"Marina! Your new album 'Electra Heart' has been charting in the top ten on the New Zealand iTunes chart and your latest single 'Primadonna' is being played on the radio here!!" - is what I blurt out in a giddy rush of excitement as MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS answers the phone.
After we wrestle the technical difficulty of her "ancient hotel phone", Marina expresses both surprise and gratitude, genuinely thrilled to hear the good news. We begin to formulate a plan...
"I think each human being wants to make their mark on the world, in whatever way they can and maybe everyone has a slight egomaniac inside of them."
COUP DE MAIN: Congratulations on your new album! Last time we spoke it was just before your debut album had been released... and now you've gone and released the best pop album of 2012. I'm so proud of you! When are you finally going to come over and visit us?
MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS: Thank you for your congratulations Shahlin! Well, maybe with this album if I make more fans then I can come over and do a show, because I can't really come over if no-one knows me, but hopefully that will change this year.
CDM: Okay, I am going to work on this for you.
MARINA: Plan - thanks Shahlin!
CDM: What do you feel are the main points of difference between your new album 'Electra Heart' and your debut album 'The Family Jewels'?
MARINA: I think 'The Family Jewels' is a lot more introspective, 'Electra Heart' is based around a fictional character and I use that as a vehicle to talk about my love life and about love in general. I almost make a caricature of love. The sound on 'Electra Heart' is a lot more electronic and a lot darker, in some places obviously on all the singles like 'Primadonna' they are kind of very melodic and happy, but then there's 'Valley Of The Dolls', 'Teen Idle', 'Fear And Loathing', which are more the general sound of the album. Whereas 'The Family Jewels' was a bit less glossy and a bit more playful I suppose.
CDM: There was only one love song on your debut album, but this new album explores all sorts of ideas of love. Is this change in theme reflective of where you are at in your personal life currently?
MARINA: Not now, but I suppose it was reflective of my personal life a year ago. I think deep down, even though on the 'The Family Jewels' I was like "I don't write about love, I write about different things..." I think I actually did write about love because I kind of had a fear of it, like we all do, nobody wants to get hurt. So I suppose that's what 'Electra Heart' targets. I knew that as a writer I didn't think that I could progress a lot more unless I tackled this theme, and as you probably know I'm not really one for subtlety <laughs> so I made everything about love, from the look, to the tour, to the album name, to the character.
CDM: I understand that female archetypes are represented on the album as various facets of Electra Heart's personality, is that personality-mix representative of you personally?
MARINA: Yeah, but it's more of a caricature of them, and some of them... it's not really a concrete thing. I've loosely based some of the songs around certain archetypes that I wrote about, because I also have a photo blog that kind of directs the visual of the album. So, I suppose they are more... they are almost a satire of certain things that women are pursued to be in society and also in relation to love. I guess it just helped enrich the theme a little bit more when I was writing.
CDM: A lot of girls see you as a strong, independent role-model - how do you juggle personal interests of wanting to be number one and looking out for yourself in a relationship, versus being competitive, or your partner feeling threatened in a relationship?
MARINA: Hmmm... that's an interesting question. Well, I think I'm always very honest with what I feel, and it's like in interviews... if something shit has happened or if I don't feel very good then I will just say it, and maybe that's why girls relate to me. I know that for me as a teenage girl I didn't want some media-trained popstar saying what they thought the record label would like them to say. I think that honesty is key really. You know what? Sometimes you feel amazing about life and other times you just feel fat and depressed, so I think it's good to be honest about that and to make light of it, I think humour is important, nobody's perfect. I don't really know how to live my life, just like lots of other people don't. I guess you just learn along the way.
CDM: Ideas of perception seem quite important to 'Electra Heart', do you think it's dangerous for someone to be so aware of other people's perceptions of themselves that it directly links to their own self-esteem?
MARINA: That's another good question! Wow... I think it is unhealthy, but I don't think it's something that you can really stop or control necessarily unless you kind of just gradually stop caring as you get a better sense of self. I guess that's my way of dealing with it - is totally picking it apart and picking the idea of a personality apart, because you can be many different people in the space of a day, depending on who you're with, what you're wearing, or what you look like. All these factors build up how other people perceive us and the fact that I have made my probably most honest songs to date, but because I've dressed up as a fictional character with a bottle of bleach and blonde-d my hair, people see me so differently and I think that's really indicative of how we do perceive and judge people.
CDM: Last time we talked, you associated having blonde hair with when you first moved to London and were chasing 'The American Dream' and it sounded like a pretty unhappy time for you. Now that you've gone blonde again, are you feeling differently about it all?
MARINA: No... yes and no. I think I felt that from sixteen to twenty, I've kind of lost those years, and I guess I associated blonde with freedom for some reason... maybe because I was never allowed to dye my hair when I was younger because my dad wouldn't let me, so at the tender age of twenty-five <laughs> I really wanted to do it, for several reasons, but that was one of them. So it wasn't really like twenty-year-old Marina dyeing my hair blond, plus I didn't actually do it white-blonde at the time, I did more kind of streaks, it was half-brunette, half blonde. It really worked actually, it allowed me to feel what I wanted to feel and now that I've felt it, I can just move on.
CDM: Which song on the new album took the longest to write?
MARINA: 'Sex Yeah' is on the deluxe - that took five days, forever basically. Apart from that though, 'Fear And Loathing' took a long time.
CDM: Going back to 'Sex Yeah', in that song you sing: "Nothing is provocative anymore..." Where do you think this will lead if pop-culture feels like it needs to keep out-doing itself?
MARINA: It goes backwards in a way, not that there's anything at all wrong with being provocative, trends in culture all serve a purpose and that's always indicative in fashion and music, you can always tell what's going on culturally in the mindset of the young generation if you look at those mediums. But I think because we've kind of reached our limit in what we deem provocative, it's gone the other way, in that people are seeing modesty and conservatism as a more interesting way to dress. For myself, I love 40's-60's fashion because it suits the type of figure that I have the most, so that's what I always go for. I won't change!
CDM: Do you have any favourite lyrics on the 'Electra Heart' album?
MARINA: I really like 'Homewrecker' a lot, probably: "Girls and their cosmic gourmet vomit. Boys and their toys and their six-inch rockets."
CDM: In 'Primadonna' you sing the line: "All I ever wanted was the world..." Do you think greed and excess is something that we are born with? Or something that we're conditioned to feel?
MARINA: In a modern sense, I think it's not something that we're born with but it's something that we're told we can have. But I think in a general sense, I think each human being wants to make their mark on the world in whatever way they can, and maybe everyone has a slight egomaniac inside of them. But for me, I think the song was much more playful than that, it's like using satire to represent what I feel or what I see everyday.
CDM: Do you personally think that Fear, or Loathing, is a stronger emotion?
MARINA: Oh your questions are so good today! <laughs> It's like nine-thirty in the morning here and my brain isn't working! I think... oh it's so tough! I think fear, because it can be more general and it can seep into every corner of your life, so I would say yup, fear.
CDM: 'Bubblegum Bitch' is a very sassy song... are you generally that forward towards boys, or are you personally more reserved?
MARINA: Oh my god, no! I'm the opposite. <laughs> See, what I've learnt about artists over the years is, artists are usually the opposite to their music. So even if they don't really readily admit to it, there's always a big element of fantasy to it, for me if I sing about it, maybe I can become more like it. I feel like artists that are always quite sad in real life always make really happy music, and artists who are really bouncy and bubbly always make really sad music. That's what I've found anyway, with people I've met. For me, I think it's usually the opposite of what you are. And I never get chatted up by men, <laughs> so 'Bubblegum Bitch' is definitely not me!
CDM: We're almost out of time, so... lastly, what was running through your mind when you were writing 'Teen Idle'?
MARINA: That I hadn't lived my life and that I felt that I I hadn't been allowed to when I was younger. I suppose I envied teenagers who had been teenagers, basically. Quite inspired by the Tumblr generation actually, because Tumblr is full of images of hedonism, excess and carelessness, and that fuelled what I was feeling at the time.
Watch Marina And The Diamonds' 'Primadonna' music video below...