RedHanded speaks to Marina
Describing your new album as “all over the place” is the sort of thing that musicians generally sidestep faster than the opportunity to sing alongside a juggling dog. But then Marina Diamantis – AKA Marina and the Diamonds – is not your average musician.
Last time she released an album, in 2012, the raven-haired songstress from Pandy, in Monmouthshire, donned a platinum-blonde wig and spent the best part of two years pretending to be a cartoon character called Electra Heart.
“I was constantly building a character type in my head of a figure that was heartless and cold - like an evil twin sister who’s a little romantically challenged,” explains Marina.
In 2013, the singer told a Canadian newspaper that she had bankrupted her record company – for a laugh.
And she once accepted the chance to decorate a window in London’s Selfridges by dressing up and appearing as a “live mannequin” on Oxford Street. Add to this the fact that Marina has combined indie pop, new wave, electronic and power pop in her three albums to date, and repeatedly touched on themes of religion and Christianity without actually believing in God, and you have just about the most complex, confusing and interesting person in pop.
A case in point? Her new album Froot, which has been given a title that even she only vaguely understands.
“I did it without much thought,” she admits, “but I liked the way it looked.”
Here at RedHanded we like to think that it’s a result of Marina’s crazed addiction with Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. Sadly, the truth is that she simply liked the sound of the made up word and went with it.
“It’s playful, like a child had spelt it: I wanted the album to be mature and childlike at the same time,” she adds. “I also like the idea of blending nature and artifice. And, in the title track, I sing ‘ooh, ooh, ooh’, so it reflects that sound.”
What we do know for absolutely certain is that the three years it took Marina to create Froot have not been wasted.
Where Electra Heart was a feast of electronic power pop produced by the brains behind hits for Katy Perry, Beyonce and Rihanna, this album displays a pared back, minimalist sound filled with live instruments and self-penned lyrics.
In fact, the whole thing has been put together with British producer Dave Kosten and various members of The Cure and Everything Everything.
“It was by doing an electronic album that I realized I was disgusted by it and didn’t want to do it any more,” Marina recently told the BBC.
“I actually love listening to electronic music and pop music, but for me, I’m over it. I’ve done that now.”
In typical style, Marina also opted for a slightly unusual approach to the release of Froot – which hit the shops in March.
Whereas Beyonce recently exploded into the charts with a ‘visual album’, Marina chose to release Froot bit-by-bit with a ‘Froot of the Month’.
The result was that by the time the album was released the fans already had a taste of the music but still had half the record to enjoy as new.
It is an approach that’s worked too: Froot was No1 on the iTunes pre-order chart months before its launch and immediately went to No8 on the US Billboard album chart – Marina’s first ever US Top 10 hit.
This has led to a gig at the Coachella Festival alongside Clean Bandit and bookings to play a string of dates across the States and at other major US festivals like Governors Ball and Lollapalooza.
Later this year Marina will also be bringing her unique brand of thoughtful pop to the V Festival and T In The Park. While in March, she played her first London show in more than two years, at the Hackney nightclub Oslo.
In typical off-the-wall style the set was an electric forest, complete with massive pink glowing trees.
But then for Marina, music is about far more than making music – even if that is something of a double-edged sword.
"If I'd never worn any make-up, and turned up in a little white t-shirt and jeans, I think I’d be viewed differently,” she explains.
“But when you have a theatrical, distinctive image people get distracted. They think it’s more shine than artistry.
“When you’re seen as a pop star, people think of you as this weird ‘thing’ and you don’t get any adult conversations.”
The truth is that behind all the glitz, Marina sees herself as a serious songwriter who is fighting hard to stop the tide of bubblegum pop from sweeping everything away before it.
“If you listen to lyrics on any radio station, you don’t find anyone talking about anything deep or provocative,” says Marina.
“Why am I the only artist on a major label that has written a whole album by themselves? I think that’s weird. That is weird.
“I want to change the culture of all these bullshit co-writes where no-one’s saying anything.”
This approach doesn’t just apply to her songs either. She also has a keen distaste for social media – and particularly the way that many musicians now use it as a form of electronic therapy.
“When you’re an artist, you giving-a-s**t does not equate to going ‘I love you guys!’ five times a day on Twitter,” says Marina.
FROOT is out now. See www.marinaandthediamonds.com