Lenka. Recognise the name? Nah, I thought not. But you should, she’s currently one of Australia’s biggest musical exports. Formerly a member of seminal Sydney outfit Decoder Ring, she’s made her own way in the world after decamping to the US, with a fair bit of success. That clip above? Yeah, at the time of writing it has had 16,955,596 views. That’s quite a lot. We caught up with her and here’s what she had to say…
Tell us in your own words what your sound is.
In my own words, I would say I make “naive pop”. Meaning there is a childishness, an innocence, a sense of wonder, but it’s on purpose, like naive art. Other phrases ending in pop; acoustic pop, folk pop, singer/songwriter-pop, intelligent pop (someone else said that but I find it very flattering!)
Who makes up your band? How did you meet?
I play with a motley crew of musicians all around the world. My core band are based in LA and i usually fly them to Europe and Asia dates, but I am putting together an Aussie band for my future local gigs. I was based in the States for 5 years, so I had kinda lost touch with Aussie musicians! My main band member, who’s been with me for about 5 years, is San Franciscan Danny Levin, who plays horns and synth at the same time and has a big “jew-fro”. He’s amazingly talented.
What were your influences when you first started writing music? And what are your influences now?
Bjork was a huge inspiration for me when I first started singing. And Cat Power too. Both those ladies let their unique, unusual voices have their way and I love that. I will always be influenced by the old ladies of Jazz and also 80’s pop like The Bangles, because of my childhood.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have been writing some stuff for film and TV this year, in between touring and being a mummy. I’m quite inspired to work on projects like that; writing to a brief to fit somebody else’s vision. I’m also trying my hand at pop writing, but so far I haven’t had any luck! It’s a challenge for me to write bangin club hits like all the big pop ladies want. But I’m determined to keep trying and I know I’ve got one in me somewhere!
Do you have a procedure for writing music?
Not really, but usually I need to find a little hook – a melody and lyric that is very effective and catchy. That usually sticks with me for a few days and when I find the time I flesh out the song on the piano. Of course, in a co-writing situation that is totally different. You have half a day to create something so you work a lot quicker and hope for that spontaneous creative energy.
If you could collaborate with any musician in the world, who would you collaborate with, and why?
If we are talking fantasy level here, I would say Prince. I’d love to meet him and watch him work, and he’s such a good songwriter. Then we’d play basketball and eat pancakes. 😉
What do you think about New York’s music scene? And if you could play anywhere, where would you love to perform?
New York’s music scene is a weird one. It’s very authentic but very difficult. There is this sense that you’ve got to go through the hard yards before people will spit on you. You need stamina and courage and a lot of ambition. LA was where I started my solo career and it was much more supportive. There are loads of singer/songwriter clubs that will let you play and you easily meet industry people.
I haven’t watched much live music lately, besides who I tour with, which have been Russian, Turkish and German bands of late and nothing to write home about. Oh! I saw Bjork at The Hollywood Bowl. That was, of course, ridiculously amazing. Such a powerful nature goddess. She had two musicians plus an all-girl choir and a lightning machine!
Any interesting stories?
Hmm, lets see. The singer from Phish (huge American band) came to my show in NYC because his 12 yr old daughter is a fan. He was backstage after the show hiding because the next show on at the venue was a Phish Tribute band! Loads of dudes on acid were freaking out that he came to his own tribute show. That was funny.
Where are you playing next?
I have 3 Aussie shows coming up, see below. Then two tours of Asia, including China, India and Thailand.
October 24, Brisbane, Black Bear Lodge
October 25, Sydney, The Vanguard
October 26, Melbourne, Workers Club