Marina Diamandis’ latest album Froot highlights just how much of her sophomore LP Electra Heart was a conscious experiment to get into the mind of Top 40 pop contemporaries. This time, she’s ditched the platinum blonde locks and soaring Dr. Luke-produced tracks for a more nostalgic aesthetic and warmer sound—one that favors ’70s psychedelia and live instrumentation.
The core of Diamandis’ craft has always been her intimate lyrics and dynamic vocals, though the two took a backseat to her glitzy “Primadonna” alter ego on Electra Heart. But by working with just one co-producer, David Kosten, and writing every lyric herself, the real Diamandis shines brightly on Froot to unveil a retrospective woman who’s perhaps a bit battered, but still an undeniable powerhouse.
We caught up with Diamandis to talk about her seeking solitude while penning Froot, being treated like a “dumbo” during the Electra Heart era and Jay-Z’s questionable (God-awful) streaming service, “Tidal.”
Assuming every album has offered a lesson, how do you feel you’ve grown by creating the past three bodies of work?
“The reason they were all written was to document what was happening in my life and trying to make sense of all those changes happening—just growing as a person, really. So it’s almost like the albums are representations of those moments, as opposed to being catalysts for change.”
Bring me through the visual experience of your new album Froot.
“Well, a lot of what I’m inspired by is ‘pop.’ I guess the foundation of Froot’s styling and imagery is the 70’s—referencing certain parts of the 70’s. I’m looking at the elements in our world of young people, now—we come from the digital cyber era and we’re trying to grapple with that, but we’re also trying to mend it with reality—trying to see how the natural world and the digital world collide.”
Why did your experience with Electra Heart make you want to take Froot in this different direction?
“It definitely wasn’t something that I calculated and did—after ‘Electra,’ I didn’t want to work with the same people again because I didn’t think it was a genuine or pure representation of me. That’s not to say I don’t like the songs, I thought they were good—I loved the album, but in terms of sound on that album, I made a calculated effort to work with contemporary pop producers so that I’d be reflecting the contemporary idea of what it was to be pop at that time. With Froot, I wasn’t interested in doing that anymore. In fact it was more important for me to write an album that was more direct and made in a much simpler way. So in a very positive way, Electra Heart definitely informed the way in which I created Froot.”
Everyone seems so hung up on the differences between Electra Heart and Froot, but it only seems natural for an artist to explore different sounds, right?
“Definitely—if you were an artist, would you want to create three albums that are completely the same, or would you want to explore the different sides of your abilities each time? I suppose we’re all different; maybe some people have just one sound, but I don’t think that’s what my identity is. My identity is my voice and my lyrics and the rest comes second to that.”
Electra Heart seemed to be rooted in this idea of a “persona.” Is this still being explored with Froot, just in a much subtler way?
“That’s a good question, but it’s difficult for me to agree with because on Electra Heart, I think on a superficial level, in terms of looking like a different person, and using a character to express certain themes and subjects, it was a way in which I could be very personal, but not feel vulnerable. Electra Heart is a very personal album, with the exception of ‘Primadonna’ and ‘Bubblegum Bitch,’ which were more theatrical versions of myself. Because Froot has a very difficult vocal production and sonic style I think it’s easy for people to say it’s more personal.
In terms of ‘persona,’ I have an exaggerated version of myself on stage, but apart from that, I feel like a completely normal person; I don’t think there is any type of ‘persona’ and I don’t think there was on the first album, either. I think it’s more of how people might want to see you because you look a certain way in a photograph that’s perhaps a version of yourself that you want to represent. For me, it’s about being a real person in-person, but I get the chance to create these amazing images and aesthetics through photography and video.”
On Electra Heart, it seemed like the industry saw Top 40 pop potential with you and began to treat you differently. Is this still happening with Froot?
“No, it’s not happening with Froot, which is so nice. Sometimes as an artist, you decide you want to try and change something about yourself, which doesn’t always happen. On Froot, I’ve been able to make that happen, whereas on Electra Heart, I felt like one of my misgivings was nothing to do with the art—it was more about how I felt like I was being treated like a ‘dumbo.’ Suddenly, I understood what real pop stars actually feel, especially people who aren’t ‘dumbos.’ I kind of felt for them and I also felt for myself—I was like, ‘I don’t want to be this; I don’t people to come to assumptions about me based on how I look.’ I suppose I set myself up for that by putting on a blonde wig, but I didn’t realize it would be so extreme in the way in which I was treated differently.”
Do you think the music industry is changing how it treats female artists?
“Yes, I do see it changing, but I think visual art is extremely powerful. It’s only human that the way you look will affect how or what somebody thinks of you. So, I think this is something that will always be a factor, but I think talking about it definitely helps.”
Would you consider yourself a catalyst for this change?
“I don’t know if I am—I don’t particularly feel like one at the moment, but I’m always happy to discuss it. I think the way in which I can contribute is by actually talking about songwriting because that’s something I do have a lot of experience in. For me, it’s less about doing the usual ‘pop’ things like going to events and all this crap. I’m interested in doing activities that are based on craft and that are based on bringing awareness to certain people, and inspiring people with the actual songwriting process.”
What headspace were you in while writing Froot?
“There was a part of the album, probably around the time of writing ‘Solitaire,’ where I didn’t want to talk to anybody—I was so happy to be on my own. I kind of had enough for a while, so there were three songs written during that time: ‘Solitaire,’ ‘Happy’ and ‘Immortal.’ My headspace on a track like ‘I’m a Ruin’ was mainly feeling pain for somebody else and having to deal with feelings of guilt, which is the worst because you can’t really fix that. Froot was written over a year and a half period, so it wasn’t done quickly—it was very much so chronicling what was happening in my life at the time.”
You explored more instruments on Froot. Why?
“I wanted to have a sound that was a bit warmer and more jagged. I discovered quickly that I wanted live drums and after that, I realized I wanted live guitars, as well. I definitely didn’t go into it thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this album that is more instrumental without a lot of electronic elements.’ It was more about what fitted each song, as opposed to trying to apply a sound to it. It was like, ‘Well, what does this song need?’”
How do you think Internet has changed the way we consume music?
“I’ve actually thought about this a lot. I think it’s changed the way in which we consume music drastically because immediately, it makes music more disposable and that’s me talking as a consumer. For example, with Madonna’s album Rebel Heart, I’ve had it for like two months and it’s taken me two whole months to listen to it. Part of the reason I did the ‘Froot of the Month’ campaign was because I wanted to give listeners time to develop their own relationship with each song I’m an ‘album’ artist, not a ‘single’ artist.”
It’s really crazy how much has changed since your debut.
“Oh my God, it’s really scary. I never thought I’d give up CDs, but I haven’t bought a CD for three years. It’s almost like a joke to even think of putting a CD into a CD player.”
Let’s talk about Jay-Z’s streaming service, “Tidal.” What’re your thoughts?
“I’m going to be totally honest and it may come back to bite me in the bum, but I haven’t downloaded Tidal. You know what I don’t like about it? It feels very corporate. I would buy into it if it wasn’t just Jay-Z and all those guys. Sure, they’re really respected musicians, but they’re all globally renowned business men and business women. They all have a lot of money. For me, it would make more sense if the message was about supporting the artist, which I think is within their message, but they should actually include artists like include Beck, The Distillers or The Maccabees—include bands who’ve made great work, but maybe aren’t on their level in terms of commercialism.
The second thing that pisses me off is ‘#TIDALforAll.’ For all? Like, everyone has $20 per month to spend? You’re trying to tell me that this is a democratic, positive way for everyone to consume music and it’s just not. You’re not selling that—you’re selling something that’s $240 a year. What do you think about it?”
To me, the service is insanely transparent—so obvious that it’s a business venture to make the rich even richer.
“Why are all these people in it? Because of money. They want some type of share in it. I feel wrong about it and I’m an artist. Imagine if Jenny Lewis was in it or if all types of musicians were in that ‘clan.’ With more people, it’d feel like genuine artistry, but with just the biggest game players in the world, it’s like, ‘Hm—I’m not sure.’ I’ve been waiting to talk to someone about that for like 24 hours.”