Marina and the Diamonds – the Welsh singer born Marina Diamandis – has worked with the biggest producers in music and scored a Number One album in her home country. Froot, a groove-heavy chronicle of high highs and low lows, just debuted in the U.S. Top 10, but the singer still doesn't feel like a pop star. "I think because of my past albums people call me a pop artist," she says. "But the music I'm making isn't pop in term of being bubblegum or current, so I'm not really sure."
However you classify Marina's songs, the 29-year-old seems to hitting her stride: Froot might be the most sonically consistent, lyrically ambitious of her career, and this summer she'll be taking its best tracks outdoors with "realistic, space-themed" performances at festivals like Coachella, Governors Ball and Lollapalooza. Just before the LP hit stores, Marina chatted with Rolling Stone about the meaning of the unusual title, how the Boston bombing inspired one of the stand-out tracks and why this album is more revealing than her previous chart-topper. "With Electra Heart, it was disappointing for me," she admits. "Not because of the music, but because people think you're different from who you really are."
I'm sure you've been getting this a lot, but what the hell is a "froot"?
Well! The reason why I misspelled "fruit" was actually because I didn't want the name of the album to hold any previous connotation. I wanted to have it's own identity, like a non-entity.
At first listen, the album sounds very upbeat, but it also seems to be rooted in break-up and depression. Is that right?
I don't know. There are four songs that are about that. In general it's kind of about the process of getting through feeling a certain way and having a transition in your life and coming out the other end.
There's a song on the album called "Savages" about some particularly heavy subject matter. Where did that one come from?
For me, it's one of the most important songs on the record and the one that doesn't scream radio single, even though I hope it gets its own release. I was reading an article in the newspaper about the Boston bombing. The journalist said, "It's so hard to reconcile how one man can be running a charity race, while another man is building a bomb to blow this person up." That's how it started, and I think it was more a result about how these same kinds of news stories keep coming up day-in and day-out.
For example, the horrendous gang rape of a women in India started an onslaught of other rape stories because it was becoming relevant. Like most of us, I found it so hard to digest and what I wanted to write about in the song isn't condemning these things – even though they have to be condemned – but questioning why these things happen. This is something that is eons old, and it's more about how we deal with the fact that it's a natural, perhaps common trait in man. I think there needs to be another way to approaching this, rather than saying, "Chuck 'em in jail."
I think people respond to the fact that you often write much more than simple pop songs about going to the club.
It's the type of music I like to listen to as well. I've been talking a lot about songwriting and about how that has affected our music culturally so much. It's such low risk for labels to invest in artists who are getting shunted to the same producers all the time, essentially because they've had hits and make money. Meanwhile, people who want to have a voice and discuss real things, how do they get that same explosion? It's a complex situation and I do see a wide discussion on it. We all like songs that stimulate us, and I don't think we're given that in the media.
For your last album you worked with some of those big-name producers – Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco. But for Froot you collaborated with just one, David Kosten. How come?
I think I was really tired of that kind of world, actually. It's not a negative thing about working with all these producers, but I went through that for a long time and now crave a bit of purity. I wrote most of my first album alone and had three producers on it. But I wanted to use the same producer so the entire record had the same feel. I was suggested three or four producers when I started working on Froot and I researched them all really hard. Me and David met, and it seemed right. He understood what I wanted to do.
Do you sometimes feel exposed writing such personal, deep songs? Especially the ones about being depressed?
Not really. I started writing songs because I wanted to express ideas I felt I couldn't talk about with people close to me. It was sort of a lack of communication skills for me, so actually it's a pleasure and a release for people to hear this. I never cringe and think, "Oh, they know something about me now." That's how I was wired, regardless of if I'm a songwriter or not.