From the release of her first EP That Iron Taste back in February 2013 the Hampshire-born artist, Marika Hackman, has set herself apart with her visceral and textured approach to writing music. In this and her two subsequent EPs, Hackman defies categorisation and continued to create ethereal and atmospheric songs that show a musical brilliance well beyond her twenty-three years of age. Departing from her early work, she has now begun a new chapter in her musical career with her debut album ‘We Slept At Last’ which features no songs from her previous releases.
Much of her work is reminiscent of choral music or old-English poetry, blending antiquated macabre with a transcendent atmosphere. Catching up with Marika a few days before the start of her headline tour, I ask her about how classical music has influenced her work. “I studied it when I was at school, I did A Level Music. I love choral music particularly”, she tells me over the phone,” I love that sort of darkness to it and the suspensions and the clashing chords which are so incredible in classical music and so stunningly beautiful. As I learnt to understand them and how they were structured I found them even more interesting.”
Citing reading as a favourite pastime, Marika also reveals how her love of literature has seeped into her writing. She tells me about her adoration of “that darkness and playing with words and a sense of humour” which she claims to find in “something like Sylvia Plath who is very dark but also very funny, I find that really interesting.”
Whilst the structure and style of the literature she loves often consciously inspires her music, she also reveals that she often creates links by sheer accident. “When I wrote ‘Ophelia’ I never thought “Oh, I’m going to write about the story of Ophelia”, I wrote the song and for some reason while I was writing I had the image of Waterhouse’s picture of Ophelia lying in the river and I thought it was really interesting that I had that in my head. And then I, of course, realised that matched perfectly with the lyrics I’d written so I carried the song on in that vein.”
Marika has a clear style and she seeks it wherever she goes, looking for things that mirror “this weird nostalgic feeling, this dark feeling of unease” that she constantly aspires to in her own work. She tells me how, whilst studying as a student, she fell deeply in love with the work of American photographer Glen Erler who expressed the exact feeling she was seeking. “When it came to the album and I saw the picture of the girl lying on the bed, while I was looking at his images using him as a reference again, I just said “If there is any way we can use this picture and I can work with him then that’s perfect” and, of course, he turned around and said yes!”
What followed as an artistic match made in heaven as Marika tells me “we got to know each other very quickly by emailing back and forth very intense memories from our lives and the way we thought about the world”, and eventually the two collaborated to create a series of images which are included in the sleeve for ‘We Slept At Last”, and surrounded her at the album launch.
She has also had the great privilege of working with Charles Simpson – the man behind Alt J’s This is All Yours and That Awesome Wave – on her latest album which shows in its awe-inspiring sound and brilliant production. “I trust him. I think he’s a genius. We work together perfectly at the end of the day and we don’t fight about anything which is great. We have very similar ideas and it’s a great process, really enjoyable. It’s like just hanging out with your friends and making music. It’s kind of a dream really.”
Across much of April, Marika will be crossing the UK and Europe on a headline tour for ‘We Slept At Last’ and any of you going have quite a show in store. “These are going to be very different shows”, she tells me,” they’re going to be quite intense and very raw, it’s just going to be me on stage”.
Just before we say our goodbyes I ask Marika about her thoughts on the revival of British folk, and what role she feels she plays in that genre. She feels that folk has moved on, telling me that “maybe 8 years ago [it] was a thing but they have all split off and done different things now. I feel like I am trying to create a new type of folk. I see myself more as a singer-songwriter rather than folk.”
And so there you have it, Marika Hackman is trying to create her own otherworldly brand of folk with a bit of everything mixed in, and her mastery of macabre is intimately fascinating to listen to. Her album ‘We Slept At Last’ is out now, and she is likely to be touring near you awfully soon.