Marina Diamandis, the voice behind Marina & The Diamonds, is hard to pin down. She’s theatrical, whimsical and larger than life; she’s a former indie darling who’s always had pop aspirations. She is, at heart, a conundrum. At the age of 26, she has only begun to define her multi-faceted persona but takes pleasure in the process – and is an absolute pleasure to watch, to boot. On the cusp of the release of her sophomore album Electra Heart, HelloGiggles caught up with Marina to chat about art, fame, her fascination with Americana and more.
Let’s talk a little bit about Electra Heart, which is coming out soon. The album deals a lot with your sort of fascination with American culture, which has been a running theme through your music. As a UK native, what is it about America that’s captured your imagination?
“Well, a little bit of the lyrical theme is inspired by it, but it’s more like a visual inspiration. I just think your country is so rich in incredible imagery, going back to when movies began. A lot of the record has been inspired by the ’60s and ’70s Americana, like old horrible motels. That’s kind of what I stayed in for about half of last year while I was touring. Whatever you absorb is related to where you are at the time, and having spent so much time here, I think it’s hard not to be inspired. Visually, I’m massively inspired by it and the reason is… I don’t know. I find it aesthetically pleasing. I like the polished look, the hyper-feminine image and that’s kind of what I wanted to translate in my own work.”
The new material really represents whole new Marina and is so different from what you established on The Family Jewels. Do you think you might utilise your future releases as a vehicle for these other personas?
“I think you’re right – it’s funny, because the whole alter ego conversation makes me cringe a bit because I don’t feel like I can really relate to it. With this album, for me personally, I feel like I’ve defined my image as an artist much better than I could have ever done on the first. Especially lyrically, this album is much more personal to me. Everything is about me, everything is from me, I’ve just given it a name and created a sort of conversation around what I guess I would call a character because it’s what interests me. I feel like it’s something that pushes you to think about how you’re perceived as a person and how that has an affect on other things. I don’t know if other albums will have a character, but I like the idea that records have a main message and I gravitate towards musicians who do that.”
“I think I dealt with it by speaking about it, so it’s not really an issue anymore. In a way, a lot of what I do with the imagery of the album is hard to explain since people haven’t heard the whole thing. There are tracks like ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ and ‘Homewrecker’ – it’s like a sort of commentary on what a popstar is supposed to be, questioning whether you tick that box. Most stars have blonde hair, do you tick that box? Most females are supposed to look a particular way, so do you tick that box? I like the analysis on how an image is created. I feel much more confident now and like I can have fun with it, whereas before I was still figuring out how I fitted into the whole pop environment.”
As someone who is so self-aware and curious about the female experience in its various forms, do you ever feel a pressure or responsibility to either reenforce or break certain molds?
“I don’t think so. I don’t think I could say I feel responsible because quite honestly, if I wanted to follow the lead and be quite provocative and sexual, I think it would look really weird. Having that kind of image doesn’t correlate with the music I’ve made so far and wouldn’t make sense for me as an artist. I’m not against other artists who do it either, I just think it’s great to have some variation so that when you’re a 14-year-old girl, it’s not all you see. It’s hard, though, because pop music is kind of a ground to kind of address and challenge certain things and if there is an image that’s sexual and provocative, it’s usually women trying to address an issue.”
You’ve really included your fans in your career in certain ways, even making them part of your name (‘The Diamonds’ represent Marina’s supporters). How has that relationship with your listeners affected your journey?
“I think there is definitely a separation in that you should never create music for your fans, and I think that’s because you will never move on or grow. If you’re always going to be scared that you need to make music for your current fans, you’re kind of backing yourself into a corner, which is a shame. I think it’s interesting because it’s become much more common to do that; artists have broken down that divide and I think that’s great. Everyone knows all the same people and meet friends and stuff. But when people become your fans and really like you, they kind of invest their identity in you. If you change, they feel like their identity is compromised. I think with this album, it’s going to be quite interesting because I’ve becoming the opposite in many ways, at least on the surface.”
“Yeah, I absolutely aspire to that in the sense that I definitely don’t want the same journey as either of those artists, but I think that if people know anything about me by now it’s that I’m creative and like to do my own thing, but also from the start I’ve been very clear about my intentions about this stuff. I find it bizarre that people would be shocked that I started writing songs that are poppy and mainstream, when at 19 I was auditioning for boy and girl bands and doing any audition I could to get into showbiz. That’s hardly someone who’s come from the backwoods of nowhere. I don’t want to be in that world forever because that’s not who I truly am.”
When you were recording Electra Heart, did you listen to any other artists or do you find it important to cut yourself off so as not to be influenced??
“I definitely do cut myself off. In studio, you do it subconsciously in that you come home from being in the studio for 12 hours and the last thing you want to do is listen to music, so it happens naturally, I think. With new music, I started listening again recently and there’s a guy called UTRB and a song called ‘Pressure’ – he’s really good. Plus, there’s a girl called Foe who’s really cool, especially her song ‘Genie in a Coke Can’. Another girl called Ms Mr is great… I think those are on my brain.”
You’ve performed for audiences all around the world. Do the crowds differ, or do you find that people are mostly the same?
“That’s tough. I think some European countries are definitely quieter than others. Germany is really rowdy and fun. If you like being in a cool city in Sweden, they can be quite silent, but that’s based on about one gig I’ve done there. People do things differently, though. Maybe that’s why I’m really happy when I come to America because I feel like people get me, whereas in the UK, they all read into it in a different way. It’s definitely different and quite interesting to watch.”
“To be honest, the one thing that I always found that I can’t relate to and expand on in interviews is the idea that when you’re an artist, you’re always inspired by someone in your youth and you emulate them to become yourself. I feel like I’ve never really done that, at least not consciously. I think it depends on your voice and that depends on the shape of your mouth and that kind of crap, you know, as to what your voice is going to sound like. I think that’s my unique selling point, but stylistically, it’s like I’m really naive about it because I was never trained as a musician, I just loved songwriting and the English language and writing lyrics. If you go into it in a really naive way and you’re not even thinking of verse, pre-choruses, structure… other things come out and you sort of think outside of the box, unlike someone who was trained and made grade A on the piano, and I think that’s the point.”
You’ll be doing a club tour later this year after the Coldplay spots, but what else can we expect to see from you this year?
“Well, I have my tour this year called the Lonely Hearts Club. The UK first leg is in May and we’ve got the American tour before Coldplay. Then after Coldplay I guess we might come back here to do another club tour and then to bigger dates in the UK and Europe for November or December. I wanna do my own thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I’m going to achieve by opening or Coldplay, but I want to do my own gigs as well, especially for fans who couldn’t get tickets to Coldplay.”
Electra Heart will be released April 30 in the UK and in July in the US. You can find out more about Marina & The Diamonds, including upcoming tour dates, at her official website. You can also follow Marina on Twitter @marinasdiamonds
Photo credit: Parker Fitzgerald