31 March 2017

Playboy interview (2017)

Ladytron fans have been patiently waiting for a follow-up to the band's mesmerizing 2011 album Gravity the Seducer, and it seems they're going to have to wait a little bit longer. During the band's ongoing hiatus, creative juices are still flowing strong with lead vocalist Helen Marnie, who's been keeping busy with various solo efforts. First, there was 2013's Crystal World, a synth-filled dream-pop album, and next up is Strange Words and Weird Wars, yet another electro-fueled outing showcasing Marnie's signature brand of upbeat, melodic modern pop as well—as a few '80s inspired throwbacks. The new album doesn't drop until June 2, but we have the new video for her next single "Lost Maps," one of the album's few somber moments, premiering exclusively right here on Playboy.com.

We also managed to have a chat with Marnie about the mysterious meaning behind the video's story, why it took so long to get this new record out and the big burning question: What exactly is going on with Ladytron?

I want to talk about this new video for "Lost Maps." You only show up for one scene. Who came up with the concept for the video?

I explained to the director [Tim Courtney] what the song was influenced and inspired by, initially. And then he decided to take it in that direction and use it as the theme for the video. I didn't mind not being in the video. It was deliberate. It just felt like, "Do I need to be the protagonist in the video?" For me, I'd rather have the story told by other people, but I would have a little cameo.

In your one scene, you appear to have a green arrow, pointing upward, painted on your face. Is there any significance to the makeup?

It's just silly, really. That was my idea. Just to refer to geography and maps. I was like, "Can we have a bit of color?" Because it's quite dark. In that tiny scene I am in, I just wanted there to be a little bit of light relief. And it does refer to the "Lost Maps," so that's why it's there.

You mentioned you told the director what the song was influenced by. Care to elaborate?

I don't like being so specific. It's hard, because then it becomes a thing. If I tell you what it was inspired by, then people can't make up their own minds and they won't see anything else in it. Do you want me to tell you what it's inspired by?

Well, I wouldn't mind hearing a little bit, but I do agree that it's nice to let viewers interpret it their own away.

When I wrote the lyrics, they were influenced by the refugee crisis, when the boats were up on the shores and that image of the child who drowned, so that is the essence of the song. That's the angle that the director took, but we wanted to be a bit more ambiguous, so you don't really know where she's come from, or what her situation is, but she's trying to get somewhere that's really important to her. So there is a story, a beginning and an end, but you're not sure what the situation is.

Crystal World came out in 2013, followed by a standalone single and video for "Wolves" which came out in 2014. "Wolves" was intended to be a part of this record, which is no longer the case. Is there a reason why there was such a long delay?

We had some problems during the making of the album. The album was probably ready last summer—completely mixed and finished in June. So there have been a little bit delays. It was timing as well—trying to time it right. I've got a label behind me now, so that gives a little bit of a push financially. If you don't have a label behind you, you have to do it all yourself.

Do you have a favorite track on this new record?

My favorite track at the moment is "Electric Youth." It's really fun to play it live. I look forward to playing it in front of people. It's kind of an '80s track—really '80s. [Laughs] Almost too '80s. It's fun and light, because there are some darker areas on the album. For me, this is the fun song. And compared to my last album, it's much more upbeat.

I'd say "G.I.R.L.S" is the most Ladytron-esque of the bunch. Because your voice is so recognizable, sometimes it's easy to say your solo music sounds like Ladytron. What do you think are the major differences between Ladytron and Marnie?

I'm really surprised when people say things like that. A song like "G.I.R.L.S" is so tongue-in-cheek. I don't know if Ladytron would make a track like that. Maybe that is because I've been in that band for over 16 years now. I really do think it's different. The instruments seem not so different but I think the way it's produced and mixed is different. In terms of my voice, it's a little different only because I am singing in a different way on some of the tracks. Some of it is kind of falsetto high and generally with Ladytron, I would stick to my lower register. It's also not as layered as Ladytron. In the mixing with Ladytron, my vocals tend to sit really far in the back so the music is upfront, which is great; I love that. But on this, I think it's the other way around.

Are you enjoying the creative freedom of being a solo artist? I would imagine there are fewer cooks in the kitchen, so the diplomatic process that comes with having bandmates is gone.

[Laughs] Solo is much easier. I'm in control. I can decide. If I've written something good and I think it's good, I don't need three other people to tell me if it's good or not good. Working with someone else outside the band, for me, is great because that brings in a different point of view. It's completely fresh. It's kind of liberating. It's just me, so there's no one else to fall back on. I'm putting new songs out there, so if people don't like it, there's no one I can hide behind.

Do you plan to tour the U.S. to support this new album?

I'm trying to work it out now. I would really love to come to the U.S. That's where Ladytron has had the best gigs in the past. I've never played any gigs just as Marnie there, so that's one of my ambitions this year. I'm due to be playing Mexico at some point this year, so I am hoping I can possibly tack on the U.S. after those dates. We'll have to wait and see.

Would you ever consider doing an anniversary tour for one of Ladytron's signature albums? A lot of bands seem to be doing that right now.

I think that can happen. I think it would probably have to be Witching Hour. I think that's the album people would request the most. If they offered us lots of money, we would do that.

Now I have to ask the big question. Ladytron's last album came out six years ago. Since then, you've done these two solo projects. When the lead singer of a band goes off and does a side project, it tends to raise eyebrows. But when they do a second one in a row, it raises alarms about what might be going on with the band. Can you clear the air for the fans on where you stand with Ladytron?

I know, I get this a lot. It's a little bit frustrating because I'll post something on my socials about Marnie. It'll be on my Marnie page, it's not on the Ladytron page, and they'll always respond with something like a sad face or "No Ladytron?" And I'm like, "Well, you know, this is the Marnie page." [Laughs] But Ladytron just isn't ready yet. Everyone's been doing their own thing. It gives me time to concentrate on this new album. I've been working on this record for two years, so that's my priority. The process of making a record takes quite a long time, so if I put two years of work into that, I want to do it justice. Although, we [Ladytron] have worked on a little bit together. That was just in November, I think. It's just not ready to go yet.

Okay, good to hear. I think some fans were starting to fear that Ladytron might be calling it quits. It reminds me of when Dave Gahan first started doing solo records and Depeche Mode fans got worried that the band was going to break up. But now he's done several solo albums and the fans got used to him going back and forth. I guess Ladytron fans needs to get used to you doing the same thing.

Fans of Ladytron don't need to worry. They just need to be patient.


08 March 2017

Helen Marnie announced the first gigs of this year

29 Mar: Les Femmes S'en MĂȘlent OFF, Paris, France
26 May: Hidden Door, Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland
09 Jun: Oslo Hackney, London, UK
01 Sep: Electric Fields, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

More to be announced.

22 February 2017

Fame Magazine interview (2017)

Hi Marnie, how are you today?

Good, thanks. Monday's take a bit longer to get into gear though.

Tell us about your latest track "Alphabet Block".

It's the first track from my new album Strange Words and Weird Wars, and it's a co-write with my producer Jonny Scott. I think it pretty well encapsulates a moment of fear and anxiety, with Glasgow as its backdrop.

The track is taken from your forthcoming album Strange Words and Weird Wars, what can people expect from the record?

I think they can expect a departure. I wanted to, at least on the surface, move away from the overly emotional feel I had with my previous album Crystal World. So SWWW, is much more upbeat and fun. It still has a lot of depth, but it's just a different approach.

What inspired you to pursue music full-time, did you always have a desire to write and perform?

It's all I've ever done, so it's all I know! As a child I did fancy myself as a bit of a performer, be it acting or music. Quickly though, I learnt I had zero acting talent. Music on the other hand, was always something that had come quite easily to me. In my late teens I did write lyrics (that would never be shown to anybody!) but it wasn't till my mid twenties that I started trying to write songs properly. When I hit my 30s I realised I was actually ok at songwriting. It's a confidence issue. I never thought I was any good. But now I know I can be. That's what keeps me going. I get a thrill when I know I've written something great.

When composing music how does the writing process work for you?

It all depends really. Sometimes I'll start with the music bed, sometimes just drums. Other times I'll have a lyrical idea in my head. On Strange Words and Weird Wars there are quite a few co-writes with Jonny Scott where he would start with the music bed and I would then write the melody/topline and then lyrics. It's all done pretty simply in my home studio. Just my laptop, mic, and a MIDI keyboard to start.

You spent a lot of time in Liverpool, how did your time their influence you musically?

My time spent at Liverpool was my University years. Much as I would love to say I was a good student, I wasn't. I was much more interested in going out, meeting people, and having fun. In that respect, Liverpool was great. There were so many clubs and bars back in the late 90's and you could always find music if you wanted it. Liverpool is where I met my band Ladytron, so I guess that played a massive part in forming my musical future.

How does it compare with the music scene back home in Glasgow?

I haven't been back to Liverpool for quite some time now so I'm not really up on the current scene. I played FestEvol last year, but it was such a flying visit that I had no time to hang out. Glasgow, on the other hand, is my home now and has been for the last 4 years so I have a much better grasp of that scene. I love it. It is literally brimming with music and I've met some super talented people since moving here. At the moment the Celtic Connections festival is on, and in one week I saw a gig by HQFU, which is melodic house, followed by Kirsty Law's quirky Scottish trad folk. That pretty much sums up Glasgow.

If you could play in any band or with any artist past or present who would that be and why?

Wow. It's hard to choose. I'd like to sing on a Prince track, just because. I don't think that needs any explanation. I also would've liked to play with Michael Jackson on his Dangerous tour because then I would've got to see him take off on his jet pack.

Describe your sound in 5 words.

Dark Wave Electro Pop Music


02 February 2017

Almost Predictable interview (2017)

Helen Marnie's solo work to date is a wonderful thing with her debut album Crystal World and standalone single "Wolves" both must haves in anyone's collection. Her new solo album Strange Words and Weird Wars, released under her solo guise Marnie, is due out on 25 March and it's been preceded by the gorgeous single "Alphabet Block". The track is as fine an examples of synthpop as you'll hear at the moment, showing the many artists who have been influenced by her solo work and, of course, her work with Ladytron, just how this type of music is done.

Mixing a new poppier direction with shoegaze and dream pop influenced electronics, "Alphabet Block" is a powerful, mesmerising track that demands repeated plays. The verses and the chorus juxtapose perfectly with the former's darker feel giving way to the shimmering space of the chorus magnificently. As you can hear below, "Alphabet Block" is a special track and one you're going to love. It's a great taster for the album too and that record is going to be one of the must hear releases this year. You don't want to miss it - once again, Glasgow proves itself to be the new home of electronic music.

I had a quick chat with Marnie to find out a bit more about "Alphabet Block".

Welcome back Marnie! "Alphabet Block" is quite a way to announce your return. Tell us a bit about the song.

Thank you. It's great to be back! The song is a co-write with producer Jonny Scott. He produced the album Strange Words and Weird Wars and I've been working with him since I wrote "Wolves" in 2014. I thought "Alphabet Block" would be a good album opener, a little sneak peak at what to expect. That being said, the album is quite different to "Alphabet Block". AB is a wordy little number, which I would describe as shoegaze electropop. I love all the swirling guitars and arpeggiators. Lyrically, it's actually really dark. I wrote it at a time of personal uncertainty. However, I think it does come across as warm and that is due to the instrumentation.

The song has a real classic synthpop feel to it. Does the song represent a move towards a poppier sound generally?

I would agree with that, yes. It's funny, when I did my last album Crystal World, a few people advised me not to move in that direction. As in, I'd be wrong to do that. So, this is basically my 'fuck you' to them. Nobody should ever tell me what kind of music I should make. I can make my own decisions and create whatever I want.

Were there any particular influences in mind when you wrote the track? The chorus has a real dream pop feel to it for example.

Because the verses are so lyrically full, it was important for me create some space and depth with the choruses. And I did that be introducing that dreamy vocal feel. Elongating the words. Creating more breath and layering the vocals. The guitars also give a sense of space. I like that the song enters like a club track, but then completely changes and transforms into something different.

Looking forward, your second solo album Strange Words and Weird Wars is out in March. Can we expect a similar, more pop focused approach?

I can't tell you how excited I am to finally have the album coming out. It will be over 2 years in the making. And, as seems is usual with me, not everything went as smoothly as I would've wished. It's definitely a pop effort, there is no denying that. But I think there's also a lot more to it than that. It's intelligent, it's melodic, it's not overly produced, it's guitars, it's synths, it's my voice, and it's a good ride. I'm hoping people will be pleasantly surprised.


Thanks very much to Marnie for taking the time to have a chat. As I've mentioned earlier, Strange Words and Weird Wars is destined to be an album that a lot of you are going to love this year. "Alphabet Block" is a wonderful way to reintroduce yourself to Marnie.


25 January 2017

The artwork and track listing of Strange Words and Weird Wars

Track listing:
01. Alphabet Block
02. Bloom
04. Electric Youth
05. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
06. Lost Maps
07. Summer Boys
08. Little Knives
09. Invisible Girl
10. Heartbreak Kid


24 January 2017

Helen Marnie is back with the single "Alphabet Block"

Helen Marnie is back with a great new single titled "Alphabet Block" from her upcoming second solo album Strange Words and Weird Wars (to be released on 25 March). This single premiered today on PopJustice. According to the press release:

The ability to effortlessly play with genres becomes more and more apparent as you work your way through what is such a sonically impressive record. Tracks such as album opener, the unashamedly melodic "Alphabet Block", nods to contemporary pop artists; think an electro-pop fusion between La Roux and Kylie. "Girls" expertly creates the immediacy of Ladyhawke's best work, with "Electric Youth" channeling 80's mall pop; a glorious guilty pleasure and one of the stand-out tracks on the album. Introspection comes in the form of the shoegaze-inspired "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night", giving the air of an unreleased b-side from a cult vampire movie, while forthcoming single "Lost Maps" is a pop classic in the making; a single that should be heard on dance floors all over the world.

After moving back to Glasgow in September 2012, after many years living in London, Marnie continued to write music following the success of her solo project and subsequent album release in 2013. Influenced by life, love, loss, politics and all things 80's pop, Marnie has created an album that has an intelligence and a depth behind what, on the surface, is a melodic contemporary pop record. With support having already come from tastemakers like Pitchfork, Pop Matters and Under the Radar, Marnie will be looking to build upon this through the release of her second solo record; an album that will rightly be deemed one of the most anticipated of 2017.

10 January 2017

Update about Helen's new solo album

"After five albums as lead vocalist of Liverpool electropop quartet Ladytron, Glasgow-born and based Helen is busy working on the follow up to her successful 2013 debut solo album Crystal World. Working with producer Jonny Scott, Marnie has labelled album number 2 'a war between digital and analogue' choc full of vintage synths. A recent video shoot in Arrochar suggests it won't be long until she is back with new material in early 2017".