The New Album We Can't Stop Listening To

After the massive global success of Electra Heart, the 2012 sophomore effort by Welsh alt-pop sensation Marina Diamandis — a.k.a. Marina and the Diamonds — execs at Atlantic Records might have expected a sequel. That would have meant pressing Diamandis to once again collaborate with Top 40 hitmakers like Stargate and Dr. Luke, and it probably would have resulted in another album of bubbly high-concept electro-pop.

Instead, Diamandis delivered Froot, which drops today and features contributions from exactly zero big-name producers and songwriters — other than Marina herself. The 29-year-old wrote all 12 of the tracks and co-produced them with David Kosten, whose credits include a couple of albums with simpatico songstress Bat for Lashes. While Froot has its sweet and juicy moments — check out that ripe, gooey groover of a title track — it's a record of ruminative pop and rock tunes made with live musicians and without concern for the charts.

"I've tried that pop world, and it's not like I didn’t survive in it, but I'm not really made for it," Diamandis tells Refinery29, speaking from her home in London on the eve of the record's release. "And, I didn’t really enjoy it."
Photographed by Ben Ritter.
If Froot doesn't always sound like an artist enjoying herself — several of the songs are self-critical looks at relationships Marina ended, and "Savages" is about how mankind is the basically the worst thing ever — it's a terrific record that presents Diamandis as she is, and as she's always wanted to sound.

On Electra Heart, Diamandis used wigs, makeup, and crazy outfits to play a series of characters meant to signify common female archetypes. It was a clever, instantly likable record that topped the charts in the U.K. and reached No. 2 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart, but it made people think Marina and the Diamonds might be the next Lady Gaga or Katy Perry. If you reckon that's why she wrote the assertive new tune "Can't Pin Me Down," you'd be right.

"It was definitely born of frustration and feeling misunderstood," Diamandis says. "That's not the media's fault, or certain people's fault. I definitely facilitated that. [The song] is me readjusting to that and being like, 'You don't even know what kind of artist I am. You will find out very soon.'"

Read on for more insight into just what kind of artist Marina is.

This is an album you really have to marinade in. More than your previous two, it's a grower, wouldn't you say?
"Definitely. Just based on songwriting alone, the songs are longer, and there's a lot of melody to digest. It's not filled with bangers. That wasn't the point. I wasn't even thinking about that when I was writing it. I wanted to write an album of things that I thought were interesting or inspired me at the time. It's an album you have to spend time with."
Photographed by Ben Ritter.
It's also a very grown-up record. You're singing about how people are awful to each other, and how you yourself sometimes treat people badly.
"If I were making the same record I did five years ago, that would be weird, because I'm 29. I've had different experiences. I've been thinking about different things for the last two years. It represents that, for sure."

Were you bummed the album leaked and forced you to push up the release date?
"Not really. For one, no campaign goes completely smoothly. Also, anything that happens in your life, it's all about how you choose to view it. To me, at the time, there was other stuff going on that was more serious. I just dealt with it as quickly as possible and decided what to do, which was move the release date by three weeks. It wasn't a huge deal. These things happen. We live in a digital age where you can't control everything."

At least the songs were finished, unlike with Madonna's new album, Rebel Heart. It seemed like she was mostly upset because she's such a perfectionist, and the songs that leaked were demos.
"She felt really violated. I completely sympathize with that. That's horrible. You're right — it could have been a lot worse."

On a side note, what do you think of the new Madonna record? You're a big fan, right?
"I am. I don't know whether everyone feels like this, but it's so hard to listen to albums, because there's so many of them, and the way we consume music has really changed. I've only started listening this week. 'Ghosttown' is my favorite so far. I don't really want to review someone's album, so I'm not going to say anything else. But yes, I'm a huge Madonna fan. I love her because I like her personality, and I like what she stands for. I hope she does well with it."
Photographed by Ben Ritter.
On a lot of these songs, you're calling yourself out for treating people badly. Never mind trepidation about opening up like that to fans — is it hard to be that honest with yourself?
"No, it's a relief, in a way. Part of songwriting means you call an opinion on something and receive clarity from it, so you can act in the right way. I know what you mean, because those songs are brutally honest. The hardest thing is dealing with the fact the person you've written about is going to hear the song. At the end of the day, you can't really afford to think about that, because if you do, you have to start censoring yourself, and you're not going to be producing work that is the best, most creative work you can."

Have you since encountered the person — or people — these new songs are about?
"No, I haven't. I think honesty is always the best policy. If I were asked about it, I'd try to explain as best I could. The thing is, with songwriting, I think the other person would probably understand. Even if it was hurtful, they'd know it was true. At least there's that."

You worked with live musicians in the studio. Would you ever want to be part of a band — maybe turn Marina and the Diamonds [which refers to you and your legions of fans] into "Marina and the Diamonds," an actual group you're fronting?
"Creatively, no. I love the feel of being a band onstage. But, I think I'm too much of an anomaly, creatively, to share creative space with three other members. But, sound-wise, I love sounding like a band, and that was one of the main aims of this record when I went to produce. I was like, 'Don't produce me like a female fucking solo artist. I want to sound like a band.' The artists I love…PJ Harvey, she's a solo artist, but she sounds like there's a live band behind her, and that's how I feel onstage. So I wanted that element to actually be present on record for once, because I've never been able to achieve that before."

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
Do you miss playing those characters from your last album? It seems like it would be fun onstage, and beyond that, you're less accountable with your lyrics. You can be like, "It's not me saying that…"
"It's interesting you say that. That theatricality can be easier, as opposed to actually acting like you're feeling onstage that night, which could be a variety of ways. You could be tired or depressed or annoyed about something. Not having that character provides a much more real performance. But, having that character gives the audience more theatrical spectacle. So, it really depends. I suppose it depends what you want your show to be. For me, it's much more natural to move into not having that character, but I do enjoy it. I've got a big theatrical part of my personality. It was fun, but I was ready to move on."

On "Can't Pin Me Down," you riff on the idea of writing a feminist anthem. It's a tricky thing. Is there a way to write a feminist song that isn't branded anti-feminist by someone?
"I don't know. Good question again. You're always gonna get pulled up on something. On this song, I'm kind of playing devil's advocate and being a bit contrary, like I'm playing with the listener. I'm not playing with them about feminism; I'm playing with them more about the fact you're maybe second-guessing someone, or you have the wrong perception of them. It's about not being confined, whether you're a man or a woman — not being pigeonholed. Feminism is a very complex topic. People are still very much navigating that, but it's something I'm interested in, and it's something I'm always happy to talk about."

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