At 18 Marika Hackman is creating something some very special. Her voice is delicate, her music tender. Yet its tone is a dark grey. The folk inspired singer-songwriter draws you with her beautiful, deep and thoughtful songs. The intense brooding nature of her music has been rejoiced, claiming Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record In The World on two occasions in quick succession. We spoke to the southern songstress about what went into her latest release.
► How was the recording process for your recent EP “That Iron Taste”?
Marika: It was just me and Charlie in the studio, which was nice and relaxed. I was quite keen to play as many of the instruments on the record as possible. That’s how I work at home so it was my intention to translate that across to the studio setting. we took the songs back to their rawest forms and recorded just acoustic guitar and vocal. Then from there we built up sounds and harmonies and just experimented and played around, it was a very fun process.
► What influence do you feel your producer Charlie Andrews had on your songs?
Charlie produced Alt-J’s album so he had a large role to play in the unique sound that the record has. That’s why I was so excited to work with him, because I love “An Awesome Wave” and how fresh the sound is. Charlie is very easy to work with. He’s relaxed, he listens and he has really cool ideas. There were no egos getting in the way which makes life easier.
► What do you enjoy most about songwriting?
I love making demos on my laptop at home. It’s always when the song is only just finished, so its very exciting working with it. I can try anything I want on it because no one is listening and no one ever has to listen to it. I think I find that the most enjoyable bit.
► We’ve got to ask about your amazing track “Retina Television”, a song almost completely without instruments and all recorded using sounds made by you! How was that song conceived?
Well I wrote the song about two years ago, and when I play it live it’s with an acoustic guitar which I thud throughout the song. When it came to recording it, I’ve always been very keen to try doing a tack completely acapella, and Retina Television felt like the natural choice. So I worked out the guitar chords into individual sung or hummed lines and we recorded those. Then I sung the melody over the top. For the thud sound that i usually get from hitting the acoustic guitar, Charlie recorded me hitting my stomach and jumping up and down and flicking my tooth… stuff like that.
❝I don’t want people to listen and think I’ve got a screw loose, I just think that strong imagery can elevate a song to something more.❞
► Where does your folk influences from?
My mum is a big Joni Mitchell fan, so i listened to that quite a lot growing up. You could throw in acts like Simon and Garfunkel too. I didn’t really listen to much – what you call – tradition folk. I think I’ve just come out with this sound which has got a folkish feel to it. I don’t think its folk though. I think people use folk as a label for a lot of stuff these days and it’s not always correct.
► Would you describe your lyrics as dark?
Yes, I suppose they are, but then again they’re not supposed to be taken literally. At times there is even a tongue in cheek sort of humour hidden in there. When I’m writing lyrics I see the words like notes in the melody, so it’s very important that the intonations fit and that they sound right when sung. The melodies I write are usually quite dark so I guess it’s only natural that the words would follow suit. But I don’t want people to listen and think I’ve got a screw loose, I just think that strong imagery can elevate a song to something more.
► Featuring on the same roster as some of the best up and coming indie bands in the UK right now. Must be exciting to be with a label like Dirty Hit?
Yeah it’s cool. Dirty Hit has got a really good attitude towards its artists. They work out what’s right for you and give you the means to grow into the artist that you want to be, and they offer time to do that, which I think is the most important thing.
► “That Iron Taste” is available on a nice shiny electric-blue vinyl! Are you an artist who is a big fan of the format?
Obviously the music is the most important thing, but I see no problem in jazzing up the packaging a bit. I think if someone is going to splash out on a vinyl it’s nice to give them a little surprise and put more of yourself into the design. I hand wrote my lyrics onto the sleeve, which we then scanned. A friend of mine did the artwork for the front and I wanted to have marbled paper on the inside. i did actually try and do that bit myself but its actually very very hard hahaha. So I suppose the format is just an extension of whats going on in the music.
► Previously residing in Brighton, what is the local music scene down there like?
I lived there for a year doing my art foundation, but I can tell you that it has got a great music scene. Theres live music in pretty much every pub at least once a week. There are so many venues, so much choice. Bands always visit Brighton on tour, which is good because you get a proper mix of up and coming talent and bigger acts. I saw Warpaint for the first time in Brighton, just before they released their album so it wasnt a massive venue but one of my favourite gigs to date!
► Which venues or cities stood out to you on your most recent tour?
I played at the Oxford Town Hall with Ben Leftwich, which was incredible. It is such a beautiful building and I really enjoyed the gig. I love playing at the Castle Hotel in Manchester, it’s a little room at the back of a pub and its got panelled walls and a mini domed ceiling, its got so much character.
► After opening for Ethan Johns during February you’re set to hit the road again for your own solo tour. What kind of preparations do you make before a tour?
I dont really prepare much haha, I just make sure all my clothes are washed and I’ve got shampoo and stuff. Pretty boring really. I dont mind the travelling. Some of the drives are amazingly beautiful and it’s quite exciting heading to a different city every day.
► Finally, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
My mum always tells me to keep my feet on the ground, I think thats good advice, I dont want to turn into a dick.
Marika Hackman’s “That Iron Taste” is out now.