Like stepping straight out of the Valley of the Dolls, Marina’s appearance is the embodiment of her new album, Electra Heart down to the ‘50s American dream aesthetic gone horribly wrong, or depending on perspective, horribly right. Marina’s image epitomizes a record brimming with observations of societal obsessions with equal part satire and submission.
The deliberateness of Marina’s decisions on image and performance adds to the whole Electra Heart alter ego she’s created for this album. Each track and each music video helps the audience unravel a story that involves rapturous triviality, blissful hollowness and underneath the disguise, possibly just a broken heart.
Your latest album Electra Heart contains many aggressively titled tracks with words like “bitch”, “lies” and “homewrecker”. Was there a theme to this album or did it just work out that way?
It’s weird because sometimes as an artist you do something and you’re not sure why you do it. So even with creating the Electra Heart figure or character let’s say, in the beginning it seemed very natural to me because I always make up these ridiculous, kind of like drag queen/porn star names [laughs]. I’m really good at it.
This time I was heartbroken and I felt that, I don’t know, using a character as a way of telling a story or aiding me in writing songs that were kind of uncensored in what I wanted to say, so it ended up being an album using fictional characters to talk about heartbreak, but I kind of wanted it to be in an unorthodox way in that I’ve never written songs like, “I miss you, I love you, baby come back.” I wanted something that was kind of very brutal and blunt in talking about love – in a way that we all connect to, you know a realistic way and fusing that with pop philosophy of song writing.
It looks like heartbreak makes you braver in your songwriting.
Yeah, I think so. It’s almost like when you’re feeling really weak. What you want to be is strong so you start to write in a way that hopefully will bring that out in you. It’s almost like, if you want to become a self-fulfilled prophecy, you have to absolutely believe in everything that you’re going to be, and become it. It’s like “Homewrecker”, “Primadonna”, “Bubblegum Bitch” – that kind of humour, songs that play with the idea of not needing anybody because at the time I felt so disappointed in the relationship I had had.
Speaking of the song “Primadonna”, the video and the song has a sort of ‘50s American dream aesthetic to it. What inspired the storytelling?
I guess I was playing with the whole primadonna character and I don’t know why. Sometimes in culture, trends just come up. You know like in fashion, you see a trend suddenly emerge and everyone starts to do it. I think because I had been on Tumblr everyday for ages and you kind of start to absorb what’s in the minds of people around you and people of your age. I kind of sensed that there was this gravitation toward early, innocent, pink aesthetic, but kind of had an evil element to it. I definitely adopted that for this whole character. I think I’ve always really enjoyed the ‘50s aesthetic, but on the first album [The Family Jewels], I only explored the glitzy part of it.
There’s a sense of parody involved as well, right?
I don’t know. I don’t like to say parody because I really do enjoy these themes. So it’s not like me being like, I don’t know if this is even a word, like a “moralist”. Kind of like preaching to anyone because I don’t know how to live life [laughs]. But this is what I feel is reflected in our generation at the moment and I think what art and pop music does – it spits back what it takes in.
So there is a little bit of social commentary in there then.
Yeah, it is. You know, social matters to inspire me.
A few of your songs are done acoustically on your site. Do you think the meaning of the song changes when the performance changes?
Absolutely. Suddenly you become, oh, credible artist because it’s just a piano and your voice. I really enjoy the acoustic versions and I also think it’s more true to my original artistic identity because that’s how I always compose so it’s the most pure version of the song. But saying that, the pop versions allow me put on the kind of live shows that I like to do, which is very theatrical and energetic. You kind of need both worlds and I’m sure my fan base appreciates the acoustic version more – kind of the old school fan base that were there from the start and then other people like the more up tempo version. It’s funny how suddenly, it’s like, oh it’s okay to like “Primadonna” now that it’s credible.
It’s funny how that happens. For instance, the pop version of “Starring Role” sounds very much satirical, while the acoustic version sounds almost tragic.
It’s good. It’s interesting how you can change the whole theme of a song. Like Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” – I covered it and switched the lyrics around and it became this really tragic song. It’s great!
Do you have a favourite remix of any of your songs?
On the first album there was a guy called, The Aspirins For My Children and he did a great one of “Obsessions”. There’s a band called Clock Opera. They are incredible at remixes. I have to say though, I haven’t had a favourite remix on this album yet. Still waiting. I think one’s coming soon.
Um, it’s by a girl and I’m really excited.
What factors influence the way you come up with treatments for the series of music videos for this album?
Well, it always starts with the lyric theme of the song. I guess because it’s kind of following this character [Electra Heart], it’s more an evolution of the last video because I want it to be like a story and I want the whole project to have about fifteen parts. It’s been different from the first album. It always depends on the last video and if you’re telling a tale of love, you have to think about where you just came from.
With such a heavy concentration of formulated pop music everywhere, does it take a lot of effort to block it out and push it aside when you do your own creative thing?
No, I think almost all music serves its own purpose and hits the spot. I mean I really like kind of the really plastic pop, but I don’t just want that. I want the credible acoustic music. I want to have a variation. It doesn’t really bug me. I think that at the moment, it’s at the top of what’s being played most on the radio, but it doesn’t make me angry or anything.
Do you ever feel like a dual person where one side is for art, music, performance and the other side for day-to-day life?
Yeah, definitely. And that’s kind of what fascinated me and what drew me to creating the Electra Heart character because almost again, in a parody’ish way, I’m almost parodying the idea of a pop star in that I realize I am one now, but it’s like very ‘90s when stars start to be caught without their makeup and that kind of illusion of the pretty pop star was ruined – especially with the Britney [Spears] Blackout years. God bless her. By the way, I’m not bitching, I love Britney and studied her life.
As we all have.
I’ve always thought as well because pop is so powerful, you can create this amazing, fancy image and make yourself look so much more interesting than you actually are and I’ve always wondered like, what does so and so do when she actually gets home. I quite like that duality and I definitely play to it. I never have any of this [gestures to her make up] on at home in London. I live a super, super normal life.