Michigan-born singer-songwriter, Anya Marina, is as personable and witty as she is prolific. Her recently-released digital EP, Spirit School, offers up a motley collection of lighthearted, infectious tracks to tide fans over until the release of her forthcoming LP, Felony Flats, later this year. A star on the rise, Marina’s music has gained wide exposure on popular television shows like Grey’s Anatomy, The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, as well as the blockbuster film, Twilight: New Moon. In Portland, on break from recording, she chats about school spirit versus Spirit School, her love of Twitter and what makes her cry (fairly regularly) in public.
I listened to your School Spirit EP a lot over the weekend and…
Wait, sorry…It’s Spirit School, actually. But don’t worry – even I’ve made the mistake! (laughs).
Yes, Spirit School! It’s written right here but I read it wrong anyway. It’s Nirvana’s fault, maybe… you know, Smells Like Teen Spirit…
Maybe, yeah, with those cheerleaders… I was a cheerleader in high school, actually, but was asked to resign for lack of school spirit. We were supposed to bake pastries for the football team. My mom said, “You’re not going to be baking for guys! That’s ridiculous!” Plus, I was wearing fishnets under my uniform and they didn’t like that.
You had some friends help you out with this EP?
Yeah, I worked with Courtney Taylor-Taylor [of Dandy Warhols] who’s an old friend. I’d written a song I thought was very Dandy Warhols-esque and he came over and sang and wrote this great guitar line, which I loved. And Michael Lerner I met through [Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla]. I can’t get enough of his band, Telekinesis. I messaged him on Twitter and he messaged me back….he’s amazing. I’m lucky to have worked with both of them.
I wanted to ask you about Twitter. You’re pretty active and have a healthy number of followers.
I love Twitter. It’s a great way to communicate with your fans and with your peers and a great way to meet people. I tweeted that I really loved this band and I said I couldn’t stop listening to them, and they wrote back to me and said we should do a song. It’s such a crazy amount of access!
It’s an eclectic mix of sounds on this EP. Where does this range of styles come from?
I love songwriting and I guess it just comes out. All the songs are playful – or at first listen they sound fun and poppy – but they have a dark overtone, too. Like the track, Spirit School. It sounds upbeat but it’s about feeling so lost and being at the end of your rope.
What’s the new album you’re working on like?
It’s f——- great! (laughs). We’re remixing it now and I’m really in love with it. It’s a dark, eerie, sexy affair. The working title is Felony Flats. It’s a neighborhood in Portland…a bad neighborhood.
Your song, Satellite Heart, is on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack. Has this acted as a catalyst in any way?
Absolutely! But a few thousand people hate me because of it, too. I did this red carpet thing at the premiere and I don’t think they liked me ‘in the flesh.’ But mainly it’s been an outpouring of love from strangers: people coming to shows, buying my albums, and people like you wanting to interview me. Twilight fans are so passionate and I respect them for that. If they love you, they’ll love you ‘til you die.
Your track, Busrider is so funny: “If you were a DJ you would give me a beat; if you were a busrider you would give me a seat.” Tell me about your use of humor.
As a songwriter I just want to be honest and as a person, I appreciate comedy. It’s just the way that I communicate. I come from a long line of people who appreciate comedy. Also, when I was going through a bit of writer’s block, I joined a writing group. The leader said, “Stop trying to write the perfect song and just have fun.” So I was trying to have fun.
In your Twitter bio, you profess to “cry in public.” There must be a story to go with that.
(Laughs) I’m a sensitive person! When my sister and I go out, I don’t like to just talk about any old thing. We tend to talk about the deep stuff in life, so that means I get very moved…publicly. We have a running joke about all the places where we’ve cried in public.