Festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017, can be read through here.

SXSW 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012

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Album Review: Marika Hackman – I’m Not Your Man

 
By on Tuesday, 13th June 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Marika Hackman album coverWith her debut ‘We Slept At Last’, Marika Hackman found herself being lumbered in the same boat as Laura Marling et al. While folk music was certainly slathered over the album, there was always that trademark Marika touch. Returning with ‘I’m Not Your Man’ this month, Hackman has thrown the past all out the window and gone for a sound that is certainly more suited to her deadpan and, at times, scathing commentary.

Enlisting London indie quartet The Big Moon, a band who are already making a name for themselves in their own right, to help execute this new sound has more than paid off for Hackman. Case in point, the album’s lead single and first track, ‘Boyfriend’. It begins with a burst of laughter that then leads through to the clearly live sound that the singer/songwriter has been searching for. Jangling, swagger-filled riffs perfectly canvas the tracks in a fairly innocuous way, but the straight up subject matter is given away in the chorus. “It’s fine ‘cause I am just a girl / it doesn’t count / he knows a woman needs a man to make her shout” is delivered in a way that makes Hackman’s position as the ‘third party’ almost excusable due to the shortcomings of the boyfriend. This cadence and playful delivery that comes in after the chorus pits Marika’s attitude against her previous self, and this new Marika comes out on top.

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‘Good Intentions’ keeps the savagery on top form, with more jagged guitars and driving drums. The track goes along its way, hitting the chorus that delivers what it needs, to but leaves the actual to the post-chorus. It’s maniacal in all the right ways, leaving no stone unturned in its quest to fully grab your attention. ‘Gina’s World’ is a slow burning track that trundles along until its closing crescendo, while ‘My Lover Cindy’ is another riff-led and pleasing number. It’s at this point that the album might feel a little bit hard because you’ve had some fight and grit, but then it feels like Marika’s heading back, loosely, to debut territory. ‘Round We Go’ slows things down, a wandering number with a warm-sounding guitar pattern, setting the scene for the two following tracks, ‘Violet’ and ‘Cigarette’, with the latter of the two done bare bones acoustically.

It’s once ‘Time’s Been Reckless’ hits that you understand why things have played out this way. Out of nowhere, confident and brash chords ring out, with an attitude-filled bass line filling the gaps between the ringing chords. The chorus, in all of its glory, is absolutely fantastic. “1,2,3,4, tell her that you love her more” is echoed by The Big Moon, who are fully utilised on vocal duties. Entwining with Marika’s leading lines by backing up or just straight up switching the viewpoint of the song so the lyrics are aimed at Marika rather than the other way round.

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Slowing once more with ‘Apple Tree’, the acoustic number even includes a soft horn accompaniment. The simplistic nature of the track is further accentuated by what follows. ‘So Long’ uses complex drum and bass patterns to create a driving force for the song that eventually leads to the song’s outro and focal point, a constant refrain of “I’ll keep you in my bed tonight”, where the vocals being swirling around each other and layers build up to create a heavenly sound. ‘Eastbound Train’ takes on a similar stance to its titular entity, with a rolling drum pattern giving traction as the power is gained by the multitude of guitar.

The last two tracks on the album go back to the slower side of the proceedings, but here it doesn’t feel too shocking. ‘Blahblahblah’ pushes along, helped by a string accompaniment, while finale ‘I’d Rather Be With Them’ is a heart-on-sleeve acoustic number that neatly ties things up. When it’s put into context with opener ‘Boyfriend’, you realise ‘I’m Not Your Man’ is a journey of thinking and emotive realisation. Life is filled with as much dry humour as it is slow moments, so it’s only fair they’re represented musically.

‘I’m Not Your Man’ is a strong record by all means, though at 13 tracks, some moments can feel a bit stale when compared to the stronger tracks such as ‘Time’s Been Reckless’ or ‘Boyfriend’. But ultimately, this album was Marika proving that she has the ability to turn whatever comes into her mind into a statement delivered in a wry and sultry way. The slows are slow, and the heavies are heavy, it’s a little bit of everything and more than worth jamming the repeat button on for.

8/10

‘I’m Not Your Man’ is out now on AMF / Sub-Pop records. To read more coverage of Marika Hackman on TGTF, go here.

 

Marika Hackman / May and June 2017 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 20th April 2017 at 9:00 am
 

Marika Hackman has announced a short run of live dates in the UK scheduled for late May into early June. They follow an appearance at The Great Escape on the 18th of May. They’re all in anticipation of the release of Hackman’s sophomore album ‘I’m Not Your Man’, produced by frequent alt-J collaborator Charlie Andrew and producer of her debut ‘We Slept at Last’, due to drop on the 2nd of June on Transgressive Records.

Tickets are on sale now for the shows listed below. Listen to a live, from her bedroom version of single ‘My Lover Cindy’ in the Spotify embed under the tour dates. Hackman is also scheduled to appear at Latitude and End of the Road festivals this summer. To read more on Marika Hackman here on TGTF, including my catching of her at the BBC Radio 2 showcase at the British Music Embassy at SXSW 2017 (at her own urging, no less!), go here.

Thursday 18th May 2017 – Brighton Great Escape
Monday 29th May 2017 – Birmingham Mama Roux’s
Tuesday 30th May 2017 – Glasgow King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
Wednesday 31st May 2017 – Manchester Deaf Institute
Thursday 1st June 2017 – London Heaven

 

SXSW 2017: rap plus old friends, new friends and a pop princess at the British Music Embassy (Wednesday night, part 2) – 15th March 2017

 
By on Thursday, 30th March 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

I saw Marika Hackman enjoying the music at the British Music Embassy that afternoon. She recognised me from when I interviewed her 2 years ago at the 9:30 Club, when she was out here touring with her mates Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn. She held both of my hands excitedly. “You must come see us tonight. I have a brand new band!” How could I refuse? Again, I had thought that I’d arrive with the latest set at the BME in full swing, but that was before I saw how much gear she and her band were trying to set up on Latitude 30’s stage.


Marika Hackman, BBC Radio 2, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Wednesday 15 March 2017

After an emotionally graceful album like her debut ‘We Slept at Last’, ‘Boyfriend’ comes as across as a jarring, yet liberating moment. Its lo-fi drawl is further enhanced by on record and live – wait for it – London girl group The Big Moon as her backing band! Either Marika thought I knew, or she wanted it to be a surprise. If you read my interview with her 2 years ago, she explained to me her massive respect for Laura Marling and what walls she broke down for the women who came after her. Given that she had once told me how tentative she felt sharing her music, it looks like from the acres of fun she and her band have onstage, her upcoming sophomore album for Sub Pop, ‘I’m Not Your Man’ out the 2nd of June, will be showing the real Marika Hackman, warts and all. A woman who’s comfortable in her own skin is a wonderful thing indeed.

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It’s funny that Hackman is now with Sub Pop, as the next artist I chanced across at the Swan Dive Patio is on the same label. Porter Ray (surname Sullivan) is an American up-and-coming rapper who I learned from my research is part of the underrated Seattle hip-hop scene. He came to Austin to promote his long-awaited debut album ‘Watercolor’, released the Friday before SXSW.


Porter Ray, Swan Dive Patio, Wednesday 15 March 2017

Of course with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the Northwest city famed for its dreary, rainy days is most famous for its responsibility in kickstarting the ‘90s grunge scene. Is he the first of an upcoming rap division in Sub Pop’s otherwise indie arsenal? I couldn’t tell if his less than energetic stage presence had to do solely with his subject matter (his brother was killed by gunshot) or if he was just really, really nervous. While I’m no expert on rap, I could appreciate the higher pitch of his voice, unusual for a genre where darker, deeper, menacing voices are preferred and tend to prevail.

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The next act at the Swan Dive Patio should have been Mullally, who triumphantly announced on Twitter just days before SXSW that he had signed to Atlantic Records. I waited around for the Norfolk neo-soul singer, chuckling to myself and rubbing my hands like Mr. Burns in the near empty venue that I would be one of the first to hear the next big thing out of East Anglia. I waited for what seemed like forever. A DJ set up his turntables on the stage. I finally went up to chat with the stage manager who told me sorry, Mullally would not be performing because “he decided he wanted to save his voice for his performance on Saturday.” Ahem. Okay. Back to Latitude 30, then…


Kate Nash, BBC Radio 2, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Wednesday 15 March 2017

After negotiating the badge queue, I finally got in to find myself in the midst of Kate Nash’s coronation, practically. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised how mental people in the venue were going, given her debut album ‘Made of Bricks’ is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and she’s inspired countless young girls to greater things. I stepped way back from the stage to let the uberfans get closer to their idol, churning through hits like ‘Mouthwash’ and ‘Foundations’. Even from afar, I could see sparkly stripts of things, fishnets and fuzzy pink balls all over Nash’s body. At least for that hour at the British Music Embassy, it was Kate Nash’s world.

My final act for Wednesday night would be Ten Tonnes, aka Ethan Barnett, who wowed me at the Culture Collide / Twix showcase at Bar 96 that afternoon. He would be the second to last act on the BBC Radio 2, PPL, and PRS for Music showcase. Compared to that fireball Kate Nash before him, his set was conservative, bringing things back to the music. Dressed in a plaid shirt – it was an evening show after all, right? – there was something so sweet about his set. I realised he reminded me of a dear friend, before he and his band became famous.

Here we were, presented with the two extremes in performance in music today, an industry veteran with all the bells and whistles followed by an up-and-comer with nothing but his voice and guitar. The fact that both of these can live in harmony in our industry, neither getting muscled out by the other, should give us all hope that the business can sustain not only established artists but nurture those coming up.


Ten Tonnes, BBC Radio 2, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Wednesday 15 March 2017

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: Brighton artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Monday, 6th March 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Every autumn for the last 5 SXSWs, I draft a game plan on how TGTF is going to tackle coverage of the world’s biggest music festival. This year, with a bigger team more eager than ever to help me with our coverage, we were able to take on even more bands and across more countries. As most of you know, a big part of our preview focus is on UK bands and to help promote them ahead of what is for many of them their first big exposure to industry and fans in America. For SXSW 2017, we’re continuing that commitment. In this post, the emphasis will be on the acts from the seaside town of Brighton, which surprisingly have seven artists slated to appear at SXSW. The band summaries below were written by David Wriglesworth, except where noted.

Dream Wife – punk / pop
Edgy rock band Dream Wife (pictured at top) comprises Alice Go (guitar, vocals), Bella Podpadec (bass, vocals) and Icelandic singer Rakel Mjöll. The now London-based group’s success came as somewhat of an accident. The three girls met in 2015 while studying fine art and visual art at college in Brighton. For a school project, they had been tasked with forming a ‘fake girl band’ for a gallery exhibition.

After recording a few songs, creating a mockumentary inspired by the cult film classic Spinal Tap and performing live at the exhibition, Dream Wife gained a following and the formerly fake outfit became a reality. Named after the 1953 romantic comedy starring Cary Grant, Dream Wife cite Grimes, Spice Girls and Sleater-Kinney as their influences. This clearly shows within their music, made up of simple pop hooks and cutting riffs.

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Fickle Friends – pop
Hailing from Brighton, Fickle Friends is made up of Natti Shiner (vocals, keyboard), Jack Wilson (keyboard, backing vocals), Harry Herrington (bass guitar, backing vocals, Sam Morris (drums, percussion) and Chris Hall (guitar). The indie pop group with ’80s-flavoured synths spent 2 years touring, including sets at major festivals such as Bestival, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend and Secret Garden Party. This caught the attention of Polydor Records, to which the band signed to in January 2016.

The label signing proved to be the start of a fantastic year for Fickle Friends, with singles ‘Swim’, ‘Cry Baby’, ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Say No More’, amassing over 8 million plays on Spotify throughout 2016. The latter of those singles made it to the BBC Radio 1 Introducing Playlist. Fickle Friends rounded off their year with a sell-out crowd at Dingwalls in London. We’ve covered Fickle Friends on TGTF before, as they appeared last year at SXSW 2016.

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Gang – psych rock
Fun fact about Gang: Not only are two of the band, Eric (guitar) and Jimi (drums), brothers, but they are also the sons of the former Ozzy Osbourne and Gillian guitarist Bernite Torme. Since forming in 2014 with Joseph Hunt (bassist), the trio has relentlessly toured the UK and with the likes of Wand and So Pitted.

Gang’s music merges elements of ‘70s stoner/metal, ‘80s American underground and the psychedelic fancies of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, accompanied by lyrics that reflect the times we live in. Their recent single releases and reputation for energetic live shows has not gone unrecognised, as they have been heavily championed by BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley and Tom Ravenscroft, as well as BBC Introducing’s Phil Taggart and Abbie McCarthy. Gang are expected to release their debut LP later this year.

Holly Macve singer/songwriter / country/western
Despite only being 21 years of age, Holly Macve has already experienced enough strife to last a lifetime. Born in Galway in western Ireland, Macve and her sister were whisked away in the night by her mother from their errant father to live with their grandparents in Yorkshire. It was during this time that she discovered her love of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Gillian Welch.

At the age of 18, Macve moved down south, where she worked in a café while appearing at open mic nights. Her spellbinding country and western ballads, accompanied by her heavenly voice, didn’t go unnoticed: Simon Raymonde caught wind of her talent and signed her to his Bella Union label.

Since then, Macve has supported the likes of John Grant, Villagers, Ryley Walker and Benjamin Clementine, as well as making festival appearances at Glastonbury and Latitude. Looking ahead, Holly Macve is putting the finishing touches to her debut album that will be released on the 3rd of March before SXSW, which will be followed by UK dates in April. Macve appeared last year at SXSW 2016, so you can read more on her through here.

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Marika Hackman – folk / singer/songwriter
It isn’t easy being a woman in this business, and I don’t need to list for you the many examples of popsters who have chosen the path of least resistance and towards maximum opportunity for commercialism. However, something darker than you would ever imagine lurks in the eyes of rocker Marika Hackman. She’s thrown aside any sense of convention for even the folky singer/songwriter genre, using “vague impressionistic images rather than concrete graphic shapes” to “leave a distinct and haunting emotional imprint” with her music. With the courage to do something very different, she’s an unlikely vanguard, yet amazing role model for young, aspiring female musicians. (Mary Chang)

To read TGTF’s past coverage on Marika Hackman, go here.

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Phoria – electronic
Phoria are a five-piece alt-electronic band headed up by Trewin Howard, a deeply sensitive yet mysterious character. He is joined by childhood friend Ed Sanderson (piano/synths), James Cheeseman (guitarist/synths), Seryn Burden (drummer) and Tim Douglas (guitar/bass/synths). Influenced by the likes of Radiohead and Elbow, Phoria produce sensually evocative soundscapes, which they have showcased on their ‘Bloodworks’ and ‘Display’ EPs, both having gained support from BBC Radio 1 and 6 Music.

Following several delays, Phoria released their debut album in June 2016, which was greeted to high praise from fans and critics alike. The album was supported by festival appearances that included Latitude and Dot to Dot, as well as a UK and European tour. Looking ahead to 2017, in addition to their appearance at SXSW, Phoria look set to crack America, having being granted BPI funding as part of the Music Export Growth Scheme.

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Yonaka – punk
Within a year of forming, Brighton-based punk-rock group Yonaka (Japanese for “the dead of night”) signed to BBC Radio 1 Phil Taggart’s Hometown Records label (RHODES, Rat Boy). They got plenty of gig practise, having played over 30 shows up and down the country, including a number of dates as the support act for Killing Joke and Demob Happy.

The band comprises Theresa Jarvis (vocals), George Edwards (guitar), Alex Crosby (bass/keys) and Robert Mason (drums). The group quickly became renowned for their catchy riffs and captivating vocals, as evident on their early singles ‘Run’ and ‘Ignorance’.

2017 is already looking extremely positive for Yonaka, having signed a record deal with Asylum Records in January. The band are set to appear at SXSW, followed by this year’s Great Escape back home in Brighton in May.

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Live Review: Laura Marling with Marika Hackman and Johnny Flynn at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 31st July 2015

 
By on Monday, 3rd August 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Laura Marling made big waves back in the spring when she released her fifth album ‘Short Movie’, which was recorded out in Los Angeles when the otherwise normally London-based singer/songwriter made a temporary escape to America. Despite her young age – she’s only 25, though with a back catalogue like hers to be proud of, she seems so much older – her music has already undergone significant change from her earliest appearances as a backing vocalist on Noah and the Whale‘s debut album ‘Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down’ and her first solo album released in 2008, ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’. With ‘Short Movie’, her music seems even more honest than before, and she’s also chosen a harder edge that she’d only begun to explore in the 2013 Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Once I Was an Eagle’. Keeping in mind this evolution in style, it became apparent after talking with fans in the queue outside the 9:30 that the “new” Laura Marling had mixed reviews. Having not seen perform since 2011, I was keen on seeing how her live performance had changed in 4 years.

Marika Hackman live at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 2

Along for the ride with Marling on this North American campaign are her musical friends Marika Hackman and Johnny Flynn, the former describing in a chat with me before the show that their friendship has made this journey out to our continent fun and stress-free. Hackman was up first Friday night and although she’s not well known in America – yet – the general consensus with those I spoke to after her set was overwhelming positive. Wearing what she described as her pajamas because she hadn’t packed well for the oppressiveness of American summer (the high for DC on Friday was 92 F, or 33 C), she apologised for wearing a t-shirt and mens’ boxer shorts, while also telling all the young girls in the audience she should take her lead and make the fashion trend stick. Her stage banter was funny and disarming, a theme that was repeated in both Flynn and Marling’s own sets.

Marika Hackman at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 1

However, when it came down to the actual performance, Hackman’s fragile, emotional voice and adept acoustic guitar playing went down a treat. She released her debut album ‘We Slept at Last’ on Dirty Hit Records back in February, and the beauty of songs being sung and played with such sensitivity, which included early LP single ‘Drown’ and my personal favourite ‘Ophelia’ reverberated through the club. Her cover of American Joanna Newsom’s ’81’, which features on her ‘Sugar Blind’ EP released in 2013, was equally gorgeous. For ‘Animal Fear’, Marling’s bass player and drummer came onstage to accompany Hackman, the resulting sound and rhythm getting punters’ head bopping. It’s not too hard to imagine this talented singer/songwriter gracing this stage as a headliner sometime soon. For more on Marika Hackman on TGTF, go here.

Singer/songwriter and now also actor Johnny Flynn was next, and judging from the screaming and squealing from the girls and women in the crowd, security placed a barrier at the front to deter his devoted fans from scrambling onstage. While Flynn’s deep voice live surprised me, there wasn’t a whole lot about his set that grabbed at me. Also, his voice got drowned out by those around me who were singing along loudly (more power to you, I guess, but it was really distracting). A duet with Laura Marling on ‘The Water’ was recreated live, much to the delight of the punters. Having several albums to his name, he smartly took a trip through his back catalogue, including standouts ‘Brown Trout Blues’ from 2008 and the title track of 2010’s ‘Been Listening’. He ended his set on a high note, enlisting the help of Marling’s backing band and both the voices and hand percussion talents of Marling and Hackman on ‘Tickle Me Pink’. Needless to say, his foaming at the mouth fans would have preferred for him to have played longer. For more on Johnny Flynn on TGTF, go here.

Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn duetting at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 1

Then it was time for the main event. I still have trouble getting over her short-cropped haircut (I asked myself when I saw her at SXSW 2015, “where are her long blonde locks?”) and while I realise it’s been a long time since I saw her play in 2010 in the very intimate Iota, it’s still jarring to me that she’s all grown up. Marling was always mature for her age, and on ‘Short Movie’, it sounds like she’s sharpened her resolve to be her own person and to write and sing about what she wants, and with the emotions on full display. I find it hard to listen to Marling’s more recent work, and this proved also true when I was faced with her live Friday night.

Laura Marling at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 1

This is not criticism of her talent, of which we all know Laura has loads of; it’s more a commentary of the rough-edged, straightforward and therefore often strident way her music comes across these days. There’s no more contrast you could have than Marling performing the relationship-weary ‘I Was an Eagle’ from her 2013 album alongside the sweetness and naivete of ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’. The evolution of Marling’s music includes bluesy bents evident in ‘Walk Alone’ and discarded ‘Short Movie’ track ‘Daisy’, the latter of which has the fantastic line “a woman alone is not a woman undone”. Like Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell before her, Marling is forging her own way in this world, and there needs to be more artists like her who aren’t afraid of being honest.

Laura Marling at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 2

After the cut: Laura Marling’s set list. To read more on Marling on TGTF, go here.
Continue reading Live Review: Laura Marling with Marika Hackman and Johnny Flynn at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 31st July 2015

 

Interview: Marika Hackman

 
By on Monday, 3rd August 2015 at 11:00 am
 

“This is the first time I’ve played in America, full stop. It’s pretty amazing. It’s probably, like, the most perfect, wonderful tour that I could have had bring me into America for the first time, so I feel very excited and lucky now that I’m here.”

Singer/songwriter Marika Hackman is currently in the States, supporting her friend Laura Marling and alongside other support act Johnny Flynn on a tour of North America, and despite not fully enjoying the heat of our summer, she’s having a great time. We’re sat in a break room high above the 9:30 Club stage where she will play later, and in between our words, you can hear snatches of Flynn sound checking downstairs. On a nearby counter, a hostess plate of 9:30 Club cupcakes are alongside an exceedingly large bowl of salsa and an equally massive bowl of tortilla chips. We begin by chatting a bit about her early beginnings as an artist. Her approach to songwriting, even early on, has been pretty unique.

“It’s a funny one. When I was learning piano, when I was in nursery when I was really little, when I was about 5 years old, I was writing songs on the piano. So it’s always something that I’ve just done. Then I started to learn the bass, the drums, and then joined bands and stuff and playing in them. Then when I hit 13, I picked up a guitar and started to teach myself. That was when I really started to write, but I don’t know what made me do that. I just have done it, always.

“My parents were also keen on me and my brother (producer Hackman) learning music instruments, so there always instruments around the house growing up. I didn’t want to learn them, I wanted to write songs on them…There’s no instrument where I felt that (wanting to be a virtuoso on them), apart from the drums. But that was because you can’t really write on the drums! And I wanted to be really, really good on drums. So I used to practise hard on that. But everything else, it was always about writing songs and music.”

Marika Hackman performing at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC - 31 July 2015, by Mary Chang
Marika Hackman performing at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, 31 July 2015

I ask her if being a solo artist is the most comfortable mode for her. “I was in silly school bands. But in terms of my actual serious songwriting stuff, I think I would find it hard to write with other people. I’m very private about it, I write at home alone in my room, and I’m fine with taking it to the studio once it’s done, and then me and Charlie (Andrew, her longtime producer), we collaborate on it to come up with production ideas and bring other people in. I think I’m too shy. I get embarrassed. It’s one of those things. If you were doing a painting and you’d only done half of it, that’s not what you want to put up in the gallery, you don’t want people seeing that. So I don’t want people to hear sort of half-done songs or hear me making funny noises and making mistakes. I want people to hear the finished product.”

In late 2014, Hackman moved to London. She had been friends with Marling for some time, so it makes perfect sense that Marling would bring Hackman along for a North American campaign once Hackman had a major release under her belt. The atmosphere on this tour feels entirely convivial too. “We became friends a couple of years ago, I actually toured in Australia with Laura, and then we toured Europe together. We stayed in touch and when I moved to London, she lived very nearby. It’s just one of those things, you’re with touring musicians, so we’re like-minded people, generally, and we’ve grown to be friends. It’s been really nice, to be able to come over on a tour like this, it’s just fun. It doesn’t feel like work. Touring can feel very drawn out and very stressful and long, but this kind of feels like I’m on holiday with a few mates and playing a few shows.”

I asked Marika if her prolific and now very industry-experienced friend has had any advice for her, especially being a female singer/songwriter in a male-dominated field. “We discuss stuff a lot. We discuss being a woman in the singer/songwriter world a lot, we have a lot of strong views that we agree [on]. In terms of advice, with this sort of relationship, I don’t think anyone would sit down and go, ‘I’m going to give you some advice. Listen up’. We spend a lot of time talking and I’ve learned a lot…But of course she knows so much about the industry, she’s been doing this for 10 years. You kind of learn by absorbing and watching. Particularly on tours, earlier on when I used to get really nervous, it was very nice to feel very calm with someone before I was going on stage and before she was going on stage. I could just enjoy myself.”

A lot of press releases when Hackman first appeared on the scene stated that she was from Brighton, but that’s not entirely true. Hackman did a 1-year art foundation course in Brighton but is originally from Hampshire and after living in Brighton, she had a spell living in Devon with her parents. I ask her how much effect, if any, her environment has on her songwriting. “When I was living at my parents’ house, which is kind of the middle of the countryside, it was kind of much more about nature references, whereas when I moved up to London, you can hear more literature references and things I was reading [in my songs]. But I think the main shift has been in growing up, and experiencing more life, reading more books, and learning more things about yourself. You can hear that across all of my music, rather than any sort of clear inspirations.”

Marika Hackman We Slept at Last cover large

We turn our attention to Marika’s debut album ‘We Slept at Last’, which was released back in February on Dirty Hit Records. I ask her how she decided on its title, and it turns out its selection was directed more by the cover art than anything else. “Naming stuff, like songs and records, is my least favourite thing to do. I hate doing it! So it was the last thing I did with this record, to finally name it. It’s actually a bit of a cheat…I picked lots of lyrics [from the songs of this album] that jumped out at me that I thought would be appropriate, wrote them in a list and went through them, read them over and over again.

“Then I was looking for the artwork [to use on the album cover], and I saw this picture by a photographer I love called Glen Erler of a girl on a bed. And I just thought, I had a feeling that that *has* to be the photo for it. And of course, as soon as I saw that, then ‘we slept at last’ jumped out at me. I also think [the title] is very appropriate, there’s also lots of sleep references throughout the album, and there’s a sense of relief and giving into yourself and letting it be. And just being able to turn off and that’s it after the whole journey you go through over 12 tracks, and it’s that final closing down. Being.”

Hackman has been working a long time now with producer Charlie Andrew, who these days is most famous for producing alt-J‘s music, including their 2012 Mercury Prize-winning ‘An Awesome Wave’. Seeing that her musical style and alt-J’s aren’t alike at all, I asked her how her and Andrew’s collaboration began and how it works in the studio. She has nothing but praise for him. “Oh, it’s so much fun. We’ve worked together now for 3 years. And we’d never met before we worked in a studio together, and yet we worked together very well. He’s now one of my very, very good friends, and he’s a lovely, lovely guy. And it’s just very easy.

“We have similar ideas. I love what he can bring to my tracks. He gets very dirty sounds out of amps and guitars and things, but there’s still a lot of space on the record. There’s loads of room to breathe, for the vocals to speak and the music to speak, or even a little twinkling thing that’s far off to come to the front. He’s an absolute genius. It’s basically a lot of fun and we sit around, he puts random instruments in front of me and I play with them, make a few weird noises, a few accidents, and then he’ll go, ‘god, that’s great!’ And yeah, then we sort it out that way.” There’s no doubt in Hackman’s mind that she will be working with Andrew again on her next release (I’m pretty sure that’s an exclusive, by the way.)

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Two Christmases ago, Marika went on a tour of England with another favourite artist here at TGTF, Sivu. “Oh god, I love Sivu…When I first met Charlie, he also produced Sivu’s album (‘Something on High’, one of my top 5 albums of 2014), he was always going on and on about him, ‘Sivu, you gotta hear his stuff’. So eventually I did hear it, I thought, ‘he’s amazing, he’s great’. We started hanging out, because you’re in the studio and I met him a few times. And we decided to do a co-headline tour.

“He had this track he wanted me to sing on (‘I Hold’), so I thought as part of the promotion for the tour, I could then have a track that he would sing on (‘Skin’, which appears on ‘We Slept at Last’). So we went in and recorded both of those, and we just had them on tapes that we gave away…He’s part of that sort of Charlie Andrew crew that’s so nice to be a part of, so everyone’s so close and sweet…These are the kinds of relationships in this industry that keep you sane, basically.”

‘Next Year’ is Hackman’s single that is currently on the BBC 6 Music playlist as of the week of 27 July 2015, and the themes of time and change suggested to me that it was written during a time of upheaval. She agrees. “There’s a lot of change themes going through the whole record, but in that [song] it’s definitely very explicitly written. It was the start, really, of the change [in my life]. I came out of a very long-term relationship right at the beginning of the year, and that’s when I wrote that, and I wrote that before [the break-up], it’s almost [got] that sense of knowing before that wave hits. Then I moved up to London and moved away from my parents’ house. The whole year was just quite full of new experiences, feeling quite isolated and lonely but also kind of liking it. So I’m glad you could hear that on it.”

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One of the things that most impresses me about Marika’s style of songwriting is that fact that she can say so much and you feel so much emotion through her music, without her feeling the need to hit you over the head in sound or effects. She tells me about a time when she was younger and realised this was possible and one better, how to achieve it. “Once I was putting on a small concert with friends at school. It was just something we were putting on the school’s little common room, and we were deciding whether or not to bring some amps in. My friend said, ‘actually, you know what, if we bring amps in, everyone’s going to chat. But if we just have acoustic guitars, everyone will listen’.

“If it’s not coming at you really loudly, then you *have* to listen, because then you can’t hear very well, and everyone shuts up. It really stuck with me, and it’s something that I think Charlie was good at registering for the album as well. When you hold back a little bit, you invite people into your world, rather than trying to shout it at them. So that way, they can really get involved and listen to all the different things that are going on, rather than just have a wall of sounds.” She also confides in me that the one time I’ve had a chance prior to see her perform live, an acoustic set in Brighton at the Unitarian Church during the The Great Escape 2013, was one of her favourite live shows ever. I’m glad she still has a fondness for intimate gigs, and it keeps me hopeful that we will still get a chance to see her play in such venues in the future.

I ask her what’s up next for her. Although she has only just released her debut album this year, she’s already gotten to work and been very busy writing new material. You can tell she’s very energised about her future. “I think the plan is to write the [second] record – I’m about halfway through – get that done and then get straight into the studio so we’re done with the next one. I’m very excited to get back in there.” And I’m very excited to hear what this extremely talented and still so young singer/songwriter has show to the world next.

Many thanks to Ed and Mark for sorting this interview with me, and a big thank you to Marika for kindly chatting with me before her first show ever in Washington.

 
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About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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