Interview: Marina and the Diamonds
Simultaneously sending up the American Dream and stealing the boys’ hearts, Marina Diamandis first made her mark on the pop charts with "Hollywood" in 2010. Debut album done and dusted, it’s already time for the outspoken singer to release her sophomore offering – and simultaneously unveil her latest artistic creation, fictional femme fatale Electra Heart.
We quizzed Marina about Justin Bieber, primadonna tendencies and the new album. See what she had to say for herself below.
Hey Marina, what are you up to at the moment?
It’s midnight and I’m eating popcorn at home, alone.
It’s more assertive than the first record. For one thing, it has an identity! I loved the first record and am glad that it was such a shambles. Looking back now, it was a naive, anxious record, and naivety is a rare quality in pop music. I had all these ideas and wanted to show people what I was and who I would be. The second record is more focused and self-assured.
Did you experience any “difficult second album” jitters when writing Electra Heart?
The opposite! I was writing the second record one month after the first was released. I had a bee in my bonnet and wanted people to think I was a good artist. I still do. Someone who was worth something, I suppose. I wrote it in 18 months, while I was touring and travelling America.
Can tell us more about where the character “Electra Heart” came from please? Is she an alter-ego?
It’s not like a real, living, existing character in me! The term alter-ego sends a slight shiver up my spine. It’s creepy and I do not relate to it at all. I have conjured up a character for sure, though. As a result of feeling unloved and ashamed of being unloved by someone I had fallen for, I created a whole concept album about a callous, cold, unloving character called Electra Heart – someone that never got hurt, but only hurt others. And it gave me my confidence back in a strange way.
If you had to pick your favourite track on the album, which would it be and why?
Probably "Starring Role". It was maybe the third or fourth track I'd written, but [felt like] the first, in terms of suddenly realising what it was I wanted to actually say with the record. Yeah, it's about love. Duh! But I wanted to represent all the different colours and character types within a relationship, because you can be many different people at any given minute. This song is perfect because it hinted at my development in terms of visual representation and character creation (starring role being a cinematic/theatrical term) but also nailed the subject matter to a tee.
It’s a pretty aggressive song, lyrically! And "Homewrecker" too. And are you worried at all you might alienate your male fans/scare off potential suitors?!
No. I’m only saying what many of us have secretly thought about at some point… In fact, I’ve gained way more male fans since Electra Heart has been on the horizon. "Homewrecker" is like a collection of “truisms” about love. Would you prefer me to write soppy love songs?!
Your last single was called "Primadonna". Have you ever behaved like a primadonna in real life?
Hmm… Nothing I can think of specifically but I don't suffer fools; I can’t even fake being polite. I fired a bassist once because he was being rude and a primadonna smart-arse but that is far as my primadonna life has gotten.
It was a challenge for me in terms of conquering my nerves when writing with other people. He is the biggest contemporary songwriter in the world right now, so it was really wonderful for me to feel like I was good enough to be recognised by someone like that. I had big reservations on the first album about working with someone in his game. But slowly I realised that I was viewing things in a negative way and that you cannot be a judge of something you have no part in or experience of. I am really glad I changed my perspective. Sometimes you rally against what you secretly want.
Do you identify with artists like Katy and Britney?
Yes and no, in equal amounts! Katy and Britney are very different, for starters. I would say Katy's background is more as an artist whereas Brit’s always been a performer and an entertainer. I like to toy with the idea of innocence and femininity and, intentionally or not, they both do that, I guess. I love pop stars, and pop culture too.
It seems to us that image plays a large role in your work. Why do you think that is?
I love creating a brilliant picture; there’s not a lot more to it than that. I like making a setting or person look much, much more exciting than they really are.
We spoke to Patrick Wolf last year and he mentioned he’d really like to work with you – has anything come of that? Do you have any collaborations in the pipeline?
I love Patrick. He is one of the British greats. I have no other collaborations in the pipeline but my 92-year-old gran features at the end of "Fear and Loathing" on this record.
You recently covered a Justin Bieber song – are you a fan? And who would win in a fight: the Beliebers or Marina’s Diamonds?
Probably the Beliebers because there are a billion of them. I am a fan of his handsome teen face, yes. His music is alright too. I think he’ll be around for a long time. He’s smart and a good kid.
What would you like to achieve ultimately in your music? Do you have a musical role model?
I love Madonna, Dolly Parton, PJ Harvey and Kate Bush. I think I would just like to mean something to people – enough to be able to transcend the trends in the musical climate and have longevity. It would be wonderful to mean a lot to the same person in 20 years time. It would also be good to do something totally unexpected on each album: explore different parts of my musical identity.
Can you recommend one album to us as must-own?
PJ Harvey’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. It was the most “pop” she ever went. It’s just such a well written record.
What are you up to for the rest of 2012?
Supporting Coldplay live, touring the ‘Lonely Heart's Club’ across the UK and America, making vids, chatting about myself 24/7 – you know the drill!
Thanks for your time Marina, good luck with the record!
Dankeschoen! *Royal curtsy*