You may have already been exposed to the charms of Anya Marina and not been aware of it. The Michigan-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter has not only had her songs featured on television shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl, but has also had an acting stint in the film 100 Girls, a role which the pixie chanteuse had to appear in sans eyebrows. Her sophomore album, Slow & Steady Seduction, Phase II, was produced by Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Louis XIV’s Brian Karscig and, with Marina’s breathy vocals and sharp lyrics, is best enjoyed with a snuggle companion and a glass of something tasty in hand. Marina is currently on tour with The Virgins and Lissy Trullie, but she took some time out to talk with us about getting topless while recording, her Roman Polanski-inspired video for the single “Move Me”, and gender play when covering T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.”
When did you first decide that you wanted to pick up an instrument? Truth be told, I didn’t ever want to pick up an instrument. My father insisted that I take piano lessons. And that went abysmally. And then he insisted that I take flute and/or clarinet, both of which I failed miserably at. I just had no interest in playing instruments at all. I always really liked singing. I love melodies, I love sitting by my record player and listening to music. And I was always coming up with little melodies and singing to myself.
Do you have memories of your early attempts at songwriting? I never even thought about that until recently, but I used to walk every day on this little route, and it was only about five blocks, but I remember looking forward to that time every day when my mom would drop me off at this particular place every day and I would walk the rest of the way to school. I would always make up a song that would go with the beat of my feet, and I I must have been like, eleven. And every day I would write a new song to a new beat, however fast.
What was the first song you learned all the lyrics to? Do you mean a popular song? The first song I learned on guitar was Freedy Johnston, “Bad Reputation.” I just love singing it from my point of view. I’ve loved doing that ever since — singing songs written by men and not singing the gender when I’m singing it. I’m doing it right now with this T.I. cover I’ve been doing every night, and the crowds seem to love it.
What song? It’s called “Whatever You Like.” I’m sure you know it.
I read somewhere that when you were recording a few songs on this album, you decided to take your shirt off while recording. Why did you feel that you needed to do that? I think it was hot. It was in the middle of summer, and I had the entire studio all to myself, and the engineer was in the other room.
Can you discuss your relationship to Jungian psychology and how it relates to the song “Move You”? Well, my dad is a Jungian psychologist. I read a lot of Joseph Campbell growing up. I don’t know a whole lot about Jung, but I do love that one quote that I read of his, “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” I just really like that notion, and I just ruminated on it for a long time, and it got me thinking that sometimes the simplest physical task can help you out of a jam that your mind is struggling with. And then I started thinking about how physically, sometimes getting it on can help you get through it. Everybody knows make-up sex is the best, right?
True. So how did the video come about? It wasn’t my concept but I was thoroughly won over by the concept. Scott Coffey directed it and he sent me this treatment for it which was based on this Roman Polanski film Repulsion. And it had all these beautiful textures in it. I knew his work because I’d seen his film with Naomi Watts called Ellie Parker, which was so good.
The video is beautiful, and you seem really comfortable in front of a camera. Is that because you have an acting career as well? Is there anything coming up that we can look for? I started acting when I was about 17 or so, just trying to go out for things. It never really took off. I have a one-line role in this Kevin Spacey film called Shrink that’s coming out. It was at Sundance, and it was directed by Jonas Pate, who is an upcoming and fantastic director, and it’s written by this guy Thomas Moffett, who worked with Wes Anderson for years. He’s an incredibly gifted writer.
Your song was on the soundtrack to Grey’s Anatomy. Any other TV shows you would love to be associated with? Mad Men would be amazing but that’s highly unlikely. I would love Anthony Bourdain to have me on his show. I know he had Queens of the Stone Age for a Christmas special. But I think he only likes dude rock.
You were a radio-station DJ for a while, so I’m going to appeal to your musical expertise. You’re living in L.A. now. What are the best places to check out live music out there? I love the Hotel Café, and when I can get out to the Troubador that’s always a great room. Sometimes you can catch some great stuff at Tangier and I just played the Echoplex when I was filming this TV show Rockville, CA, which I am going to be in with my band. But you know what, I go out a lot to see more comedy shows. I love going to Largo.
Finally, say I’m looking to have a slow and seductive kind of night. What’s the best drink to pair with your record? If you’re going to listen to my record and get your drink on, I think a nice Beaujolais, and if you’re in the mood for spirits, a vodka martini. Dirty.