Even when Marian Hill emerged onto the scene in an effervescent electronic collage of aughties chill pop, it was clear they came from a seriously studied background. Samantha Gongol’s vocals, smoky and sublime, were rooted in a love of musical theater, a world she and multi-instrumental composer and producer Jeremy Lloyd first bonded over as Lower Merion teens. Their longtime friend and saxophonist Steve Davit studied at Drexel University and plays in avant garde ensembles like Philly’s Space Whale Orchestra.
Collectively, they’ve been making infectious bops for a decade, songs with smart arrangements and earworm hooks that are romantic, sexy, sometimes introspective and sad, and generally reflective of the human condition. From their 2016 debut Act One and its unstoppable single “Down” to more recent outings like 2020’s haunting Was It Not EP and last year’s why can’t we just pretend?, the band’s music is fun, frenetic and highly playlistable — even if the influence of showtunes and jazz doesn’t always rise to the surface. With a homecoming headlining show at Philly Music Fest next week, Marian Hill returned to its roots (and WXPN’s performance space, which they first visited in 2014), playing a stripped-down three-song set for The Key Studio Sessions.
In this performance, Marian Hill shares re-imagined versions of their early singles “Lovit” and “One Time” bathed in the warm vintage tones of a Korg SV1 and airy tenor sax, with emotive phrasing by Gongol. In between those back-catalog faves, we hear a live debut of a brand new song, the moving and atmospheric “You Were Always Sure,” a song that seems supremely suited for velvet curtains and formal attire. Watch Marian Hill’s Key Studio Session below, and see them play Philly Music Fest at World Cafe Live on Wednesday, October 11th; tickets and more information can be found here.