Ladytron fans have been patiently waiting for a follow-up to the band’s mesmerizing 2011 album Gravity the Seducer, and it seems they’re going to have to wait a little bit longer. During the band’s ongoing hiatus, creative juices are still flowing strong with lead vocalist Helen Marnie, who’s been keeping busy with various solo efforts. First, there was 2013’s Crystal World, a synth-filled dream-pop album, and next up is Strange Words and Weird Wars, yet another electro-fueled outing showcasing Marnie’s signature brand of upbeat, melodic modern pop as well—as a few ‘80s inspired throwbacks. The new album doesn’t drop until June 2, but we have the new video for her next single “Lost Maps,” one of the album’s few somber moments, premiering exclusively right here on Playboy.com.
We also managed to have a chat with Marnie about the mysterious meaning behind the video’s story, why it took so long to get this new record out and the big burning question: What exactly is going on with Ladytron?
I want to talk about this new video for “Lost Maps.” You only show up for one scene. Who came up with the concept for the video?
I explained to the director [Tim Courtney] what the song was influenced and inspired by, initially. And then he decided to take it in that direction and use it as the theme for the video. I didn’t mind not being in the video. It was deliberate. It just felt like, “Do I need to be the protagonist in the video?” For me, I’d rather have the story told by other people, but I would have a little cameo.
In your one scene, you appear to have a green arrow, pointing upward, painted on your face. Is there any significance to the makeup?
It’s just silly, really. That was my idea. Just to refer to geography and maps. I was like, “Can we have a bit of color?” Because it’s quite dark. In that tiny scene I am in, I just wanted there to be a little bit of light relief. And it does refer to the “Lost Maps,” so that’s why it’s there.
You mentioned you told the director what the song was influenced by. Care to elaborate?
I don’t like being so specific. It’s hard, because then it becomes a thing. If I tell you what it was inspired by, then people can’t make up their own minds and they won’t see anything else in it. Do you want me to tell you what it’s inspired by?
Well, I wouldn’t mind hearing a little bit, but I do agree that it’s nice to let viewers interpret it their own away.
When I wrote the lyrics, they were influenced by the refugee crisis, when the boats were up on the shores and that image of the child who drowned, so that is the essence of the song. That’s the angle that the director took, but we wanted to be a bit more ambiguous, so you don’t really know where she’s come from, or what her situation is, but she’s trying to get somewhere that’s really important to her. So there is a story, a beginning and an end, but you’re not sure what the situation is.
Crystal World came out in 2013, followed by a standalone single and video for “Wolves” which came out in 2014. “Wolves” was intended to be a part of this record, which is no longer the case. Is there a reason why there was such a long delay?
We had some problems during the making of the album. The album was probably ready last Summer—Completely mixed and finished in June. So there have been a little bit delays. It was timing as well—trying to time it right. I’ve got a label behind me now, so that gives a little bit of a push financially. If you don’t have a label behind you, you have to do it all yourself.
Do you have a favorite track on this new record?
My favorite track at the moment is “Electric Youth.” It’s really fun to play it live. I look forward to playing it in front of people. It’s kind of an ‘80s track—really ‘80s. [Laughs] Almost too ‘80s. It’s fun and light, because there are some darker areas on the album. For me, this is the fun song. And compared to my last album, it’s much more upbeat.
I’d say “G.I.R.L.S.” is the most Ladytron-esque of the bunch. Because your voice is so recognizable, sometimes it’s easy to say your solo music sounds like Ladytron. What do you think are the major differences between Ladytron and Marnie?
I’m really surprised when people say things like that. A song like “G.I.R.L.S.” is so tongue-in-cheek. I don’t know if Ladytron would make a track like that. Maybe that is because I’ve been in that band for over 16 years now. I really do think it’s different. The instruments seem not so different but I think the way it’s produced and mixed is different. In terms of my voice, it’s a little different only because I am singing in a different way on some of the tracks. Some of it is kind of falsetto high and generally with Ladytron, I would stick to my lower register. It’s also not as layered as Ladytron. In the mixing with Ladytron, my vocals tend to sit really far in the back so the music is upfront, which is great; I love that. But on this, I think it’s the other way around.
Are you enjoying the creative freedom of being a solo artist? I would imagine there are fewer cooks in the kitchen, so the diplomatic process that comes with having bandmates is gone.
[Laughs] Solo is much easier. I’m in control. I can decide. If I’ve written something good and I think it’s good, I don’t need three other people to tell me if it’s good or not good. Working with someone else outside the band, for me, is great because that brings in a different point of view. It’s completely fresh. It’s kind of liberating. It’s just me, so there’s no one else to fall back on. I’m putting new songs out there, so if people don’t like it, there’s no one I can hide behind.
Do you plan to tour the U.S. to support this new album?
I’m trying to work it out now. I would really love to come to the U.S. That’s where Ladytron has had the best gigs in the past. I’ve never played any gigs just as Marnie there, so that’s one of my ambitions this year. I’m due to be playing Mexico at some point this year, so I am hoping I can possibly tack on the U.S. after those dates. We’ll have to wait and see.
Would you ever consider doing an anniversary tour for one of Ladytron’s signature albums? A lot of bands seem to be doing that right now.
I think that can happen. I think it would probably have to be Witching Hour. I think that’s the album people would request the most. If they offered us lots of money, we would do that.
Now I have to ask the big question. Ladytron’s last album came out six years ago. Since then, you’ve done these two solo projects. When the lead singer of a band goes off and does a side project, it tends to raise eyebrows. But when they do a second one in a row, it raises alarms about what might be going on with the band. Can you clear the air for the fans on where you stand with Ladytron?
I know, I get this a lot. It’s a little bit frustrating because I’ll post something on my socials about Marnie. It’ll be on my Marnie page, it’s not on the Ladytron page, and they’ll always respond with something like a sad face or “No Ladytron?” And I’m like, “Well, you know, this is the Marnie page.” [Laughs] But Ladytron just isn’t ready yet. Everyone’s been doing their own thing. It gives me time to concentrate on this new album. I’ve been working on this record for two years, so that’s my priority. The process of making a record takes quite a long time, so if I put two years of work into that, I want to do it justice. Although, we [Ladytron] have worked on a little bit together. That was just in November, I think. It’s just not ready to go yet.
Okay, good to hear. I think some fans were starting to fear that Ladytron might be calling it quits. It reminds me of when Dave Gahan first started doing solo records and Depeche Mode fans got worried that the band was going to break up. But now he’s done several solo albums and the fans got used to him going back and forth. I guess Ladytron fans needs to get used to you doing the same thing.
Fans of Ladytron don’t need to worry. They just need to be patient.
Written, Produced & Directed by Tim Courtney
Director of Photography: Steve Cardno
1st Assistant Camera & Focus Puller: Sefa Ucbas
Steady Cam Operator: Sean Corbett
Drone Operator: Barry Crosbie
Make Up Artist: Jenna Clayton
Editor & Colourist: Tim Courtney
Special thanks to the Glasgow Barrowlands Market community.
Hair & Make Up by Ana Cruzalegui