Marika Hackman is so cool. Like, not try hard cool either. She's wearing a leather jacket and smoking a cigarette and talking about wanking like it's the morning weather forecast. (Dork wishes we were this cool, but you know, there's a reason we're called Dork).
Her third record, 'Any Human Friend' is almost out in the world, and it's about as brave as you can get. She's stripped bare on the cover, down to her knickers with a baby pig covering her boobs, and the songs detail breakups, self-discovery, and… yeah, lots of ‘self-discovery'.
"I mean, I feel brave. I felt brave doing it. I feel brave putting it out," she says. "I don't feel nervous, but I feel like it's a lot, it's kind of exposing, and it's exposing parts that people maybe don't always wanna see. It's kind of every facet of my human character, so even the bits where I might come across as a complete dickhead, it's important to share that, and that's the whole idea of the record.
"We all have our ups and downs, and we all make mistakes, and we all do things wrong, and it's okay, I kinda wanna get that message out there. So sometimes some of those lyrics come out, and it was a bit nerve-wracking, but I learned with 'Boyfriend' on the last album, I had that feeling, and it was so worth it, so I've learnt that that's a good thing to be a bit intimidated by what you're creating."
How could she find anything intimidating after showing the track ‘all night' to her parents? She assures us they're both supportive and happy to rip the shit out of her lyrics, but they'll never judge her.
Good job too, because this record really is a deep dive into Marika's personal psyche. While she's always told honest stories with her songs, 'Any Human Friend' is her most candid work yet, speaking directly about the queer, female experience.
"I can't fabricate stuff because people know, they can sense bullshit a mile off. So I think talking about my experience, hopefully, it's that thing where the younger generation or people who are struggling with their sexuality at whatever age can listen to that, and it gives a voice within everything."
"Masturbation is an interesting topic. ‘hand solo' is about masturbating and I love the lyrics of that song, it's so funny. I think it's nice to hear women singing really directly about sex and their own sexualities; it's really empowering. And the way I sing about having sex with women, it's explicit but it's not in a derogatory way, it's all about that experience from both sides, and that's important to me that it doesn't come across as me being a twat or putting anyone down, it's supposed to be a celebration of that. You don't hear that perspective so much."
If you're familiar with Marika's music, you'll know she has a sweet and soft voice, previously making topics like stealing ur girl (‘Boyfriend') and euthanasia (‘Time's Been Reckless') on her last record, 2017's ‘I'm Not Your Man', sound like a dream.
She knows that too, and has used it to her advantage on this album. She's playing with her songwriting, characters and identity, and thinks you'll find it a little shocking.
"I thought it'd be interesting to hear it from my voice, from a female. I think people see me as quite a soft character, so to see someone like me singing about these kinds of things in that way, whether that will be shocking. I'm interested to see what the kind of response to that would be, if people do find it shocking, well why? Because you hear it all the time, but does that suddenly become this different narrative that's like ‘ooh you shouldn't be singing about that' or anything, I'm interested to see how that goes down, but I think it'll be a good thing."
It wouldn't a new era without a new sound now, would it? 'Any Human Friend' is Marika taking on her most synth-pop sound yet. It's slick and shiny and new. There's an actual guitar solo on it (!!), it's bold and direct, it's fucking fantastic. "When I was writing it, it felt poppier, so I was like ‘oh this is where it's going', and the treatment of that in the studio was ‘let's not shy away from this'. When I was first writing, when I was a kid, I was like ‘I don't wanna be pop', and as I got older I was like ‘well I love pop music'. The reason it's pop is that it's popular, and it reaches a wider audience, and people connect with it, and that's an amazing thing. If you can harness that energy and still keep your integrity and remain true to what you're saying, that's the ultimate combo.
"It felt like it was maybe time to challenge myself and step out of that comfort zone, so I worked with David Wrench, who is known within the industry for having, like, the best ears. It was a co-production, the first time I've had that role, which is quite an intimidating label, but stepping into it felt quite natural. It was just about taking these parts that I'd written at home in my bedroom, and it was just let's get this in here and record this, so it sounds really big, really slick and just fucking clear and spacious and great, and that was the mentality going in. He works really quickly, I'd be like ‘oh should I do maybe ten more takes?' and he's like ‘no we've got enough in here, it's fine', and it gives it that real immediacy, which is great because that really reflects the lyrics and what the album sentiment is."
The album takes on an innocence beyond its explicit lyrics, speaking to our childlike instincts and genuine humanity. That's demonstrated in the title, 'Any Human Friend', which Marika pulled from a Channel 4 documentary about young children meeting the elderly in a dementia home.
"I was watching it with my friend Meg, and she cut to this bit, she was like ‘you have to hear what this little girl says, it's so sweet'. So there are two little girls talking about their experience of the week, and she's talking to them like ‘oh have you made any friends?' and the one goes, ‘yeah I've made lots of friends', then the other goes ‘oh even with the old people', and the other girl goes ‘yeah any human friend'. I just thought that childlike sense before you get cynical and browbeaten by life and all the sadness that's in it, to just come out with this idea of any human friend, it's like, yeah anyone. Anyone can be that.
"So going on that narrative of this album stripping back to all different aspects of the character, whether they're good or bad, to put that out there, open that up, and hope that people are like, oh I have felt like that before and actually, that's ok. Other people feel like that. We should all be supporting each other at the moment because the world is quite terrifying."
If she's got one wish for the album, it's RSVP. The past two years are in the record, and she hopes you've got something to say about it too. "I don't write music for myself, I don't write it for other people, but I write it for a conversation, I write it for a wider narrative. Having to wait for that response, on the 9th August, that's when the conversation starts, that's when I actually open the dialogue, and I can finally have the other side of the story."
Taken from the August issue of Dork. Marika Hackman's album 'Any Human Friend' is out 9th August.
Featuring Sam Fender, Marika Hackman, Kim Petras, IDER, Love Fame Tragedy and more.