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Spring Sing 2022: Michael & Mariah hope to commemorate graduating seniors with performance

Wearing red, fourth-year ecology, behavior and evolution student Mariah Hill (left) and fourth-year environmental science student Michael Palermo (right) hold up their electric guitars in front of a multicolored backdrop. The duo’s Spring Sing performance will feature their original track, “The Summer After.” (Photo courtesy of Michael Palermo and Mariah Hill. Photo illustration by Ashley Shue-Lih Ko/Daily Bruin staff)

By Alexis Shenkiryk

May 17, 2022 3:24 p.m.

Michael & Mariah are joining forces to bring fervor and fashion back to the Spring Sing stage.

Fourth-year environmental science student Michael Palermo said he and his duo counterpart, fourth-year ecology, behavior and evolution student Mariah Hill, plan to sing their bluesy-laced tune “The Summer After” as a nod to graduating students. Palermo said he hopes their performance will resonate with fourth-year students who are closing out their somewhat diluted college experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially after the virtual years of disconnection, Hill said the track’s lyrics delve into the time lost but simultaneously touch on self-growth and moving forward from the pandemic.

“I just want to kind of rebuild that UCLA community that was lost for those few years while we were all online,” Hill said. “And even though things weren’t how we expected them to be, we’re thankful for how they turned out.”

Both returnees to Spring Sing, Hill sang alongside her band Dark Dazey in her first year while Palermo navigated performing virtually as a solo artist in the most recent iteration of the event, he said. The pair have wanted to produce music together since they met, and Palermo said they took Spring Sing as a challenge to blend their styles in a momentary spinoff.

Hill (left) and Palermo (right) stand with their guitars and look at one another. For their blues-infused performance, the pair will wear '70s influenced outfits, channelling Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon. (Courtesy of Michael Palermo and Mariah Hill)
Hill (left) and Palermo (right) stand with their guitars and look at one another. For their blues-infused performance, the pair will wear ’70s influenced outfits, channeling Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon. (Courtesy of Michael Palermo and Mariah Hill)

[Related: Michael Palermo to share original song ‘Sunday Afternoon’ with UCLA community]

Despite the fact Palermo typically writes his songs by himself, Hill said the collaboration came about seamlessly. She said it was initiated by the duo catching up after having not seen each other in a while and evolved into a lengthy discussion detailing their lives affected by the pandemic. This spurred the process of piecing their thoughts together into a cohesive sound, she said.

Although Palermo and Hill have somewhat different approaches to music composition, Palermo said their styles ultimately complemented each other. He said the result was a comfortable, collaborative environment for the musicians to vent and eventually reach closure over the past four years. UCLA alumnus and Hill’s Dark Dazey bandmate Oliver van Moon said he contributed to the duo’s songwriting process, along with fellow band member Simon Hirschfield, by connecting the salient parts of their rants with chord progressions and melodies.

“It (the songwriting process) was delightfully organic in the sense of, ‘Hey, this is how you’re feeling today. Let’s put our pen down on that.’ … They (Michael & Mariah) don’t hold back. They don’t mince their words,” van Moon said. “It (the song) is blowing off some steam a little bit. There’s an annoyance in the song and then a kind of catharsis about it.”

[Related: Dark Dazey’s spontaneous creation of music invites elements of chaos, freedom]

Beyond the rewarding collaboration aspect, Palermo said he enjoys performing at Spring Sing because it allows him to express himself creatively outside of his scientific curriculum. Additionally, Hill said the pair offers a contrasting perspective from other Spring Sing performers as they are both STEM students forging a name for themselves in the music industry.

“As somebody in STEM, I don’t feel as connected to the music community as a lot of the other people in Spring Sing do. It (Spring Sing) just gave me something to feel connected to the school, and it gave me something to look forward to,” Palermo said. “And with the way things have gone down, I don’t want to pass up opportunities to soak up what being a college student is while I’m still here.”

In addition to their honed musical capabilities, Palermo said Michael & Mariah’s attention to detail will also manifest itself in their artistic and striking fashion choices. Recognizing the slight Western quality in the song, the duo plans on donning outfits inspired by flowy silhouettes at the intersection of cowboy apparel and ’70s Laurel Canyon fashion, he said. Palermo said their choice of looks will elevate their stage presence, especially since fashion and music are so heavily intertwined.

As for how the pair decides to present their song, Palermo said the ardent message of the lyrics will be the foundation of their performance, signifying no big production or set to detract from the essential storytelling element Michael & Mariah intend to capitalize on. The simplicity of their sole stage presence, Palermo said, will be a reflection of the simplicity of the song and its harmonies.

“(It’s) a very bare-bones song. We want an unadulterated connection with us and the crowd,” Palermo said. “It’s just us, a guitar and our voices.”

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