“I was worried how deeply I felt things,” she says. “My peers were quite distant emotionally, and it was very taboo to feel anything other than… pumped.” She laughs. “But I was really trying to express deep depression, anxiety, complete isolation. It was pretty intense. Mentally, I’m so much better now. I’m trying to eradicate this “tortured soul” thing. It must be put in the trash. “
It’s this struggle between holding onto her emotions and letting them out that has characterized Marten’s music since it was first discovered on YouTube at the age of 12. His first two albums, 2016’s Blue and yellow writing and 2019 Feed the seahorses by hand, are both whispering, careful discs that bite wounds without ever opening them.
We meet at a pub on Columbia Road in London, where I strain to hear Marten’s soft voice over roaring motorcycles and hipsters. Her face is cool and freckled. She uses her paler than pale lashes for comedic effect, blinking emphatically after impassive statements.
His new album, Flora fauna, is reinforced by her breakup with Sony (more on that later) and finds her happily tearing heavy chains. Her story “was getting bluer and bluer” and she “wanted to get me out of this hole.” Its characteristic muted tones are still there, with floating reveries tuned to an acoustic guitar, but the record is loaded with punch and grunge. “I took the bass, which made all my rhythms different,” she says. “I wanted it to be plump and juicy and to have something to grab hold of.”
The piece “Ruin”, in which plucked light and song give way to a lively and galloping hymn, is a study of self-loathing. “If I was talking about another person like I am talking about myself, that would be horrible, that would be bullying,” Marten says. “That’s what I did all the time. I hung out with the wrong people, had fleeting and meaningless relationships, drank a lot and didn’t eat. I was really not good on tour. I was so tired and cold all the time and couldn’t project my voice.
“Human Replacement” – a squeaky, stealthy alt-rock song about not feeling safe going out at night – was written long before the Sarah Everard case was discovered, but now carries extra weight. . “Every time I go out, it’s on my mind,” Marten tells me. “I’m always going to have something weird going on. Something is wrong. Microaggressions are the problem. How many times have you walked down a street with your keys between your fingers? This is so wrong. In the video, Marten rides a huge army tank around central London. “I felt like Kendrick Lamar,” she says, delighted.
Other highlights from the album are the glorious debut single “Creature of Mine” and “Liquid Love,” a synthetic lullaby that rises, its airy voice layered like a choir. It’s Marten’s favorite. “There’s that line about kissing the sun’s lips every morning, which I’m very grateful for,” she says.
Marten was born in Risplith, a small village near Harrogate, her father a writer and her mother a teacher. “I keep putting on this very quaint image of myself and I’m doing it on purpose now because it’s funny,” she says, “but I was literally born in a house on a hill. Her father took her outside to show him the world, but was quickly scolded by the midwives.
The high school was somewhat upset by Marten’s burgeoning musical career. She joined Sony the day before her GCSEs, her review notes under the table on her signature photo. Soon after, she was nominated for the 2016 BBC Sound. From then on, she commuted to and from London, but was keen to keep her two lives separate. “I didn’t talk about school when I was in London and I wouldn’t talk about music when I was back to being a normal person,” she says.
Marten thinks her classmates would describe her as “quite distant”. “I did my best, but I wasn’t into the things they were in,” she said in a neutral tone. “There is a certain level of responsibility [once you are signed], even if it’s very discreet, not being able to have that drunk photo of you in a nightclub. I kept a very small number of close friends but always felt different. A little bias.
In 2019, after four years and two albums with Sony, Marten was dropped. “It was the best day of my life,” she says. “I fell. I went to see Big Thief in Shepherd’s Bush. Everyone at the drinks asked me if I was okay. I was like, ‘I’m really good. It was my saving grace. “
“The second album was an incredibly small piece of music, not fit for one, and that really made me doubt it,” she continues, clearly eager to get things out of her chest. She didn’t like being thrown into the world of co-writing from the start and did sessions with Ivor Novello award winners, for example White and Justin Parker, known for their work with global superstars Adele and Lana Del. Rey. “It’s not my musical universe, it never has been,” Marten said with a deep sigh. “We guess that’s the route you’re going to take.” When she first joined Sony, she was on their boutique label Chess Club. “Halfway through the second album, Chess Club left and I found myself with everyone in this huge office and no one had heard my music,” she says. “It was like, why are we working together? I don’t see you, you don’t see me. This sort of thing shouldn’t happen. It is sabotage and it only hurts the artist. During the lockout, she signed with Fiction – which hosted The Cure for more than two decades – an experience she describes as “such a relief”.
Marten is still angry with many aspects of the industry, especially the huge share of royalties labels earn from streaming – leaving artists in trouble. “Most of the people I know who have a Top 10 album right now are on Universal Credit,” she says. ” It’s embarassing. “
She is, however, optimistic about touring this year. “You have to be,” she said, “because if you’re not, it probably won’t happen.” Flora fauna came out the week before her 22nd birthday. “I’m pitifully young,” she laughs. ” It’s disgusting. It’s the only thing I don’t recognize. I feel like I’m lying. My mental age is in my mid-fifties. I love the leisurely slow pace of life and talking about old things. I’m really glad I’m 21 out of 22 it’s a good time, just feel weird about it.
Flora Fauna releases on Fiction Records on May 21st