“This line is so sketchy!” says Marina Lambrini Diamandis (better known by her stage name, Marina and the Diamonds). But despite the fallible international phone connection, the Welsh indie-pop artist’s refreshing truthfulness is not impeded as she promotes her latest album, “FROOT.”
Marina can be heard loud and clear while serving major dish on a variety of hot topics: lesbian rumors, Katy Perry parties, interviews she calls “complete shit” and what she thinks of artists who pander to the gay community (Hint: “It’s insulting”).
So, your new album, Marina: I cried.
Was the experience of creating the music as emotional of an experience for you?
Yeah. I mean, maybe in a less intense way because I was writing it for over 18 months. With everything (I’m) very kind of exposed, but particularly so with this one.
How did you end up making an album that’s very much about self-confidence and loving yourself first?
I can’t really tell you. There’s not an answer for the way I got to that point. The relationship you have with yourself – you can’t really orchestrate that or make that happen. It’s more than just a point you get to in your life. It was very gradual. Obviously, I must’ve got to a point where I was inspired enough to write about it for songs like “Happy,” but that was quite late in (the recording stage), so songs like “Immortal” and “Gold” were written on the way to getting to that point, if that makes sense.
So you were working yourself out as you went along?
The album really resonates with me in a way that I think will also resonate with a lot of people in the LGBT community.
A lot of the reason I think I have a gay fan base is because a lot of the themes, and the core of the songs, are usually stemming from something to do with identity or acceptance. I know that I always felt like that and I don’t anymore. “FROOT” definitely focuses on that, but I suppose, yeah, it is a lot about letting go of certain things. Anyone who feels rejection, prejudice or discrimination in some way would connect to that.
When we spoke in 2012, you were reluctant to gush too much about your gay fan base. At the time you said, “I don’t want to be a cliche pop star saying, ‘I love my gays!'” When does talking about one’s gay fan base become a cliche?
It’s not that it’s a cliche – it’s more that, perhaps, I was cynical about it. I felt that people in pop use that to express themselves in that way for calculated means because they know the gay fan base is extremely loyal and extremely expressive and is a tastemaker demographic. You know what I mean? It’s like, “Oh, god.” It’s insulting to both sides.
I kind of feel the same way now, because, yeah, of course I have a really strong gay fan base, and the fact is that it is a really enjoyable factor for me to have a really strong demographic because it makes the shows a lot more fun, for one, and because they are really expressive. But all types of people should be appreciated. I’m sure the gays would back me up on that! (Laughs)
Do you think the appreciation of one’s following can morph into pandering?
On Twitter, I don’t really like it when I see loads of messages from an artist saying (talks in baby voice) “I love you guys! I love you guys! I love you guys!” because I don’t think there’s any kind of intelligence in that. Also, how can you be genuine and say that so many times? Maybe that’s when it becomes pandering, when you’re dumbing down your fan base.
You’ve opened up for some big names, including Coldplay and Katy Perry. What is the extent of your interactions with these people when you’re on tour with them? Did Katy invite you to hang out with her?
(Laughs) She did actually! She invited me to a Fourth of July celebration; it was really nice. She looks after her supports nicely, but I didn’t hang out with her personally loads. And then with Coldplay – Chris (Martin) came and said hi a few times, but just as much as you’re busy, they’re busy. I do promo, and Coldplay has to do god knows what. I mean, they have bloody kids to look after! To be honest, even with the supports that I’ve had, you don’t really get to talk to each other that much. Sometimes you might get to hang out, but it’s pretty common to not really see each other that much.
Could you see yourself working with Katy at some point?
You never know! With collaborations, I’ve been very picky in that I’ve only ever done one, so I’m kind of looking forward to doing more. Now that I’ve done this album and created what I want, I feel much more open to doing other stuff.
“FROOT” has more in common musically with your debut than its follow up, “Electra Heart.” It’s very DIY, less mainstream pop. Why the change?
Because I felt like this is the essence of who I am as an artist. Pre getting signed, that was the music I was creating, and it’s not like “this is the real me.” It’s more that I feel like with “Electra Heart” it was very conceptual and I wholeheartedly embraced working with big writers and big producers in American pop to further my fan base and to expose me to a lot of new people. I did that because you literally can’t get on the radio in any other way.
So, for me, doing another album like that again would not make sense because I didn’t enjoy the experience of trying to try to fit into this mold. I felt that, though there were so many really enjoyable parts to “Electra Heart,” particularly with the visuals that we were creating, there were also parts – the everyday stuff, the kind of interviews that I was having to do, and the perception that people had of me – that I just felt really uncomfortable. With this one, I just wanted to try it on my own.
What about the interviews during the “Electra Heart” period made you feel uncomfortable?
Just uncomfortable in that they were complete shit. Actually, I have to say, for whatever reason, except the ones that were for gay publications, it seemed like everything was very surface layer because of the music that I was making. Like, “You’re making pop songs, so of course you’re this kind of person.”
I’m guessing you won’t be returning to mainstream pop in that way, then.
Umm, probably not. Not for myself, no.
There are many theories about “FROOT” on the Internet. One is that this is allegedly your coming out album.
(Laughs) No, sorry, it is not. It certainly isn’t.
Are you aware of how many lesbians wish you were gay, though?
Actually, I’m not. Interesting! I’m afraid to disappoint.
The other is that the double Os in “FROOT” are actually a pair of tits.
(Laughs) I’m happy to back that rumor!
Was that really the intention?
(Laughs) No – it’s just that I liked the double O because it looks almost a bit synthetic and playful. It gave (the album) a playful edge, so that’s why the two Os happened. But also, when we came to design the logo, I actually liked it from a design aspect, because when you interlink the Os you can form a little diamond.
Plus, spelling it “fruit” is so boring.
It’s too serious.