Home » Oh No!: The story behind Marina (and The Diamonds)

Oh No!: The story behind Marina (and The Diamonds)

A Welsh girl with Greek heritage, and the will and spirit to do things her own way, Marina (and The Diamonds) has gradually built herself up as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.

Her story, unsurprisingly, is just as fascinating as her music.

Marina Lambrini Diamandis was born on October 10 1985 in Brynmawr, and grew up near Abergavenny.

Her Welsh mother and Greek father met at Newcastle University and separated when Diamandis was four years old. Following the separation, her father returned to Greece but would occasionally visit, while she remained in a bungalow in Wales with her mother; she described her childhood as “simple and idyllic” and “peaceful, very normal, poor”.

As a child, Diamandis attended Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls. She said, “I sort of found my talent there… I was the one who always skived off choir, but I had an incredible music teacher who managed to convince me I could do anything.”

At the age of 16, she moved to Greece to her father “to connect with [her] heritage and learn to speak the language”, and sang Greek folk songs with her grandmother.

Marina in the Primadonna music video

Having earned an International Baccalaureate at St. Catherine’s British Embassy School in Athens, she returned to Wales two years later. She and her mother then moved to England, settling in Ross-on-Wye.

Obsessed with becoming a singer “almost as if it was a disease”, she worked at a petrol station for two months in order to earn money to move to London.

Knowing that the Spice Girls were formed by an advertisement in The Stage, Diamandis applied for auditions listed in that newspaper.

She travelled for several unsuccessful auditions, including opportunities with the musical for The Lion King and a boy band organized by Virgin Records, during which she managed to leave her CV with an A&R representative, but was unable to audition at the time of the appointment as she felt sick.

In 2005, she created the stage name “Marina and the Diamonds” after she came to prominence, “the Diamonds” was established as a reference to her fans, instead of her backing band.

Inspired by the example of self-produced outsider musician Daniel Johnston, Diamandis decided to compose her own music and stop going to auditions.

She taught herself how to play the piano. She self-composed and produced her earlier demos with GarageBand, and independently released her debut extended play Mermaid vs Sailor through Myspace in 2007.

She met with fourteen music labels, rejecting all but one as she believed it was the only one which would not dictate her image. She came to the attention of Neon Gold Records’ Derek Davies in 2008, which managed her for six months, and was hired as the supporting act for Australian recording artist Gotye.

Davies reflected: “She just had something that really resonated with me. Even with the quite limited production of her early bedroom demos, she had this powerful yet vulnerable vocal and writing style that didn’t sound like anyone else at the time.”

In October, Diamandis finalized a recording contract with 679 Recordings. Diamandis’s debut single “Obsessions” was released on 14 February 2009 through Neon Gold Records, while her first extended play The Crown Jewels EP followed on 1 June.

That summer, she performed at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, the Glastonbury Festival, and the Reading and Leeds Festivals. She also performed at iTunes Live, releasing a second EP in July 2009 of performances from that festival.

In December 2009, Diamandis was ranked in second place on the Sound of 2010 poll organized by BBC, behind Ellie Goulding; she was one of three nominees for the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2010 BRIT Awards, which also went to Goulding.

“Mowgli’s Road” was released on November 13 2009, with Diamandis describing it as “uncommercial”, but it received attention after its video was shared by bloggers including Perez Hilton and Kanye West.

In summer 2011, Diamandis and Swedish recording artist Robyn performed as the opening acts for American recording artist Katy Perry’s California Dreams Tour. On September 30, Diamandis released the track “Radioactive” through the iTunes Store, it peaked at number 25 on the UK Singles Chart.

Her second studio album was preceded by its lead single “Primadonna” in April 2012; the song is notable for being Diamandis’s highest-charting track on the UK Singles Chart, where it reached number 11. It is certified Silver by the BPI, gold in Austria and the United States, and platinum by the respective authorities in Australia, Denmark and New Zealand.

The final product Electra Heart is a concept album lyrically united by the ideas of “female identity” and “a recent breakup”. Diamandis created the titular character “Electra Heart” as a protagonist for the project; she portrays the personas “Teen Idle”, “Primadonna”, “Homewrecker”, and “Housewife”, which represent several female archetypes of stereotypical American culture.

The project was released on April 27 2012, and debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 21,358 copies.

It became Diamandis’s first chart-topping album in the United Kingdom, although at the time it was additionally distinguished as the lowest-selling number-one record of the 21st century in the country.
The album was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry and the Irish Recorded Music Association.

Electra Heart debuted at 31 on the US Billboard 200 with 12,000 copies sold its first week, and as of May 2015 had sold 150,000 copies in that country.

After spending one month in New York City, Diamandis announced in February 2013 that she had begun writing material for an upcoming third studio album.

The single “Froot” was released on October 10 2014, her 29th birthday, and announced as the title track.

The album was announced to be released on 3 April 2015 with a new track from the album being announced each month. However, due to an Internet leak, the release was brought forward.

Entirely produced by Diamandis and David Kosten, the album was praised for its cohesive sound. Froot debuted at number 8 on the Billboard 200 chart, and is her highest charting album in the United States. Froot peaked at 10 in the UK.

In June 2016, Diamandis told Fuse that she had begun writing new material for upcoming songs.

In December 2016, electronic group Clean Bandit confirmed that “Disconnect”, a song they had performed with Diamandis at the 2015 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, would be released on their new album. It was released as a single in June 2017 and she performed it with them at Glastonbury.

To mark a new stage in her career, Diamandis announced via Twitter in 2018 that she would be dropping her “and the Diamonds” moniker to release music as simply “Marina”, explaining that “It took me well over a year to figure out that a lot of my identity was tied up in who I was as an artist and there wasn’t much left of who I was.”

Marina’s new album, out now!

On January 16 2020, Diamandis posted two photos on Instagram with the caption “Writing songs in Paris”.

On April 12 2021, Diamandis announced a new single, “Purge the Poison”, alongside a website and a mailing list to accompany it. Later that day, her web team accidentally uploaded the music video onto YouTube, resulting in an early leak of the song and music video.

Diamandis released the single cover and release date soon after, possibly as a result of the early leak.

Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land was released this week to critical acclaim.