,” she says. “Be patient with one another. Don’t expect the other person to be a mind reader. Communicate what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking.” She tells me she doesn’t think she would be where she is in her career without meeting Conway and she credits their diverse upbringings to the success of both their career and their relationship.
As we wrap up our conversation, and I walk back to my car, I feel the urge to immediately playback the audio of everything Maria and Conway had to share with me. Something I’ve never done before. While I sit in the parking lot and listen to them talk about their views on love, past lives, creative relationships, and the time they spent alone nurturing themselves and their crafts before finding one another, one reoccurring thought comes to mind. Maybe the trick to finding “the one” is to not have a preconceived concept of who “the one” should be. Maybe soulmates appear when and where you least expect them to. Like in the back of your Uber pool ride on the way to Wing’s Wednesday at Dr. Teeth’s or inside of a 50’s dive bar attached to a deli where you happen to be doing sound engineering for the very first time. I suppose only time will tell which one of us have found our soulmates and which one’s of us haven’t. Until then, I’ve got a feeling Conway and Maria know a secret the rest of us are desperate to discover. I’ve got a feeling they’re the lucky ones.