Gig preview: Marina and the Diamonds at O2 Academy Leeds

Marina and the Diamonds

Marina and the Diamonds

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Last seen in 2012 sporting blonde curls and touting a shiny electro-pop concept album about ‘female identity’, Marina Diamandis has returned to her more straightforward DIY roots on her latest collection of songs.

The Greco-Welsh singer explains Froot is more about her being herself than trying out an alter-ego, as she did with her last record, Electra Heart.

“In terms of not using a character to base my album around, it felt a lot more I suppose effortless,” she says.

Thirty-year-old Diamandis has described Froot as her ‘definitive record’. She says it “definitely” felt that way as she was making it. “I suppose my feelings about my career and about being a songwriter have kind of changed and I got the feeling when I was finishing the writing of Froot that I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do next,” she says. “I’m still not sure, I don’t know if I’ll continue to do albums or do something completely different so it was an important record for me and doing it on my own was what made it definitive for me.”

Changing her appearance for Electra Heart provoked a curious reaction “mainly from the media”, Diamandis says, “but that’s because they knew me as something else”. If she found it “very comforting creatively”, she admits “there was some discomfort” that critics didn’t appreciate the concept. “But that just happens when people don’t understand,” she says.

Though she has admitted she wouldn’t make such a commercial record again, the Brynmawr-born singer still regards Electra Heart fondly.

“It was a funny album but I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I really love the album itself and now, in the scheme of a live show which has three separate acts with all three albums, it really works, but I think it was hard for me at the time. There were good and bad sides to it and that’s just how life is sometimes.”

Where Diamandis had worked with several different co-writers on her first two albums, Froot was self-composed. She says she had “no desire to even talk to anyone letalone write with somebody” on this occasion. “That’s how I started off before I was signed. With The Family Jewels I probably wrote three-quarters of it alone then I started to experiment with co-writers, but I always felt like the songs I co-wrote weren’t as good or didn’t mean as much to me. I think that’s just to do with the way that I was working – it took a month to finish a song whereas with co-writers it was a day or two. I felt like I was ready to do it and I just hate the idea that everyone co-writes, nobody writes on their own any more, I find that really bizarre and I wanted to break that cycle that we have. I always really appreciate artists who write on their own and have a really clear vision or idea of themselves.”

She admits the person she describes in the song Can’t Pin Be Down is how she sees herself “at times”.

“People think it’s this feminist song, which it probably is, but it was more about the music industry and after Electra Heart how I felt, that people thought I was just one thing and I was just ‘You have no idea what’s gone on with this’. People thought I was going to continue in the pop vein. I think it’s just being tired of people second-guessing and being so eager to pin me down as one thing when we’re all multi-layered and really complex, particularly at the moment for young women sometimes it’s quite confusing, so that song is definitely about myself.”

If there’s long been a strong visual element to Diamandis’ work and her latest Neon Nature tour upholds that tradition. “I have built a very specific set of production, I suppose,” she says. “I have a big video wall and a split level production so the band are 7ft above me and I have pink astroturf over the stage and I’ve got incredible costumes by amazing designers so that kind of thing helps me present the visuals in a really distinctive way. It’s pretty surreal and my favourite tour I’ve ever done.”

As for her ambitions, Diamandis says they’ve changed over the course of three albums. “I never felt I’d feel like this but I’m kind of sick of the whole idea of being recognised or even celebrity,” she reflects. “The level that I’m at I’m not in that celebrity sphere but I wouldn’t be very good at dealing with that. In my day to day life I’m really boring, I don’t really like anything that’s associated with that world, this album has definitely made me realise that because it’s made me feel quite tired.

“I suppose that definitely signals that I need to change something, whether that’s focusing more on music and less on presenting it myself or composing in a different way that’s not part of the pop industry or being a solo artist.”

Marina and the Diamonds play at O2 Academy Leeds on February 17. For tickets visit https://www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academyleeds/events/771125/marina-and-diamonds-tickets