Marika Hackman shares with us her moody, folk-infused sounds for the track ‘Cannibal’ ahead of her mini-album That Iron Taste, releasing at the end of February. Charlie Andrew of Alt-J, the 2012 Mercury Prize winners, produced the Dirty Hit album. Marika and Charlie are collaborating on a full-length album projected for later this year. ‘Listening to Laura Veirs made me start taking songwriting much more seriously’, the photogenic artist says of her inspirations. ‘More recently, bands like Warpaint have led me to a more grungy sound’. I spoke with the songwriter about collecting vinyl, alternate lives and Cara Delevingne.
Carol Huston: So Marika… tell us what you’re up to right now.
Marika Hackman: I’m sitting in my kitchen answering these questions whilst simultaneously finishing off a jar of peanut butter with a teaspoon. In a more general sense, I’m working on my writing and preparing to go on tour with Ethan Johns next week. [Editor’s note: Marika headlines a UK tour in March.]
CH: For how long have you been writing your own music and lyrics?
MH: I started writing songs when I was really small, about five probably, just playing around on the piano. But I started to get into things a bit more when I was 12, and began to teach myself guitar because it felt like the most natural way of writing. About four years ago I actually started thinking about music as a career and my songs became more mature in their style and lyrics. I’ve always used writing as a stress reliever and used it to unwind in any free time I had at school, so I don’t really think about it when I’m doing it.
CH: How would you describe your sound?
MH: A bit wistful and mad. Definitely dark. Hopefully different.
CH: Who are you listening to nowadays?
MH: I’m still listening to the Alt-J album because I keep finding little things that I hadn’t noticed before; it’s like digging up a dinosaur or something. I just bought all The Shins’ albums on vinyl so I’m getting back into them as well, and a lot of Dusty Springfield too. It makes me feel melancholy in a good way.
CH: Would you consider yourself a romantic?
MH: I don’t think so… My songs aren’t really based around love, but I suppose they carry that dark, whimsical and wistful side of romance… I guess it depends what you class ‘romance’ as. I think I’m quite thoughtful, and I like to surprise people with things that I know they’ll enjoy, so that’s romantic in a way, isn’t it?
CH: What keeps you fresh towards your music?
MH: I’m finding reading good, although sometimes it can be distracting. Listening to music is good because it gives you ideas, but again, can also be a bit distracting. I think because its always been just a hobby and a way to unwind, I’ve never really felt like I’m being ‘inspired’ to write, so I actually find it very hard to think of anything. I know something’s driving me to write a song, but I never really think about what it is when I’m doing it.
CH: What would you be doing if you weren’t writing music?
MH: I would be at art school, doing a degree in painting, with no idea what I was going to do after. Maybe run a gallery or something. I’ve always had this dream of running my own independent cinema, which I would still love to do at some point.
CH: Is it true you went to school with Cara Delevingne?
MH: Yeah, we were at school together from the age of eleven to seventeen. I can see from her interviews she hasn’t changed a bit. She’s always been mad as a box of frogs.
CH: Tell us about your current hobbies and side projects.
MH: I’m so focused on writing new material at the moment that I don’t really have time to pursue any hobbies. I love painting and drawing, I almost did a degree in fine art, but that’s time-consuming and I can’t really fit it in anywhere. I spend a lot of time on trains, so I use that time to read. There’s nothing better than having your nose in a really good book, it can help with lyric writing as well. I like to fold down the corners of pages with interesting phrases on them.
CH: Do you collect anything?
MH: I got a record player for Christmas so I recently started a small record collection. I accidentally went on ebay and spent a ridiculous amount of money on vinyl. Other than that I’ve never consciously collected anything… I seem to have a large amount of cardigans and jumpers but I only wear about three of them. I don’t want to give the others away because I know I’ll want them in a couple of years. I also have four vintage Casio keyboards, is that a collection? I think I begin collecting stuff and then move onto something else because I get bored. CH: Tell us about your new record collection. MH: [I’ve been collecting] only for the last three weeks, so my collection isn’t great. I got A Girl Called Dusty for Christmas so I’ve been playing that a lot and I’ve bought some Cat Power, Beach House, Warpaint, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom to start it off. Mum and Dad have some good stuff too, so I steal records from them.
CH: What’s the one beauty product you can’t live without?
MH: Ummmm… I think I could live without a lot of things, especially when it comes to beauty products. I don’t wear make up and I don’t do anything to my hair so it’s a bit tricky… I suppose conditioner because my hair goes a bit mental if I don’t use it, but that’s scraping the barrel.
CH: Okay, are you into clothes?
MH: I’m not particularly fashion conscious; I like stuff that I feel physically comfortable in. Converse trainers are good because I’ve got really long, narrow feet and they fit like a glove. Generally it’s just skinny jeans and t-shirts, shirts and jumpers. All the vintage shops in Brighton are awesome for stuff like that, and I seem to be spending more and more time (money) on ebay at the moment.
CH: What books and magazines have you been reading lately?
MH: I just finished Rabbit, Run by John Updike. Pretty depressing stuff, but really beautifully written. I’m going to read 1984 by George Orwell next, because I’ve never read it and I can’t believe that I still haven’t, so I’m looking forward to that. I don’t read any mags really. Sometimes if I’m feeling wild at the train station I’ll by some junk like Grazia or Cosmo, then I’ll bring them home and my family will complain that I buy such shit but I’ll catch them all reading it at some point. Even my brother.
CH: Last question. What are your future plans?
MH: I try not to have massive long-term plans because I think it’s better to just go along with what’s happening and concentrate on the now. The next big thing will be getting a full-length album together, so I’m focusing on that, but in terms of the ‘future’ future, who knows…