08. 04. 2015
THE TOWN HALL -- NEW YORK, NEW YORK
PHOTOS + WORDS BY: AYSIA MAROTTA
Last week, Marika Hackman, a 23-year-old singer/songwriter from Hampshire, England made her New York City debut at The Town Hall. The songstress was opening for Laura Marling, alongside Johnny Flynn on her U.S. summer tour. Marika, who had just come back from rowing with Laura in Central Park, made some time to talk with us about her blossoming career, Dave Grohl and life on the road with Marling and Co.
MH: This has been my first time touring America, and it’s been absolutely amazing.
AM: Is this your first time in New York City?
MH: No, this is my second time in the city. I got to go to the Natural History museum yesterday, which was nice. I love that sort of stuff. I felt like a kid gasping and pointing at things, and Laura was like “Oh you’re such a child, grow up.” Today, we walked around in Central Park and was just taking it all in.
AM: Your sound is a perfect combination of grunge and folk, and you’ve got a lovely delicate voice singing lyrics that really cut like a knife. How did you come to find your sound?
MH: It was quite a long process, but I find that it was really very organic. I was starting to properly structure songs when I was 14 or 15. It was certainly more folk-y – well, folk-y in how we view ‘folk’ these days. Not traditional folk – but simpler. My songs got kind of darker and darker as I got older, and more abstract. The grunge-y sound kicked in when I started to listen to bands like ‘Warpaint’ and I started playing electric guitar instead of just acoustic. I used to play the cello, so my sound just developed over the course of the last 10 years. Wow, 10 years, it just kind of hit me how long it’s been. So yeah, when it came to making EPs I was working with Charlie Andrew (Alt-J Producer), and we introduced a lot of pedals, so I was keen to try new stuff out.
AM: How did working with Charlie influence the sound on ‘We Slept At Last’?
MH: Well, by then we had worked on three EPs together, so we had come to know each other so well. We know how we work. I trust him completely, so that made it very easy to just let it kind of flow without any complications. I told him that I wanted this record to be more stripped back than some of the previous EPs, so that was the only thing we really went from. So, then it was just a case of him being a genius.
AM: How long did it take to record the album?
MH: About 5 or 6 weeks of recording. Then another 2 or 3 weeks of mixing, cause I sit in on that process as well. Charlie is very meticulous, so we go through listening over and over again and pinpointing parts of songs that we’d like to change or re-do.
AM: It’s awesome that you really dedicate the time to perfect it alongside Charlie. I can imagine that it all starts sounding the same after dissecting each track.
MH: You go a bit insane, but we get our breaks. We won’t listen to a song for a week after listening to it for about 14 hours or so, and then we’ll come back to it with fresh ears. It’s like when you’re doing a drawing, and you’ve been doing it for ages, and leave it for a bit and come back to it only to realize, ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’ It gives you a bit of perspective.
AM: You had mentioned that you’ve spent the last ten years or so learning music, and your instruments and creating your sound. What was your upbringing like, musically?
MH: Well, my parents love music -- always have done. They were always playing music throughout the house. They were very keen on my brother and I learning musical instruments. We both started the piano at around 5 or 6 years old. It’s a great tool to have, musically. Once you have a grasp of the piano, it makes learning about music so much easier.
AM: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
MH: Yes, unfortunately. There was one that I wrote on the piano when I was quite small. I would think, like, 6 or 7?
AM: What was some of the music you grew up listening to?
MH: Steeley Dan, Stevie Wonder, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell, Zero 7 -- so many different types of music! My brother’s musical taste influenced me quite a bit, too because we’re close in age. We were really into the Foo Fighters and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Those were the types of bands that I wanted to be in. That’s how I visualized my future, like, “I want to be in the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
AM: Great, so we’re in agreement that Dave Grohl is the man.
MH: Oh, absolutely! Laura and I are actually doing a Foo Fighters cover tonight.
AM: As if we don’t get to hear enough incredible music tonight, you’re throwing in a Foo Fighters cover.
MH: Haha, yes! We’re pretty excited about it.
AM: Your brother is also a musician. Has he influenced your sound at all?
HM: Oh, absolutely. Growing up together, he gave me so much music to listen to. The Shins, and bands like that. There was so much music flying around and it was all from him – although I’d sort of loathe to tell him that. I mean, I think we make very different music, but in a way it’s coming closer now. When we were younger, we were making very different music. I was more folk-y and he was more dubstep – so you know, complete total opposites. But now he’s coming around, and he still makes electronic music, but it’s actually quite soulful. He’s very clever with the stuff he does. So yeah, he inspires me. I think he’s such a clever guy.
AM: Can you see yourself ever collaborating with him?
HM: YES! 100%. No doubt in my mind. It’s actually something I have on my list of ‘things to do’. He does as well. We will do it at some point; we’re just both quite busy at the moment.
AM: That’s incredible. You both can come together with your music; it must be such a wonderful thing to share. Your parents must be so happy!
HM: They’re thrilled about it. He actually did a remix of one of my songs, so that’s like my mom’s favorite thing to show off at dinner parties. But, it’s also a cool look – I actually prefer his version to mine. It’s kind of annoying, but it’s good.
AM: You attended Beadles, but then decided not to continue on to university so that you could pursue your music full time. How did your parents feel about that?
MH: You know, everyone else continues on to university from their A-levels, and I just didn’t want to do that. My parents were actually all over it. They were like, “That’s great! You won’t have any debt, and you can come live with us and just get a job in the meanwhile. You can waste any time and you’ve got to go for your music now.” So, they were super supportive. They really instilled that we should do what we love.
AM: Your parents sound like really lovely people.
MH: Yeah, they’re pretty cool. I think if they could go back and do it again, they’d really pursue being musicians. Like, my mom would love to be a bassist. She really wants a bass guitar.
AM: Well, Christmas is right around the corner!
MH: I’m going to have to get it for her, and then we can start a family band or something. The Von-Trapp family.
AM: What is some music that you’re listening to at the moment?
MH: I really love this English band called ‘Adult Jazz’. They’re really quite bizarre, but very very clever. Their melodies are insane. I saw them at Latitude Festival. They were amazing. I really admire their sound.
AM: ‘We Slept At Last’ is such a smart record, congratulations on all its success. It’s dark and moody and resonates with a lot of people. You take a very different approach with your music, in comparison to a lot of female musicians nowadays. Where do you think the darkness comes from, in your songs?
MH: I think it’s the same darkness that’s in everyone, really. That’s why you say, you know, it brings out something in people you can relate to – but may not want to relate to always. I’m not a sort of down or negative person, I’m actually quite smiley and goofy, but I’m prone to bouts of sadness like everyone else is. I’m just bound to draw some inspiration from it, to clear them out and to get rid of them. It leaves me feeling a bit saner. I think it’s just an inherent darkness that everyone has.
AM: I think why I connect so much with your music is because; your music doesn’t come across as something that someone could really mold. It’s yours, purely. There is no sense of manufactured feelings in your lyrics; they’re entirely from within you. I can see why people connect – I know I did especially with the song ‘Drown’.
MH: Thank you! I love working and collaborating but I make sure that the end product is always 100% me.
AM: Speaking of ‘Drown’, what was it like shooting that music video?
MH: Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. I come up with the ideas for the music videos, and I put them out there to directors and they come back to me with their interpretations. It becomes this collaborative experience, because I want other inputs. But, yeah, it was all shot under water. We shot it in a day, in a 50-meter tank with two guys with oxygen tanks swimming with me. It was intense. A lot of floating and sinking.
AM: Is there a story behind any of the songs on ‘We Slept At Last’ that you’d be willing to share with us?
MH: Yeah, actually ‘Claude’s Girl’. I wrote it towards the end of recording, during a two-week gap. I was in such a sort of heightened creative space that I was sort of struggling to turn my brain off. It was really stressing me out and I couldn’t sleep very well. I was just pacing around London, freaking out. I listened to a lot of Debussy to calm me, and I wound up using a lot of melodic references from him.
AM: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
MH: I’m writing at the moment, and I’m really keen to get back into the studio. I’ve got a big London show coming up in November, so I’m really excited for that. It’s at a venue called Union Chapel. That’s going to be really exciting. Who knows what will pop up in the meanwhile though!
Make sure to pick up Marika Hackman’s album ‘We Slept At Last’ now.
Thank you to Ed Blow, Mark Hayton at Dirty Hit and Carina Contreras at Press Here.