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Classic Chats: Marika Hackman

On the eve of her sensational new album release, go back in time to when Marika was a bright (even younger) thing: 

With even major label budget belts tightening, young artists are having to look for other means of getting their faces out there – from international billboard fashion campaigns to independent imprint single releases. Lauren Down catches up with the unassuming Marika Hackman.

“When I was in America everybody was asking me questions about what I wore but I didn’t really know what to say” explains Marika, sitting comfortably in jeans, converse and a faded tie-dyed t-shirt. “I don’t really know anything about fashion. I find the whole thing a bit strange. I’m a bit of an outsider.”

This wouldn’t feel particularly note worthy if it weren’t for the fact that the 20-year-old songstress’s first real musical foray just happens to have been part of Burberry’s Eyewear campaign. “I never really thought about collaborating with a fashion label; I just took the opportunity when it came along. The video for ‘Here I Lie’ has had about 140,000 views or something, and my face has been everywhere because of it, but I feel like it is time for the music to speak for itself now.” And that is certainly something it is capable of doing.

Indebted to the deep forlorn croons of Nico and the ragged edges of Syd Barrett, the Hampshire-born Brighton resident’s acoustic offerings are a far cry from the tired nu-folk turn of the millennia milieu. “It seems so obvious and lazy to say what I do is folk. Of course there are elements of folk in there but it is such a blanket term,” and is definitely one that overlooks the complex nuances of her musical creations to date.

There is a strong pop song writing lineage that can be traced back through “the kind of stuff that my parents would play in the car. We always had Sting, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and Supertramp on. I think that kind of thing goes into your head and teaches you how to structure songs without you even realising. I think the good song writing comes out somehow even though you’re not conscious of it.”

More than just a beautifully arranged series of strings, there is a subtle dark undercurrent that runs through recent paradYse records released number, ‘You Come Down’, and its B-side ‘Mountain Spines’. The latter ‘s bitter sweet siren calls in particular allude to a hidden sinister nature which may have something to do with her artistic leanings. “I did an art foundation course, it is always something I’ve loved. I love Egon Schiele, Hieronymus Bosch and Francis Bacon. There is just something about all those weird twisted styles that is dark but beautiful at the same time. I also love Turner and people who consciously paint beautiful paintings. My interest in art, I think, has to come into my music; although I’ve never consciously thought about that before. A kind of unsettling unease that brims just below a serene surface.” What is beauty without substance, anyway?

Imbued with a fragile humility and an almost cold sense of detachment, the voice contained within these understatedly dark, haunting numbers certainly belies the young songstress’s warmth and lingering, youthful naivety. “I wrote my first song when I was 13 called ‘Pancake Parade’, which, well, we won’t even go there!” She laughs whilst pausing to reminisce on some long lost in-joke, “but the first proper songs I wrote were when I was 16 – they have a bit more to them. I definitely think there is a process you go through as a writer – in that you have to get a lot of the shit out of the way before you actually get to where you want to be. I’m probably still going through that anyway. It’s all a process.”

Well, if everything Marika has worked on to date is still her getting the “shit out of the way,” her forthcoming EP, due out via Dirty Hip in “November/December sometime,” promises to be something very special indeed.

Field Notes

  1. She is working on an EP with Alt-J’s producer Charlie Andrew.
  2. Destiny’s Child was the first band she ever saw live.
  3. By her own admission she’s not very good at reading music so is largely self-taught
  4. She went to school with Johnny Flynn

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