Marika Hackman is a firm fave, here at Dork. We did a magazine cover, way back when. We've done chats aplenty and beyond-positive album reviews. End of year lists? Yep, she's in them. She's just good at stuff, y' know?
During lockdown, our Marika's been working on a fun new project - a covers album, appropriately titled 'Covers'. Featuring new takes on tracks by MUNA ('Pink Light'), Grimes ('Realiti'), Beyonce ('All Night'), Radiohead ('You Never Wash Up After Yourself') and more, it's a revealing insight into some of the songs she's had on repeat.
"When it comes to covers, I like to pick songs which I have been listening to obsessively for a while," she explains. "It gives me a natural understanding of the music, and lets me be more innovative with how I transform it."
Self-produced between home and her parents' house over the past few months, it became a handy vehicle for self-expression and experimentation, without the pressure of starting from scratch.
Hi Marika, how's it going? What are you up to today?
Hello Dork. I'm very well thank you - currently sitting at my desk shivering and speaking in tongues whilst grappling with the concept of another lockdown and dealing with the constant fear that I might get a temperature and have to burn my house down along with all of my belongings.
Your new covers album sounds fun - what sparked the idea?
Well, I curiously had a lot of time on my hands, and thought it would be a great idea to put it to good use and write album number four. Unfortunately, I could not squeeze one iota of creative energy from my jaded little brain, and figured pulling twelve songs out of thin air would be impossible. Rather than learn Swedish, bake sourdough or get really really ripped, I thought the best plan of action would be to start with some songs which had already been written, and then I could be creative without the pressure of a blank page.
Have you dabbled much in covers before?
Oh boy, do I love me a cover. My first ever release was an EP of five covers recorded at home (weirdly in the same bedroom I recorded this record), and then I went on to put covers on subsequent EPs. I even did a Christmas EP with some of the festive hits.
What makes a good cover, do you think?
I think it's being able to reinvent something in your own musical style whilst still maintaining the essence of why you love it as a song, and even bringing those parts to the fore. It's a balance between the identity of the song and your own artistic stamp I suppose.
Are there any covers by other artists you're particularly fond of?
[Jackson Browne's] 'These Days' by Nico is an obvious choice, but an iconic cover.
Was it tough picking the tracks you wanted to do? And then deciding what to do with them, too?
Not at all. I decided to pick songs I already know and love because it's much more rewarding that way, and a lot easier to wrestle with the skeleton of something you already have a deeper understanding of. I would start by mapping out the structure and then putting basic chords down and a main vocal and building it from there. Sometimes I had predetermined ideas about where a song should go, and other times it was more of an exploratory process.
Did any shared themes emerge amongst the songs you were drawn to?
Hmmm, you tell me... I think I've been too involved to notice any patterns bubbling up. Certainly, there's a feeling of isolation, but I think that's a combination of how I approached the production and my preference for the more melancholy side of songwriting.
Were there any covers that ended up on the cutting room floor?
Yes, just the one. I really wanted to do a cover of 'Here Comes Your Man' [by Pixies], but I had a go, and it wasn't really sparking anything exciting production-wise, so I've popped it on the shelf for now. I might revisit it in a few years.
How did you find the process of self-producing?
It was very natural, mainly because it was all at home using the limited tools I had at my disposal, which is how I have always worked. The only challenging parts were having to record vocals in noisy houses, and also knowing there wasn't the safety net of someone else's experience to cushion my ideas. That aside, it was very enjoyable, and I got a lot of new toys just before I started, which always helps to drive creativity. My Roland TR-8S drum machine features heavily and gives the record a solid backbone to move around.
Has working on this project influenced where you might take your own music?
Yes, definitely. That's another reason I love covers, because you can try out lots of ideas on another writer's template and see what works for you. It's also an insight into new chord progressions and melodic ideas which I might not have thought about before. I love the sparseness of this record and that super ASMR vocal, so perhaps I'll take that forward to the next album.
What's next for you?
I imagine a lot more of my answer to question one, whilst also writing my next album and trying to stay sane.
Do you have any predictions for 2021?
A palaeontologist will discover a prehistoric mosquito bound by resin, extract fossil DNA and bring dinosaurs back to life. He will show off these magnificent creatures to the public in multiple safari-style enclosures. It will be called Jurassic Park. Nothing bad will happen.
Taken from the November issue of Dork. Marika Hackman's album 'Covers' is out 13th November.
Featuring Shame, Beabadoobee, Ashton Irwin, Boy Pablo, The Cribs and more.