She had a number of top pop media outlets pondering what in the world was happening when she emerged from her between-album seclusion anew as the feisty Electra Heart. Some came up with far-fetched theories about American ideologies or even death. To be completely honest, we were similarly perplexed. True, Marina & The Diamonds had always referenced American culture in her work, but in our chat with the gorgeous Welsh-born songstress to promote the new album, she reveals to us that the truth to the meaning behind the character Electra Heart was far simpler.
“Oh it’s so embarrassing,” the star admits. “Most of them were talking about it being about American ideologies and the death of a pop star and I was thinking, ‘WHAT!? It’s not! It’s about love!’ I call my tour the ‘Lonely Hearts Club’, the album’s called ‘Electra Heart’, I’ve got a heart drawn on my face, everything’s pink and fluffy – how can you not guess!?”
In hindsight, of course, it was all so obvious. Marina had simply created a character through whom she could say all the things to a certain someone that she could never have dared say herself. Understandably, because during our chat we discover her to be disarmingly charming, honest and sweet.
“Sometimes I think, ‘what is wrong with you, Marina?’ because I couldn’t even say these things to people until three months ago,” she admits. “Basically because I had to or people wouldn’t understand what it was or why I’d created it. But yes, that was actually the reason and nowadays, the more distance that I have from the record, the more I understand why I did it. I just think that for some reason it allowed me, I suppose as it does with novelists and writers of fiction in general, to say the truth or be a little bit more honest about things that you probably wouldn’t if you were writing it 100% autobiographically. So I ended up making an album like that,” she says.
‘Electra Heart’, however, isn’t really filled with fictional tales.
“Well it isn’t, no, but I suppose that surface-wise it is,” Marina tells us. “I looked like a different person and I’m appearing to be, but the people who actually love music know me as an artist and I think they realise that. It’s really just the tool you use to encourage yourself to open up about things.
“I actually think that Electra Heart character was quite a comfort at the time, because making songs like ‘Homewrecker’ and ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ obviously take you away from that failed relationship mindset. Or if you don’t feel you were particularly in control in a relationship, those songs reverse that notion. So it was really fun, actually. The first half of the album was rotten and I wrote songs like ‘Lies’ and then the second half I had more fun with.
Marina tells us, rather honestly, that the relationship that forms the basis for the album wasn’t really even at a girlfriend/boyfriend level.
“I wouldn’t have even said that I was a girlfriend, which is the worst thing,” she admits. “It’s weird how we build things up in our heads and we see things how we’d like to see them. He’s a good person, but I think that we were just really mismatched. I think that on the surface, we saw each other as being something that could be quite ideal.
“It’s like ‘Homewrecker’ in the lyric – that every boyfriend is ‘the one’. Every person you’re with you’d like to think that it will work out, but for some reason, that particular relationship really affected me. I think because he was so wrong for me, which is weird. You’d think that as human beings, we could differentiate from something that’s clearly not working, but I guess we always like to convince ourselves that it is.
“I think one of the themes that came out of the album was that if someone doesn’t love you, it almost doesn’t become about love anymore, it’s more just about winning. It’s like I just want to make him love me so that I can feel better about things. It’s not that you actually are particularly in love with him, but the idea that you have to win him takes over everything else. It becomes a game – completely fake and fictional.”
We suggest that Marina could most easily play the role of the temptress and could win over any man she desired.
“Well do you know what? I have in the past,” she laughs. “And this is the first time that it didn’t happen! So maybe it’s why this relationship had such an effect on me. Maybe love is a little bit cyclical. I think a bit of karma came back around!”
Given the current album is predominantly about love, loss and heartbreak, however, we’re eager to learn whether or not the next album will be more about self-empowerment and moving on.
“Well I think that’s what ‘Homewrecker’ is to me,” Marina says. “That’s what my female empowerment is to me. Being a homewrecker. I don’t know whether the next album will be as explicitly about love. I doubt if I’ll ever do a record like this again in some ways.”
‘Electra Heart’ is a diverse pop record that ropes in the talents of the some of the hottest pop producers in the business. Names like Mike Stent, Diplo, Phil Tan, Dr.Luke and Greg Kurstin (who’d worked with Marina on her previous album ‘The Family Jewels’) all appear in the album credits. Rather than seeking this fine talent out, however, she tells us that their involvement in the creation of the LP came about quite organically.
“In the beginning, I was working with Greg Kurstin and Liam Howe who’d done the first album. They kind of felt safe to me and I started to build the album,” she says. “And then Dr.Luke had heard some of my music – I think Katy Perry had put some of my stuff on a mixtape and sent it to him. My A&R knew him and we just met for lunch one day.
“As people know, I was quite scared… Not perhaps not scared of him, but I wasn’t sure what he was about because he’s known for one particular style of music and I just wondered how that would fit in my world. I was quite convinced that it wouldn’t. And then we met for lunch and he said that I should pop over to his studio where Diplo was working on some Major Lazer stuff. So we went over and wrote ‘Lies’, which was a perfect combination of both worlds. I thought, ‘Hmmm… I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge’ and that really opened me up to the idea of co-writing with people, which was kind of unheard of on the first album – I didn’t do it very much.”
The first two singles from the album – ‘Radioactive’ and ‘Primadonna’ – appeared to be a lot more commercial in their sound than any of Marina’s previous offerings. The first produced by Stargate, the second by Dr.Luke, we asked the singer if it was a conscious decision to head in a more commercial direction, especially where the singles were concerned.
“First things first… any artist whether they’re from an alternative world or not, they always have that in their mind in the beginning when they’re in the studio,” Marina admits. “It’s not like you’ll sit down and write a hit, but it’s always at the back of your mind. Could this be commercial? But genuinely with the album, I really didn’t have that in my head, except for the songs that I did with Luke.
“I’m going to be totally honest… You don’t go to Luke for an album track. You go to him for a single, because he’s expensive,” she giggles. “And I got two brilliant singles from him, so I think with that, I did have a commercial sound in mind, but I think with the tracks from Greg Kurstin, I wouldn’t say the styling is particularly commercial, but I guess it could go on radio. ‘Power And Control’ is, but that’s because I wanted it produced in a really cold, disconnected way, which is similar to dance and electronic music.”
Something about ‘Electra Heart’ has certainly resonated with her fans – especially in her native UK, where the album debuted atop the British charts a few weeks ago. It gifted the singer her first ever No.1 album. Given its success, we ask Marina whether or not chart positions are important to her.
“Well it’s weird because now that it’s happened…,” she pauses. “It just seems like my attitude’s changed from the first album where because I wasn’t the commercial success that I had quite frankly expected, I was really bummed out and felt like everything that I’d done was a failure. In hindsight, I understand that it was an alternative pop album and I had actually done very well.
“But now when I think of success…,” she pauses again. “Well it’s all relative, isn’t it? For example, No.1s are always so dependent on who else has released that week, so you don’t really know what a No.1 means, if that makes sense. It’s kind of weird. It’s obviously indicitive that you’ve created something that’s connected with people and I think that’s how I think of it. I just think that people relate to the record and that’s it.”
She tells us that she was in the pub having an early lunch when news of her chart triumph came through.
“And sadly not drinking because I had a bit of a vocal problem at the time,” she says. “So I wasn’t really allowed to be in social places, but I did have one day off, because you can’t really sit inside on a day like that. So yes, I was inside a pub eating a roast meal, which was perfect really.”
Now that Marina’s finally got that No.1 album under her belt, there’s no doubt that she’s hungry for more success. But she explains that said success may have afforded her the luxury to perhaps try something new next time around.
“I don’t think that you have to reinvent yourself every time, but I think it’s in my nature to want to explore different parts of me,” she says. “For example, for the next album musically, now that I’ve quenched my thirst on doing the pop album that I’d always wanted to, I can feel a lot freer to go and do something completely different again, so I guess I’ll just see.”
And as for when we’ll next see her on Australian soil satisfying her live audiences?
“Well I guess in December. That’s when all the big British artists go for the festivals,” she says. Surely not just for the festivals, however? “Well no, I’ll bring my tour too, but you’re very far away. I’ve got to kill six birds with one stone!”
Let’s just hope she packs a mighty big stone.
Marina & The Diamonds’ new album ‘Electra Heart’ is available digitally now, with the deluxe physical version available in-stores for a limited time only.
As mentioned in the article, expect Marina on-shore in Australia during summer.