Analogue Music | Marika Hackman

Marika Hackman

By Matt Conner

Marika Hackman's latest album cuts at a deeper level. It also connects there.

Marika Hackman trafficks in melancholy, but Big Sigh is a deeper sink into the abyss than ever before. As the title implies, the 10-song set is a cathartic exhale of trauma and trials, yet somehow the album never fails to captivate—a part of the ongoing balance that Hackman strives to achieve with each album.

Hackman's laid-bare lyrical approach has been her calling card since We Slept At Last found a sizeable audience in 2015. From there, the sound has become more expansive and interesting even as she continues to trade in gut-wrenching emotional expressions for the sake of complete honesty. It's where she finds her audience connecting most, and it's also how music reaches her.

We recently sat down with Hackman on the eve of Big Sigh's release to find out more about how she's feeling these days and what she strives to channel to those who listen.

Analogue: This is a big week for you with the release of Big Sigh. Does it feel that way?

Marika Hackman: Subject matter-wise and everything, the concept of a big sigh came up and as I was making it, there were lots of big sighs but there wasn’t the big sigh. I think with any record, that can only happen when you release it. Otherwise, you’re in a bit of a limbo. It’s not quite fully externalized yet. There’s an element of privacy still with it. Putting it into the world, you can just let go and see what other people think and just release it. So this week for me is the big sigh, basically. It’s very much a relief to finally get it out.

"It’s definitely vulnerable for sure, but that to me doesn’t make it scary or difficult in any way. That only heightens the sense of release, I think."

Analogue: As I listened to the album, it struck me as courageous because I’d feel quite vulnerable to put these things out there or release them, but you said ‘relief.’

Marika: It’s definitely vulnerable for sure, but that to me doesn’t make it scary or difficult in any way. That only heightens the sense of release, I think. Being vulnerable means being direct and it’s being honest, and that’s what I was trying to do with this record, rather than focusing on the sonic production elements. I think iI was trying to be true to myself and being really heartfelt.

So that makes it easier. Performing songs that other people would maybe think were difficult subject matter—I actually love playing those more.

Analogue: [Laughs] Really?

Marika: Beacuse I’m a masochist. [Laughs] No, it’s that much more satisfying to really connect when you’re performing, and that’s what people really want to see, I think. You’re channeling something.

Analogue: Some artists over the years have told me that they don’t want to bleed all over the audience or want to be careful about doing so. Like they feel an artistic responsibility to reign at least some things in. That made me wonder what you believe to be true about that—even just for you as an artist.

Marika: I think my responsibility is to be as honest as possible. It’s to be honest and to be direct. I think that involves a bit of bloodshed or it feels a bit overshare-y with the audience, but I don’t know if you can overdo that. I mean, I’m here for it when other people do that. I think it’s connecting—the more people share, the more we connect. The more honest people are, the more authentic it is. I’ve never thought about that as something that could be a negative thing or slip into 'too much'.

Analogue: I’m with you in that camp because that’s where the connective tissue is for me.

Marika: Yes.

Analogue: Is that what you hear from your own audience?

Marika: I think so. I feel like doing this for 12 years, the songs that have really landed or the ones that have had a more seemingly profound effect on my listeners are the more stripped-back ones, the ones that are much more gnarly or guttural tracks. That’s the side of things I’m more drawn to anyway as a listener, and as an artist, you generally cultivate a fan base that’s similar to yourself as a fan, because the idea is that you’re making music that you connect with. So that slightly deeper melancholy definitely tracks with my fans the most.

Analogue: What song on the new album tracks the most with this conversation? I’m thinking “Vitamins”?

Marika: I think it would be “The Yellow Mile” actually. This record does lean into that more generally, so they could all fit there, but I think certainly in terms of rawness, “The Yellow Mile” is just so direct. It’s straight from my brain into someone’s ear. I think that directness feels the most authentic. That’s not to say the others aren’t but I think with such limited production, you can really hear a song sitting at the front, so I think it’s that one.

Analogue: Have you had a chance to play these live?

Marika: I’ve played three of them live: “The Yellow Mile”, “Hanging” and “No Caffeine” at this point, but that will change by the end of the week.

Analogue: Yeah, I was wondering how the songs were being received or how you felt playing them live.

Marika: I love playing them live. It certainly injects a new sort of nerves and excitement and adrenaline sort of payoff. I haven’t spoken directly to many people who’ve heard it live. I think the end of “Hanging” is a good moment in the set as well. That big old release. That’s really satisfying to play and you can see the crowd then. That’s fun.

Analogue: Yeah, I love that moment and I’m glad you brought that up, because the music doesn’t feel like you’d think it would be given our conversation. It’s not funereal or something.

Marika: I am fascinated by the opposite sides of coins. Sonically, I like to show both sides. You can’t have anything without its opposite, really, so that was informing a lot of the dynamic range on the record—creating that sense of space by bringing it in close and small and then have it really loud and expansive. That was definitely a choice.

With a song like “No Caffeine,” which is dealing with anxiety and depression, the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek but the subject matter is quite dark yet the song is kind of peppy so you find yourself moving to it. I quite like almost tricking people into a false sense of security and then they realize they’re actually absorbing quite heavy matter.

So yeah, it was getting that balance. I definitely wanted to keep it feeling pensive with a toe in the morose and a toe in the disturbing, but I also like that wistful, nostalgic lightness to be the antithesis of those heavier, darker moments.

VISIT: Marika Hackman

Photo: Steve Gullick