Indie folk artist (or not, as we shall see) Marika Hackman kindly sat down for a few words on the eve of her Brighton appearance at the Green Door Store on 20th November as part of a UK tour. Find out what she had to say about her debut album, out next year, and what to expect from that release below in her interview with Verse writer Harry Barnes.
Harry: So Marika, how has the tour been so far?
Marika: Yeah it’s been great! It’s been really, really good – I’ve been on the road for 9 weeks now! So I’ve been feeling a bit sleepy now, but we’ve been doing our own headlining gigs for 3 weeks now, which has been really fun.
Harry: Did it start with alt-J your tour? I saw you support them at Alexandra Palace!
Marika: Yes, back in September. It was a huge show, and I think playing Alexandra Palace is something every artist has on their to-do list. Even in Dublin, it was amazing, playing to 10,000, 12,000 people at the 3arena. That’s my first experience of playing in an arena, too.
Harry: You were on one of alt-J’s tracks on the new album, Warm Foothills. It’s quite hard to tell who is singing on what part of that song! [For those that do not know, it is probably best to listen to the song, but the lines and words change between 5 different singers with no particularly pattern]
Marika: Yeah, I can tell between me and Lianne (La Havas), but for the guys it is quite confusing.
Harry: How did that happen?
Marika: Charlie, my producer and theirs, just called me one afternoon and asked me if I wanted to be on one the tracks and I said “Yep, I’m-a coming!”.
Harry: Did you just sing the whole thing, and then it was chopped and changed? I like to think you all had impeccable timing squeezed around one microphone.
Marika: Yeah, that would’ve been so hard. That’s where Charlie’s genius comes in to play.
Harry: Oh, he’s fantastic! alt-J’s first album was amazing for me, I loved it as an album, and Charlie definitely added something to it. I noticed that you have recorded with on your debut album, out in February. That must have been an experience, as he is *quite* a good producer.
Marika: Yeah, he’s amazing. It was off the back of that album that I knew I wanted to make music with him as I was so aware I didn’t want to make a conventional record for a female singer/songwriter. That path has been trodden so much. So we got in contact with him, and he was up for making records with me and we have now done 3 EPs together and now this album.
Harry: Ah that’s good, especially getting that leg work in beforehand so you know what each other is capable of and for him to get an understanding of you musically. How long did the recording process take?
Marika: I think including mixing it was about seven weeks?
Harry: Oh wow, that’s quite quick! I spoke to Superfood last week, and they sadly had to record their album over many months, broken up by touring.
Marika: Oh god! That’s so frustrating when you have got stuff on the fly. We had a gap in the middle as I was alternating with alt-J, but the actual recording time I think we did about five weeks of actual recording, two weeks of mixing, with maybe a month gap in the middle. Which was actually good, as I wrote two more songs in that gap, and they’re on the album! Perfect, really.
Harry: Excellent! I see it is all new material on your album – a few bands I love have done a few EPs and then put the best ones on the debut album.
Marika: Yeah, I don’t want to make people pay for music twice, I think it’s cheeky. I think for me I wanted to keep the early EPs as they are, as you can shop and change between the singles off the EPs anyway.
Harry: I do hate it when people chop and change, or shuffle, over an album rather than listen to it as you are meant to. Particularly, concept albums. So, what style are we looking forward to on your album, is it going to be similar to what we have heard?
Marika: Yeah, I mean I’ve kinda gone back and looked at my music, as I have obviously learnt so much from the last few years making records with Charlie. I’ve been a bit of a magpie and picked out the things that work best from my past EPs, but a bit more chilled out and less experimental perhaps. It’s a bit more aware of what it is supposed to be doing, it feels more mature. The songs have developed, they’re much more free in terms of the melodies, and the guitar is more advanced – I’d rather let that speak for itself really. I didn’t want to overproduce it too much, and we’ve reigned in the producing elements, but it still has got that trademark weirdness running through it.
Harry: What genre would yourself are? I’ve read a lot about people labelling you folk or nu-folk.
Marika: Of course, there is folk there, as I’ve been inspired by folk artists I suppose. But people these days have such a warped idea of what folk is! It means something completely different these days.
Harry: It all has changed sadly! Everything has to be labelled, too.
Marika: Exactly! If I was gonna put a label on myself, even though I want to make different records each time anyway, I’d say it is sort of… abstract grunge folk?!
Harry: Yeah, I’d go for that – It’s not a “jolly in-your-face mass marketed” album. It has its own dark noir themes to it, has its own sound that doesn’t conform to ideas.
Marika: I hate conforming to ideas. Even if someone else tells me something that is probably a really good idea, I just won’t do it because it wasn’t my idea. I just shut myself in my box, and do it my way.
Harry: It’s better than getting someone else to write it all for you! How do you write your music then, with your band?
Marika: No, I sit in my bedroom with my guitar and write. I’ll then take it to Charlie and we will build up the songs together and produce them together, and then take it to the band to come up with a live version.
Harry: So you record it all yourself?
Harry: Oh wow!
Marika: Yeah, me and Charlie will play all the instruments except strings and brass which we will bring in. Charlie’s wife plays the violin, and she is awesome, so we get her in to do a lot of stuff! We split all the drums, and generally all the keys and most other things I would do.
Harry: Has there been any music you’ve been looking forward to recently?
Marika: This is one of those questions where I will just go blank… I have just been stuck on tour and in a recording studio the whole year! alt-J’s album came out which I had really been looking forward to, and Sivu’s album too which is really, really good.
Harry: Thank you for your time. Just to end on, what 3 words would you describe yourself as?
Harry: You can do both if you like! But no, musically.
Marika: Probably what I said earlier covers it I think, abstract grunge folk. Those three words do sit quite well I think!
Marika’s album, We Slept at Last, will be out on the 16th of February next year, available to pre-order from all good retailers now. You can listen to the first slice of material from the cut here, titled Drown: