Features Marnie Stern: ‘It’s Still Very Different For Me’

Marnie’s going stripped back for her new album, the brilliantly titled ‘Chronicles Of Marnia’.

“To me, it's just rock; though that's something of a huge, all-encompassing thing. I'm not really a fan of electronic music, or any of these trends that are going on...” Marnie Stern ponders, amidst much umming and aaahing as she struggles to make sense of a musical direction once described as 'art-metal math-rock bubblegum pop'. “I just like guitar-based stuff. I know a lot of people say pop, but I'm not sure I'd necessarily say pop, and I'm not sure I'd say bubblegum. Stylistically, I think there's more of an art-rock sound and vibe on the new record – I mean, maybe that's always been present. And maybe it's just me, but I definitely feel there's a 70s New York art-rock sound, like Television, on a couple of the songs.”
'I really like the sound of off-key.'
We're here to chat to Stern about her latest long-player, 'The Chronicles Of Marnia', which follows on from 2010's self-titled offering. Anyone expecting tall tales of crocodile wrestling, bull fighting and all-round stories of derring do in the three-year gap between the two are sadly to be disappointed. As Marnie tells us; “We finished this one about a year ago and we've had it ready to go for a while, but the label wanted to hold on to it for a bit and then scheduling things happened so it got pushed back. Then there was about a year where I was writing it, but other than that not much – just trying to earn a living, really.”

The ensuing album contains all the frenetic energy of its predecessors, but with a new (relatively, at least) stripped-back sound, at odds with the multi-layered offering of previous works. It's all a combination of production concepts and a new band make-up, as she's keen to explain. “It had a lot to do with the producer, his direction involved taking some parts out. And we had some busier drum parts on this record than we'd had before – we had a new drummer after Zach [Hill] left, in Kid Millions. The producer wanted to take some bits out to make that stand out, I guess. So, mainly it was all his idea and I went a long with it.” Asked to pinpoint a moment on the album where she feels the new direction is at its most marked, she answers without hesitation. “I'd probably say 'Orchid', which is the ninth track on the record, and which started off using my usual guitar sound and then ended up down to piano, which is very different for me. I guess it ended up being more revealing because it's so much softer.”

This mix has meant a far more prominent use of Marnie's voice than previously – a situation which she, in turn isn't, entirely comfortable with. “I didn't like that! I've also been singing in a different way to what I've been used to – I like to use a lot of layers and I really like the sound of off-key merging with on-key. And he just wanted me to have on-key all the time, so we argued about that a bit. Hey, I didn't pay all this money for him to not have some input, right? But it made me uncomfortable, that's for sure.” But surely, in hindsight, she's come out the other side a more confident singer? “It's an interesting point, we'll see once we've played this bunch of shows. Even when we're practising the set, it feels different because there's less covering stuff up. It's still very different for me.”Marnie Stern's new album 'The Chronicles Of Marnia' is out now via Kill Rock Stars.

Read the full interview in the new edition of DIY Weekly, available from iTunes now.

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