On first listen, Frances Luke Accord’s “Maria” is deceiving. Indie-folk layers flap in the breeze, and backing vocals emerge sunny and soothing. The song, off the duo’s new EP, Sunnyside, reminds the listener of the devastation ravaged by Hurricane Maria, a category five that ripped through the Caribbean in 2017.
If the sun goes dark someday / All the stars fall out from space / Oh, solace me, my enlightened one / With no stars and with no sun, they sing over rootsy string work.
The duo, comprised of Nicholas Gunty and Brian Powers, bottle up “the power of climate change and the urgency to address it at every level of society,” they share with American Songwriter. “We recorded many, many iterations of this song (including an earlier release from 2018), before capturing this version. The atmosphere of emptiness and calm we were able to achieve this time around lends the song a richer synchrony between lyrics and music, and better exposes the spiritual center of the song’s narrative arc. Or so we feel.”
Take me with you, Maria, please / I’m so full and I need to empty, they continue unraveling their heartstrings. I set all my glittering cotton alight / On the bitter chance you’ll restore my sight.
Poetic songwriting seeps from their pores, paired against appropriately airy production. Why I’d leave my body and my blood behind / On just the faith you’re the one to find, they continue, quickly pulling the rug out from under you with a two-minute song. The abrupt ending serves to uproot the listener and jolt them awake to the reality surrounding us every single day. In being so forthright in their writing, they hope the public gains an immense “appreciation for the immense power and scale of destruction of global climate change.”
Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Gunty and Powers are now split between Boston and Chicago, respectively. But time apart hasn’t distracted from their output and ability to craft heart-torn and profound folk music. From their 2016 debut Fluke and Silver & Gold EP, released in 2019, and the ripe new collection, the musicians and songwriters find great comfort and influence from an array of artists, including Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine, Jose Gonzales, and Simon & Garfunkel.
Never ones to rush the creative process, Frances Luke Accord most frequently write when they can “pursue something meaningful without letting expectation preclude discovery,” they offer. “Also when we have lots of time to critique each other’s work.”
Listen to “Maria” below.