Marina and the Diamonds
Marina and the Diamonds’ new album ‘Electra Heart’ is a huge leap forward and promises to be one of the most exciting pop releases of 2012, underlining that she is amongst the most talented young British artists around. A ground-to-air missile of ambitious and confident songs, ‘Electra Heart’ was written and recorded in London and LA over the last 18 months whilst on tour. Marina and I met at the trendy private members’ club Apartment 58 in Soho. Sitting in the front room, Marina is dressed in a super-cute baby doll pink dress with lace gloves on, all blonde hair, bows and fake eyelashes galore.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO FINALLY HAVE SOME NEW MATERIAL FOR ALL YOUR FANS TO HEAR?
Very exciting. It’s really nice.
DO YOU FEEL IT’S CATHARTIC?
I just feel like it’s a much nicer experience than the first album, because I was so worried about everything. Now, I just feel quite confident about everything.
YOUR SOUND HAS REALLY DEVELOPED SINCE THE FIRST ALBUM. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE TO OUR READERS WHAT THE NEW MARINA SOUND IS?
It’s hard because some of the singles are different to the album sound. ‘Primadonna’ is the most pop that it gets on the album. Even though a lot of the album is a lot more electronic, the sound is more polished. My voice has changed and I’ve definitely moved away from the DIY aesthetic, just because I wanted to be a really good songwriter and didn’t want to make music in a dungeon in Wales for the rest of my life! So I’ve gone for a much more refined sound.
WHAT WERE YOUR MAIN INSPIRATIONS WHEN YOU WERE WRITING?
Well it’s funny because I started writing it in 2010 just after the first album came out. I wrote a song called ‘Living Death’ first, and I was just focused on death all the time, for months and months. I think probably because I wanted to break free of my identity at the time and I wasn’t too rosy about things. It progressed onwards and most of the record is coloured by views on love after an experience that I had- a lot is inspired by love. The visual is 1970s ‘Valley of the Dolls’, ‘Stepford Wives’, that kind of part of American culture. The rest just came together.
YOU WERE SAYING THAT YOU WEREN’T IN A GREAT PLACE WHEN THE FIRST ALBUM CAME OUT. DID YOU FEEL THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AS MUCH CONTROL AS YOU WANTED?
I think it’s always quite hard when you’re an artist who can’t be categorized and you like to experiment quite a lot. That made things hard for where people were going to pin me and I found that quite frustrating. I had really big aspirations but I also didn’t want to compromise and to keep my integrity, so I created an album that was pretty alternative to most pop albums. It didn’t go as far as I wanted mainstream-wise. I was really disappointed with myself but I’ve gotten over that.
EVEN SO, YOU HAVE SOME MASSIVE FANS INTERNATIONALLY LIKE PEREZ HILTON, KANYE WEST… DO YOU HANG OUT WITH THESE GUYS NOW?
No, not really. I think now, I look back on it and I’m glad it did as well as it did, because now when I listen to it I’m like, oh God it’s shocking!
ARE THERE ANY SONGS ON IT THAT YOU JUST CAN’T LISTEN TO ANYMORE?
I can’t listen to a song called ‘Shampain’, or ‘Girls’ … (laughs) I’m like, Oh God, I was so immature.
YOU RECORDED YOUR NEW SINGLE ‘PRIMADONNA’ WITH DR LUKE IN LA. DO YOU THINK THAT BEING IN THAT LA ENVIRONMENT – THE SUN, THE HEALTHY LIFESTYLE – IS BETTER FOR MAKING MUSIC AND FOR CREATIVITY?
Part of it is a cultural abyss as are all places that are foreign- and you don’t know people there. For me, it was really important to be there because it’s the helm of everything I was interested in, and everything I thought my music represented. It’s quite a different place when you start to live there though. I mean, Hollywood is a state of mind, it’s not a place really.
HOW LONG WERE YOU THERE?
About three months.
QUITE A LONG TIME, YOU WERE LIKE AN EX-PAT!
I was almost like an ex-pat! It was inspiring to me because it was what I was driven towards, but for others artists it could be totally boring.
WHAT OTHER PRODUCERS DID YOU WORK WITH OUT THERE?
I worked with a guy called Rick Nowels, he did most of the tracks and he lived in Santa Monica by the sea. I liked those identical houses, it was really creepy so it was perfect surroundings really. And then, Greg Kurstin did 4 tracks, he lives in Silverlake.
WHAT IS YOUR GENERAL IMPRESSION OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AT THE MOMENT?
I think it’s really healthy. I’m really happy with the state of music. I think people can always say bad things about the current scene.
DO YOU EVER LISTEN TO THE CHARTS AND THINK, UGH HOW THE HELL DID THEY GET THERE?
Yeah sometimes! But maybe people think that about me though. I remember, one of my songs was played on Radio 1, and there were like white van men texting in saying “ow, my ears are hurting!” (laughs) So it can always be flipped around.
YOU WERE TOURING WITH KATY PERRY. DID YOU GUYS BOND OVER ALTERNATIVE FASHION SENSE?
Not really. I mean number one, it’s an arena, so you rarely get to see the same person twice. But we did hang out once, she’s really nice and very supportive actually.
DID YOU MEET RUSSELL BRAND?
No! Everyone asks that!
WOULD YOU SAY YOUR PERSONAL STYLE HAS EVOLVED SINCE THE LAST RECORD?
My style has changed hugely. Before I was inspired by Pop Art and loud clashing clothes, now I want everything to be so twee and pretty, because that’s what I’m excited by at the moment.
WOULD YOU DRESS LIKE THAT IF YOU WERE GOING TO MEET A FRIEND?
SO IT’S MORE ABOUT “MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS”?
Yeah, on work days if I’m meeting label people or doing promo I want to wear this because it represents my idea and my vision for the project. If I’m talking to people about that, I want to look like it’s come from my brain. But if I’m at home I wear the grossest clothes ever.
IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE WITH A DESIGNER WHO WOULD IT BE?
Oh God, Helmut Lang maybe. Or, Alexander Wang. I like people who have beautiful cuts.
Yeah, really simple, because that’s what I wear on a day to day level. You want the best white t-shirt money can buy so you can always wear it. But the clothes I’m wearing today are all vintage – I haven’t got one designer in my wardrobe at the moment. They fit better, are cheaper, and no one else has them.
YOU’RE GOING TO BE SUPPORTING COLDPLAY ON TOUR. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
I don’t know! Apparently Chris likes my music.
I HEAR YOU’RE GOING TO BE PERFORMING AT THE EMIRATES STADIUM?
I know! I’m so honoured. I feel really proud. If you think of doing training as a performer, the Katy Perry show was really good. This is even better for me now coming from that, because it’s stadiums and that’s double the size.
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT A STADIUM LIKE THE EMIRATES DO YOU GET BUTTERFLIES?
Not really. I love performing. I think once you’ve done that, you can handle most venues.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE YOUR WEEK WOULD YOU DO MORE WRITING, MORE RECORDING OR MORE LIVE GIGS?
I would not do recording, I hate it. I really hate it.
THAT’S QUITE UNUSUAL, A LOT OF PEOPLE I MEET SAY THEY LIKE THE CREATIVE PROCESS BEST.
Really? Oh my god. I find it quite nerve wrecking. And once the songs are done it takes twenty versions to get to the one that I want. I think I would choose performing.
WHAT WERE YOUR MEMORABLE MOMENTS PERFORMING WITH KATY?
I only did 9 dates so that wasn’t too long. But she did let me use her thrust, the bit that juts out of the stage, her screen and also those pop star holes in the ground where you shoot up. She was so kind.
ASIDE FROM RELEASING MUSIC AND TOURING, WHAT ELSE DOES THE NEXT FEW MONTHS HOLD?
Well ‘Electra Heart’ is a multimedia project so the archetype has a photography collection. I have videos, they’re quite shit, I make my own, but they get the point across- there’s one coming up called ‘Sabarbia‘. And then I have a tour called ‘The Lonely Hearts Club’ which starts in May and then it’s just promo and touring.
IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE MUSICALLY WITH ANYONE WHO WOULD IT BE?
HAVE YOU MET HER?
DO YOU NOT THINK SHE’D BE REALLY SCARY?
No, I think I’d connect with her really well.
I’D BE SCARED OF HER. HAVE YOU SEEN HER LATEST SINGLE COVER FOR ‘GIRLS GONE WILD’ WHERE SHE’S BASICALLY JUST WEARING A BRA?
(We both collectively sigh)
We actually both did a girly sigh! Which kind of translated to, i’m never going to work that hard for my body! I just can’t be bothered.
FINALLY, WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?
Madonna. Daniel Johnston. And my mum and dad.
Interviewed by Holly Rubenstein
Originally on www.idolmag.co.uk