Grace Duffy enjoys some sparkling conversation with Marina and the Diamonds
Marina Diamandis is a breath of fresh air, in more ways than one. Earnest, straight-talking, opinionated and honest, she is effortlessly likeable and very charming. Discussing her background, she notes that from early on, her mixed Welsh and Greek heritage inspired her to seek out something different.
“My dad listens to a lot of Greek folk and classic Greek singers that most British musicians don’t listen to – and then on the Welsh side, the way that I grew up really influenced what I aspire to be and the themes in my album.”
She also describes how the music she grew up with cultivated and shaped her musical tastes. “My mum played people like Dolly Parton and Eurythmics, and they both had really strong songwriting. I really appreciate good songwriting and incredible lyrics, so that’s what I focus on. Even though I love music now I don’t focus on it as much as the lyrics. That’s the most important thing for me: telling a story.”
It is interesting she should cite an appreciation for lyrics at this stage, as one of the most striking things about Marina’s music is her passionate and vocal lyrics. As the endearingly candid ‘I Am Not A Robot’, for instance, illustrates – “You’re vulnerable, you’re lovable, you are not a robot” – Marina is as skilled with the pen as she is with the keys. Perhaps her most refreshing song from a lyrical standpoint however, is ‘Girls’, which quips, “Girls they never hear from me / Because I fall asleep when they speak / Of all the calories they eat.”
This frank attitude is important to Diamandis. “I’m sure there are many female musicians who believe in exactly the same thing and who don’t for example count calories, or act in a stereotypical way, but they never say anything. For me, that is pop culture at the moment, ‘cos for the past ten years that’s all we’ve bloody heard about and it makes me sick to see a gossip magazine saying, ‘Oh my god, she’s got a roll of fat on her stomach,’ and then another page saying ‘Oh my god, she’s dying of anorexia.’ The only reason they thrive is because the media are constantly giving us this image of what it is to be beautiful and perfect and many people don’t fit in with that. So if anything I would love to know that girls can, if not relate to me, relate to what I’m saying and believe it.”
But who’s to blame for this culture of hypocrisy? “It’s women who are doing this, women write those magazines and… OK, I’m sure I’ve done loads of bad stuff in my life but I’m like, ‘How can you live with yourself, knowing that you’re influencing loads of people?’ I really hate that part of society and I’m not gonna conform to what they expect people in the public eye to conform to so… I wonder what’ll happen in the next two years!” She laughs.
Is it difficult, otwo wonders, to be so upfront with what you think in an industry where many would attempt to package you into a socially acceptable shrinking violet?
“I see what you mean, but I haven’t experienced it yet and I think that’s because with my label, it’s a very small team and they know me very well, but… it is difficult, ‘cos you want to express yourself but you don’t want to be known as just a loudmouth.”
As a one-woman band for all intents and purposes, Marina is also firmly in control of her own creation. She used to package and sell EPs directly from her MySpace page and says, “That’s just who I am. I look at statistics every day, I look at wages, I look at everything cos it’s so important to me that I have to be involved in everything. It helps that I did that in the beginning ‘cos the record label got it much quicker and with the EPs, I just think it’s good cos people realise that I am real and didn’t just come from some major label fantasy.”
Indeed, Marina is very open with her fans, having cultivated a close relationship from the beginning. However, as the momentum around her becomes ever more hectic, she acknowledges in another characteristic display of blunt honesty that this has to suffer a little.
“I haven’t got time anymore to blog, and it’s either, ‘Do you wanna sleep for six hours or do you wanna blog for an hour, sleep for five hours, and be tired and cranky?’ I will definitely return to it when things are less hectic, but there’s also the subject of thinking blogs aren’t really permanent – they aren’t taken that seriously – and if I want my ideas to be taken seriously I should put them in a song or write about it properly. But, if they’re real fans they’ll be happy you’re having success, and that you’re not on a computer all day, you’re out fucking promoting your record and doing gigs and meeting other fans from all over the world.”
In the words of Janice Dickinson: “Prepare to be dazzled, motherfuckers!”
Marina and the Diamonds play Tripod on 27th May. The Family Jewels is out now