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"Rule number one is that you gotta have fun": Marina & the Diamonds on touring, stardom, and being Mike Oldfield's cutest fan

[Editor's Note: This interview originally appeared in our sister publication, Boston @ Nite, in advance of Marina's sold-out show this past Saturday at the House of Blues.] 

Indie darling. Tween heartthrob. Advocate for real beauty. Underground social satirist. Major-label superstar. Take Cyndi Lauper and give her sex appeal. Take Kate Bush but leave the high art. Take Lady Gaga and give her coherence. Take Regina Spektor but leave the preciousness. Take Katy Perry and give her talent. There's no shame in admitting it: we're in love with Marina and the Diamonds. Even though she keeps refusing to marry us.

Marina's on her second US tour of 2012. This summer, the Welsh singer-songwriter opened for Coldplay, the dates coinciding with the release of her second album, Electra Heart. It follows 2010's The Family Jewels. True Marina fans also count 2007's self-released Mermaid Vs. Sailor EP.

Electra Heart's songs are poppier than before, with slicker production. The lyrics are less overtly about self-actualization: they bring artifice to a criticism of artificiality. To quote my friend Selene Rosenberg: "Marina doesn't need to sing about abandoned factories in New Jersey to show us the stark emptiness of being human in the 21st century." Furthermore, a big concern in The Family Jewels was making it as a musician without compromising her sense of self. Electra Heart is Marina after she's made it.

We recently sat down with Marina for a chat about life on the road. (Full disclosure: it was on the phone. She could have been standing.) Here's the interview, with questions arranged in the order of increasing triviality.

What's the biggest difference between touring in the US and Europe?
It's hard for me to tell. In general, it depends on the night and the city and the demographic. I attract different kinds of fans. I'm more at ease in the US because I'm bigger here than in Europe. But it's more based on where the album really connects. On my summer tour in the US, people responded really passionately.

What do you do when you're not performing?
I have a lot of downtime. I try to sleep a lot, watch movies. Write music. A little bit of sightseeing. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that if you were at home, you'd just be hanging out at home. If I'm in a really nice hotel, I just like to stay in. You know, enjoy the room and chill out.

Do you work on new material?
A little bit. I write a few times every week. Sometimes I write five songs in two days and sometimes it's one song in three months. About 60 percent of Electra Heart was written on the road.


Video for "The Outsider"

The variations in your live performances are fantastic. Do you plan on releasing a live album anytime soon?
Definitely. I'm with Atlantic Records now, and when you're going through a big label it takes time. At some point I will though.

What if they said you had to do five cover songs in that album?
Avril Lavigne: "What the Hell"
Mike Oldfield: "Moonlight Shadow"
Britney Spears: "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart"
Madonna: "Papa Don't Preach"
Garbage: "Stupid Girl"

Mike Oldfield. Wow.
I know, right? It's such a beautiful song. I love his music!

What are you listening to right now?
I'm always listening to so much music. Right now it's got to be Jake Bugg, Kitty Pryde, and Grimes.

What have you been reading?
I just finished The Life of Hunger by Amélie Nothomb. I'm about to start Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. I love Chuck Palahniuk.


Video for "How to Be A Heartbreaker"

What's your favorite city in America?
New York or Chicago.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?
I'm more comfortable around cats. I've grown up with cats. I would love a dog. You're so much happier with dogs. They give you unconditional love. All they want is food.

What's your favorite dinosaur?
T-Rex all the way!

Will you marry me?
Absolutely not.

Arafat Kazi is a neckbeard with a cat. Judge him on Twitter @arafatkazi.

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