MARINA Purges The Poison And Stays True To Herself
2012 was a good year to be heartbroken. You could cry in your car while singing “Lies,” then put on your favorite American Apparel bodysuit while getting ready to “Bubblegum Bitch” to remind yourself that you’re a bad (bubblegum) bitch.
Nearly ten years later, 2021 was a good year for a revolution. It was time to “Purge the Poison,” to stop shrinking yourself to fit into society’s expectations and start leaning into your “Venus Fly Trap” tendencies. To start revolting against the “Man’s World.”
With or without her diamonds, MARINA has been making music that is insanely relatable, yet unique, since we were all on Myspace rocking scene hair and using PicMonkey to edit our photos. It’s hard to say if her music has been relatable to everyone, or just the extremely loyal “Diamonds” who have stanned her all these years, but that’s actually the point. MARINA has chosen to continue creating music that she truly wants to create, rather than trendy tunes with generalized lyrics that your parents might croon along to from the SiriusXM station in their car.
At a pandemic-laden time when many of us are realizing that we should be living our lives for ourselves rather than our parents, our bosses, or our partners, MARINA’s new music and impending tour come at the perfect time. The Welsh singer-songwriter may have queer icon diva status, but just like her lyrics, her relatable personality shone through when I had the chance to chat with her last December and made me feel almost as if I was chatting with a friend.
But of course, there are still some diva-like qualities about MARINA, just not the ones you’d expect. Instead, her diva qualities lie in her ability to establish boundaries in her relationships (and in the songs she is choosing to retire from tour), and her “delusional” ways that led her to her musical stardom. Our cover shoot pays homage to the Old Hollywood glam of Elizabeth Taylor, and the love and fear rampant in Hollywood, a place that MARINA finally moved to fully just before the pandemic began.
Read on for MARINA’s thoughts on her new album and upcoming tour, the struggles that “happy loners” face in relationships, her decision to say goodbye to drag makeup in her daily life, and her go-to takeout spot in LA.
Hi Marina! What’s your day been like so far?
I actually just came back from a hike with my mom and my sister! It’s been pretty chill the past few days. Obviously, with the Covid situation, my Christmas plans have changed a little bit, so we’re not doing much indoor stuff.
Yeah, things have been crazy! So speaking of family, people visiting, people being alone; I saw that you shared a Joan Didion quote on your Instagram story yesterday about being alone. Do you feel that you’ve kind of rediscovered the beauty of being alone in the past two years?
That quote reframed that kind of conversation or topic that we often have about relationships. I feel like in popular culture it’s always like, “Oh you should learn to be on your own outside of relationships for X, Y, Zed reasons.” But [that Joan Didion quote] put it in a much more succinct, connective way. And I think the past two years for me personally—it’s not like they’ve taught me to be on my own, cause I’ve always been quite good at it. I’ve needed a lot of alone time in order to do the kind of job that I do because it’s very much a people person’s job. And also performing means you have to live life in a way in which you can inject these big bursts of energy in certain situations, and I think unless you’re a very extroverted person, you need more alone time than most people. So, I think in the pandemic, I’ve fared quite well in that regard, cause I’ve been quite good at [being alone] my whole life.
I totally relate. When I heard your recent release, “Happy Loner.” I was like, “Oh my God!” I felt so seen listening to you sing about how it’s easier to be alone and how being around people can cause anxiety and the draining of energy and stuff. This is so relatable to so many people I’m sure!
I don’t know…You’re obviously creative, you’re a writer, so I’m sometimes [wondering], ‘is it people who have creative pursuits at the core of their lives that relate to that song and most normal people won’t be able to relate?’ I’m not really sure.
That’s interesting! I saw you mentioned—I think it was in one of your Instagram captions—that you no longer relate to that song as much as you did when you first wrote it? Can you tell us where the inspiration for it came from?
At that time, I was in a relationship with someone I’d been with for five and a half years, and I think I always struggled to find a balance when in relationships about communicating how much time I needed for my work and making sure that they didn’t feel hurt or excluded. I remember at that time in particular—this was maybe two months before COVID hit—I had gone to Paris for a self-instructed writing trip, and it was really hard to communicate that in my relationship at the time. The other person just felt as if I was going off on a holiday without them. I desperately need space and time on my own. So I think I don’t relate to [the song] at this moment in my life, in that my life just has a different structure and flow to it now. And now I don’t know if I’m that introverted, I think I’m more in the middle, but maybe that’s circumstantial.
Right! And I think it also ties back to what you were saying about how what you do for your career takes so much energy. Being “on” all the time and performing and everything. Maybe if you were working at an accounting firm, you would be more introverted.
Yeah for sure! I think that’s a big part of it. Cause my working life has changed and I’m not doing loads of promo anymore. The type of stuff I used to do was just so intense, like I remember doing five gigs in one weekend on the FROOT album, and of course you’re gonna feel completely in tatters after that. But that kind of thing will never happen again for me. I think we’ve all had to assess what “quality of life” means to us, no matter what our job is, and I’ve definitely changed my lifestyle because of that.
Definitely! I feel like the timing of your album release with the overarching theme of how challenging it can be to resist conforming is perfect. Because I feel like so many people in the last two years have been questioning their path and their goals, and realizing that maybe they were living someone else’s dream. Do you feel like you had a moment of realization like this in your own life, whether during the pandemic or beforehand? Like, with your music career maybe?
I did feel that, but not in relation to my work. Again, coming back to relationships, it’s been a challenge for me as a young woman to know how much to compromise in order to maintain the relationship and in order to guarantee that it will continue. And I think I just ended up living a life that didn’t feel like my own anymore. I just felt totally uncentered, and only coming out of that experience [made me] realize I was living someone else’s life. And there’s no way in which you can feel satisfied [with that] on a human level or on a well-being level. So I can relate to that, but definitely not in the work way because fortunately I‘ve always been, I dunno, I think maybe a little bit…what’s the word? I want to say self-centered, but I don’t mean this. I think I was very centered on doing work that I loved, and I just would not accept anything else.
No, that’s awesome! I mean like, it’s so hard for women, cause you need to learn to be like that in your work and your relationships. You have to have these strong boundaries and knowledge of what you want with everything.
Yeah, and by the way, it probably sounds privileged saying that because, obviously, I do work that I love now. But at the time, I totally didn’t. Like I had no money in my bank account, pre-getting signed. I was drifting from job to job. They were always like low-skilled, low-paid jobs, and so it’s not as if I had this lofty idea because I was in a privileged place. I think it was more that I was delusional and I had that incredible gift that people in their early twenties have, which is that you feel invincible and fearless. And that was definitely needed at that time. I think for all of us, you know, when we’re that age.
Well, I think we’re all very grateful that you were a bit delusional because we now reap the benefits of hearing your music, so thank you!
Circling back, I liked what you were saying about being in your relationship and living someone else’s life, because I think that’s so relatable, especially for a lot of women. Kind of coming out on the other side of it, do you have any advice for someone who might be feeling that way in their relationship? Or even just advice for how to communicate with their partner that they might need some alone time?
I think a lot of us, whatever our gender is, really fear the loss of a relationship if we put on the table what we actually need in order to feel happy. And that’s totally understandable that you don’t want to lose someone you love or a relationship that you value, but I think the advice I would give is to be really clear about what is important in your life and how that’s connected to your feeling of happiness. And I think from there you can kind of know what to compromise on and what is just not a compromise because I think ultimatums are necessary at certain points in relationships and some people don’t like that if they don’t have very good boundaries. They feel like that’s like you being too pushy or making them do something and actually, it’s not about making anyone do anything, it’s being able to see if you can meet in the middle on something and if your values align. I think prior to this relationship, I didn’t know what compatibility was. I thought to be compatible meant great chemistry, laughing together a lot, having your personalities meld well together. But now I see compatibility as like, “Well where do you want to live? What kind of lifestyle do you like? Are you into, like, being healthy? Do you like drinking frequently or not?” You know, those very normal core things. You may find out that you’re not actually on the same page as your partner and that might affect your longevity as a couple.
Totally! I feel like there’s like a certain age or time in your life where you’re like, “Ok wait, it’s not about who I like flirting with, I actually have to ask the real simple questions and see.”
Yeah, for sure! And it also may be the case that you don’t know or you might not find out until two years down the road or three years, but I think that’s what I would advise, for sure.
Speaking of dating advice and rules, I saw that you mentioned in an interview with Vulture that the “How To Be a Heartbreaker” rule you still follow is that you gotta have fun! I imagine that your idea of having fun has changed since the release of that track. What does having fun look like to you these days?
This is such a hard question in a pandemic with dating. Do you mean going on dates or actually dating someone properly again?
You know what, you can answer it that way if you’d like to, but if that’s too much pressure, you can also just tell me how you have fun in general!
Um, honestly, I think my ideas of fun are the really simple things. I think you find out a lot about your connection with someone when you’re not doing something particularly jazzy or fancy. Like, I love just going on walks around my neighborhood or going on hikes with people or staying at home actually is a good test to that—see if you’re able to have fun doing nothing. But, yeah, fun in a pandemic has kind of changed because that feeling of compulsivity or not planning things is just not the same anymore.
Right, you can’t be like, “Let’s just go to this restaurant,” because it’s like, “Oh wait, it’s outside seating and there are two tables, you gotta make a reservation.”
Yeah, yeah that part! Basically, I don’t know how I have fun right now.
We’re all just trying our best right now.
Oh my God! We absolutely are!
Anyway, your track “Man’s World” was created with an all-female team. Did you face any challenges when working to make this happen?
Not really, but there just aren’t a lot of women out there with some of those specific roles. Like getting a female masterer? We had Emily Lazar who’s a Grammy-nominated [engineer], and there’s just not a lot of women still in those roles, unfortunately. So yeah, that’s the only challenge, but everything else was kind of easy. Jennifer Decilveo, the producer, was the first person I worked with on this record and it was pretty instant, she was very, very quick.
Who are some artists or producers that you admire or would love to work with one day?
Well, I love Grimes, I’ve always admired her from afar. I also like this French artist called Oklou, and she produces everything herself, I think, and writes everything. If you haven’t heard of her, check her out! She’s super cool!
Let’s switch gears to beauty if you don’t mind. You have this gorgeous, fresh-faced, classic beauty while many other artists, and I do not say this in a negative way, but I feel like a lot of artists are still kind of rocking the Kardashian-esque, overdone aesthetic right now. Was there a defining moment where you decided that you weren’t going to make over-contouring, wigs, overlined lips, etc., a part of your signature look?
I’m not high-maintenance enough for that…in that regard. I am in other ways, but I think it really comes down to effort. I mean, I just can’t be bothered. So I kind of am always interested in other people who do that and I like looking at their photos and stuff, but I know it’s just not me. And it’s nothing to do with an aesthetic preference. I mean it’s always nice to see people who are fresh-faced or have natural skin on show, but it’s more to do with [that] I just can’t be bothered. I mean, I just don’t have the energy for that in the morning, I don’t know about you or what your aesthetic is like but…
I completely agree. I have a friend who wears a full face & lashes when we go to the gym and stuff and I’m like, “how do you even have time?” Like, I’ll decide not to go out because I don’t feel like doing my makeup and my makeup takes 20 minutes.
Yeah, there’s like a weird kind of respect for people who do that. Because I think it must feel nice to feel totally kind of set for the day and whoever you’re going to bump into, you know you’re gonna look killer.
Right! Especially here in LA!
The only other thing is that I think I don’t do [a lot of makeup] because I don’t like the feeling of anxiety of someone, like a fan, bumping into me and me looking like a completely different human being.
Okay, yeah! I totally feel that.
I think I used to feel a bit of pressure with that, especially around Electra Heart which was more towards drag makeup. That gave me a lot of anxiety, so I thought, if I’m actually more chilled about it myself, then I won’t care if someone bumps into me with no makeup. Like, I don’t care at all anymore.
Right, that makes sense. Growing up, I had friends that wouldn’t want to go places because they didn’t have makeup on and especially for you, in the public eye it’s the same thing with fans. You don’t want to live your life like that, especially if you wanna go on a walk with your mom and your sister, you don’t want to be like, “Oh, let me put my face on.”
And when you don’t wear as much makeup, your skincare is more important. Your skin always looks amazing, do you have a beauty product or treatment that you swear by?
Well, I have a lot of thoughts on this. It’s very nice that you say that, but I actually struggle with my skin a lot, and it’s not to do with acne or anything. I have melasma which is a deep hyperpigmentation and it’s hormonally based so there’s no cure for it. I think about it way too much because it’s triggered by sunlight and stress and even if you never go out in the sun, it still kind of comes back no matter what you do. It’s not super bad, but any photo I put on Instagram, I will have a light foundation on…so I never actually show my natural, natural skin. We all have one thing, don’t we? And that’s my thing. I’m always looking for natural fucking cures or vitamins I can take. It’s never-ending and other people out there that have melasma will totally relate so I should probably talk about it more cause it’s such a common issue for women as is hyperpigmentation. But yeah, that is my beauty thing, and in terms of things I do to manage it: face peels once a year. I did one, a really intense one called Cosmelan—incredibly intense—would not [recommend] it unless you really need it. And then on a daily level, I use C E Ferulic Acid by Skinceuticals, and then I also use Mesoestetic Tranexamic Acid, I use that day and night. I use a retinol called SENTÉ. Those are my go-to’s at the moment that I’m testing out, but it’s always changing.
I totally feel that. How about fashion? Any hints on what kind of outfits we’ll see on your upcoming tour?
It’s gonna be very, very different from any other tour because I usually do custom and quite costumey, theater-y vibes, and this is gonna be much more streetwear. Well, I say streetwear, but I’m doing like blue metallic thigh-high boots. What I said to my stylist was, “On stage I want to feel like I’m going out for a great night out with my friends to the bars.” I wanna do hot pants, knee-high boots, cute t-shirts, tassel leather jackets…It’s gonna be quite different, but I’m excited to do something new and actually to feel a little bit more comfortable on stage. I’m not gonna do multiple costume changes anymore, for this tour.
I love the sound of metallic thigh-high boots! Going back to the ending of your five-year relationship—I can imagine that was super difficult—especially during these weird times that we’re in. Can you tell us a bit about your healing process and how songwriting fits in?
It’s strange to think back on it now, it just seems so long ago. I think in terms of the healing process, it’s gonna be so different for each person, depending on what the ending was like and the reasons. But I think for myself, I was kind of okay. I journaled a lot. I did this app called “Mend” which is quite good, it’s like a daily 10-minute thing that just prompts you to process things a bit more quickly. And then in terms of how songwriting tied into that, it’s quite significant really. Songs like, “Goodbye,” “Flowers,” “I Love You, But I Love Me More,” really helped me gain my sense of self back. And again, as you know, it’s just a massive bonus that I have a fan base and I am able to do this as a career, cause really the nucleus or the kernel of my songwriting is really for me to process my emotions and to express myself cause I haven’t really been great at that in my life up until now. I wasn’t a very good communicator, so songwriting was my main way of doing that and that has been really instrumental in being able to work through a breakup.
That sounds amazing! And when did you move to LA?
So I part-timed for two years before the pandemic, and like had my place here and stuff, and then I fully moved mid-pandemic after the breakup.
Perfect…And It’s like, we’re still basically in the pandemic—
I know, what am I saying? Like, we’re in this still!
Do you like LA? What are your thoughts on it?
Oh, I love it! I think moving here in my 30s has really shaped my experience because, I can imagine—like any big city—it can be hard to move when you’re in your 20s and you’re in entertainment. So I think I moved at the right age for me. And I have a huge community of friends and creatives here. I wanted to move here like five years ago, but I wasn’t able to because of you know, relationships and stuff like that so it was a very seamless move and I love living here. It’s the right place for me to be right now.
Yeah, definitely! LA is amazing. And I feel like it’s actually one of the places that even though we are in a pandemic, it doesn’t feel as affected by it because you know, you can still go on your hikes, you can still be outside…it’s not like New York or London.
Exactly, I think we’re super lucky!
So I saw that you asked your Twitter followers which tour was their favorite, and I wanted to ask you the same question: Which of your past tours has been your favorite and why?
I think as an experience for fans, I think FROOT was the best. I think it was really unique doing this kind of mini-retrospective of the three eras at the time, and I loved the costumes and the makeup that it had going on. I think also just having a full band that represented my music in the best way possible. But on a personal level, I would say the LOVE + FEAR tour was my favorite because I felt very supported and balanced. I had girls and guys on tour for the first time, I had my own glam team, it was just a much easier experience generally. I really hope that this next one fuses a lot of those elements. It’s definitely gonna be a lot bolder than FROOT musically speaking.
Are there any songs that you don’t like performing anymore?
Yes, totally. Some have fully retired, they will not come back. “Shampain,” I didn’t really enjoy, that was from the first record. And I don’t know whether to say which one I’m gonna retire. Well, I’m not retiring it, I’m just not playing it. It’s a hit, and I’m not playing it on this tour because it doesn’t suit the tour and I feel good about that. There are some songs that I just don’t think were my best songs, so I’ll never play them again, like probably from the first record.
And how will you be preparing for the tour?
I’ll probably start doing vocal exercising maybe the first week of January. So I usually have to start it quite far in advance to ensure that I’m strong enough and toned up enough for rehearsals and then obviously for the tour itself. So yeah, I’ll probably start prepping then and also with styling and all that kind of stuff, that starts the first week of January.
That’s an exciting way to kick off the year! Weird question, but I think you’re in West Hollywood right? What’s your favorite place to order takeout?
Oooh! Great question! I’m a bit bougie with my takeout, so I would say Koi. I get the short rib in plum wine sauce. I think that’s my favorite but, you know what it’s like, it changes monthly.
Yeah depends on your mood, the vibes. That is a good recommendation. I feel like people are gonna be ordering a lot of takeout in the next few weeks.
What’s your favorite?
You know what? That’s kind of why I asked because I’m having a take-out rut right now, but I did just order from—I mostly eat plant-based—a place called Honey Bee Burger and we ordered burgers and breakfast burritos and they have this Oreo milkshake that was like a vegan Oreo milkshake and it actually changed my life, so I would recommend that if you’re feeling milkshakes sometime soon!
Oh wow! Do you know what? Do you ever do Love Cafe? Because they do a really good crispy rice with tofu jalapeno on top and it’s insane! It’s so good!
You know, it sounds good! I don’t know if I’ve had them, but I need to try! Koi is great too. I think that’s all I have for you, is there anything else you want to share with Galore’s readers?
No, but I love Galore so much and I’m excited for people to see this wild cover shoot!
Photography and Creative Direction: Jacob DeKat @Jacobdekat
Stylist: Alejandra Hernandez @aleherself
Make Up: Jaime Diaz @jaime.creates
Hair: Tony Medina @hisvintagetouch
Set Design: August Emerson @augemer