16th May 2022
As it transpired, Marina was Daxx, the latter being simply a stage-name. (The ladies share a spiky silver-grey barnet, a sunny disposition, and a back-of-my-hand knowledge of the music business.) Sighs of relief all round!
Musical pseudonyms established, Marina alias Daxx and I then settled back (behind our respective screens) to discuss, among other things, feminism, felines, and ’Seventies fashion…
NAOMI ADAM: Afternoon, Daxx! Where are you Zoom-ing in from today? What is the view beyond your screen?
THE FAMOUS DAXX: I’m at home. I’m in my flat in London, and the view behind my screen is of some [ornamental] cats and dinosaurs… and my [real-life] sleeping cat! Plus my guitar at the back, because I’ve just been practising.
NA: Your latest single, ‘Quarterlife’, is due to be released very soon; next week, in fact, on the 25th of November. Can you talk us through the background to and rationale behind the song?
TFD: Yeah- I wrote the song almost two years ago, when I was 24, in the year when I was going to turn 25. I wrote it quite early in the year, maybe a month before the whole Covid thing started. I was very scared to turn 25, just really stressed about it. As I mentioned before, I ended up buying a cat after a few months! I actually considered calling her ‘Quarterlife Crisis’. I didn’t! It was just a weird time, I guess. Reaching 25, and seeing where I am in life. There were a few songs that I worked on during lockdown. There were a few songs that I worked on and recorded during lockdown. Over the last year, I basically finished three songs: the first one was released in April, and this is the third one now.
NA: So what is your cat called, if not ‘Quarterlife Crisis’?
TFD: She’s called Babayaga, which is a Russian witch [from a traditional folk-tale]. Yeah, there’s a whole feminist statement behind the name that I made up in my mind!
NA: Speaking of feminism, I’ve read that you chose to record ‘Quarterlife’ with an all-female session band. Could you talk a little about the reasoning behind this decision?
TFD: Yeah, so especially for recording, I’ve had it before where everyone is male, and everyone [supposedly] knows better – I guess any woman in a male-dominated industry can relate to that. I didn’t have much studio experience when I started recording, and I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a bunch of guys being dismissive towards me and not respecting me enough.It’s my project. I want people to do want I want within not feel uncomfortable or like I’m not taken seriously because I’m a woman. Also, still there’s not that much representation for women in music, especially with instruments like guitar or drums.
NA: Of course, you yourself are an instrumentalist, as well as a singer-songwriter.
TFD: I always go above and beyond to emphasise that I’m a guitarist and not just a singer. That’s always what people assume and it really annoys me!
Guitar Hero: A press shot of the musical multi-hyphenate
NA: Do you always work with the same band?
TFD: No. So, for this song, it was Gabi King on drums, who plays for Declan McKenna. Then- I don’t know if you know Los Bitchos? They’re a pretty cool band, all-female, instrumental music?- their bassist, Josie [Josefine van Jonson], played bass for me. Then I had a friend of mine, a neighbour from where I used to live before, Sara- she played keys for me. Next time I record, though, there will probably be different people. Just because logistically it might be easier!
NA: Circling back to your upcoming release, I’m interested in the word ‘Quarterlife’. Is it a term of your own invention? Or did you encounter the concept elsewhere?
TFD: No, I think I made it up myself. I go very instinctively when I think about writing songs, I remember I made the demo for that song [‘Quarterlife’] in just one day! I sat down and it was one of those songs where it just comes out. The words just made sense. It was a very organic way of letting this [feeling] out. I wasn’t even as stressed and then I wrote this song and I was like ‘Oh cool, this is really in my head’.
NA: So you channelled your anxieties through writing about them?
TFD: Yeah! I do a lot of writing that just sorts my head out a bit.
NA: Like therapy, almost.
TFD: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s like that for a lot of musicians: [writing] helps you to make sense of things. For me it’s always like something is brooding, and as soon as I write the song it’s a bit like a release.
NA: Having been born and raised in Germany, have you ever written or considered writing your lyrics in German?
TFD: I have, but I don’t think it’s really for me. I always wanted to be a bit more internationally perceived and I think that’s easier in English. Also, I think German is quite a harsh language at times. I like to be very floaty… breathy… I think it works better for me in English. [Though] there are some great artists who sing in German, and have found a very unique way to use that.
NA: Aha! A stepping-stone to the ever-present ‘Influences’ question. Who inspires you?
TFD: There’s definitely a lot of musicians that inspire me. Recently, I’ve really loved the new St. Vincent album [Daddy’s Home]. In general, I grew up with The Beatles. I used to like my Dad’s stuff like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Also, I’m obsessed by The Bee Gees and I listen to them a lot. There’s so much nice stuff going on [like] the full ‘wall of sound’ thing that they have for their production. That’s something that I like for my music as well. I take stuff from all kinds of places. For ‘Quarterlife’, the beginning chord progression was adapted from a YouTube account that reviewed guitar pedals.
You Feline This?: The custom-designed artwork for Daxx’s latest single, ‘Quarterlife’, by Brighton-based artist Emma Rodriguez
NA: Aah, the inside track- quite literally! Now, what about the striking visuals accompanying your new music: specifically, what is the story behind those sunflowers?!
TFD: The sunflowers – it’s not that deep! I love yellow as a colour. In the press shots, the background is my yellow bedsheet; it’s just a really happy colour. It’s been for me over the last two, three years a sign of self-expression. Before that, I was trying to wear all black and be very cool and mysterious. It’s all about being a bit more me, a bit more authentic, and not trying to be somebody or something else. I have my cat [in the artwork] because when we did the press shoot, the photographer thought it would be funny. We actually ended up doing this whole maternity shoot with her!
NA: There’s a really resonant line in ‘Quarterlife’: ‘I didn’t read the book on how to grow up’. What would you want to find in a book like this, if it existed?
TFD: Like everything! [Laughs.] The standard things, like how to do taxes, how to eat regularly, how to plan meals. I’m really bad at that! I feel that, as a grown-up, I should know these things… but I don’t!
NA: As your latest single focuses on the themes of time and ageing, I thought I’d go off-piste with this final question: If you could time-travel to any era, past or future, where would you be landing your Tardis- and why?
TFD: To be fair, probably the ’Seventies! Maybe like late ’Sixties, early ’Seventies. Woodstock… hippies… a lot of music that I really like is around that time: my jam! It’s the stuff I really focus on. Maybe I could hang out with Bowie, or something like that.
NA: Absolutely: aim high! He’d be your ideal dinner party guest, then?
TFD: Definitely in the top three, yeah.
NA: Well, I’d be more than happy to pitch up for dinner, too. Provided you’ve managed to source that book on how to plan meals, that is!
Featured image credit: Emma Rodriguez; @emmaginethat.co.