Marina Diamandis, the 29-year-old Welsh singer-songwriter known by her stage moniker MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS, has juggernauted the charts and awards shows for the past half a decade, and will no doubt continue to triumph on her upcoming US tour Neon Nature in October, to promote her third and latest effort Froot. A self-professed rebirth, the album is a blazing pocket-rocket exploding onto airwaves and dance-floors and her highest charting release in the US.
In addition to her vivid music, Marina is also distinguished for her unique style although her appeal extends far beyond that. Her beguiling performances and Velcro-catchy songs have led to collaborations with MAX FACTOR and VOGUE, as well as tours with Coldplay and Katy Perry. From the last time I interviewed her in 2013 till now, she says she feels very different—feels like herself finally. Gone are the wigs, the garish dresses, the neon, even the jeweled heart she wore on her cheek had to go.
"The weirdest thing is, I felt like I grew up almost overnight,” she said. “I wasn't true to who I was as a person, or who I wanted to be. When you're not happy with yourself like that, it's very hard to change. Whoever you are as an artist, you have to know who you are, so that you can do what you want to do, so that no one's going to tell you what your identity is. I feel fully realized as an artist, and in my own identity now."
Born in Wales, raised in Greece and currently residing in London, Marina’s upbringing is as nontraditional as her music. It’s also a hardly known fact that Diamandis has a rare sensory condition called Synesthesia, which causes you to involuntarily see letters, numbers, sounds, even musical notes as different colors. Unless you’re into dropping acid, imagining that perspective might be rather difficult. It’d certainly be interesting to see what’s going through her head while she is composing a song. Pastel pinks, sky blue, mint green and lemon yellow? She once told me her obsession is the color pink. “I love it and I literally want to look like a walking heart!”
A self-described indie artist du jour with mainstream pop goals, Marina unapologetically revels in her own electro-pop world, creating uncompromising dance songs. Plus, she’s unwearied about fame or being under the microscope. “I feel like people are uncomfortable about the idea of art being in the commercial world,” Marina revealed. “But for me, I think the minute that you do your first gig, you’re selling your music. I think that everyone has to make money at the end of the day, but as long as it’s actual art you’re selling I think it’s okay. Feelings about art and its commerce and how you can operate in that and in the knowledge that you are a product, I’m very comfortable with that really. I think as long as it goes outside of it and doesn’t go into the creative process, that’s fine.”
Thinking of your album as a product to pitch is generally a foreign concept to most artists, particularly in the press-shy indie world. “I get why people have reservations about it,” she tells me. “It’s not very romantic, is it? People think of art as something magical and the way in which we make it is magical. But once it’s made…you end up being a product in the pop world. You can go against reality and create something but you have make sure it’s profitable too.”
With her current album doing so well, Marina is poised to dominate this year’s musical landscape profitably without being manufactured or marginalized. Froot, more darkly-tipped than her previous work, came from a place of self-discovery and isolation. Akin to her debut Family Jewels, she went back to using organic instruments further and swapping out the instant gratification of hooks'n'beats for lyrics and melodies that sound like they were borne from Igor’s laboratory during a fateful night of lightning storms. Far different from the lighter-fare influences of Electra Heart, which was everything from Jenny Holzer to being in love, she said Electra Heart changed the way she wrote, “I don't think I would've written Froot if I hadn't been through that process.”
It’s apparent that Marina possesses a genuine authenticity that’s singularly lacking in today’s fame-seeking Bieber-ruled pop world. One senses that Marina, like her idols Madonna, Kate Bush and Annie Lennox, is a woman with gobs of talent who will do things her own way. “I relate to those women because they basically defied stereotypes. I’ll never be the girl to do incredible ballads—I’m much more of the cerebral type,” she explains. “I crave a natural, simple life whilst chasing an artificial dirty dream. Can you be within popular culture without becoming it?"
Story by Heather Seidler
Photos by Charlotte Rutherford