Interview – Lenka
– by Shawn Conner
Lenka‘s self-titled debut, released last year, has spawned numerous song placements, especially for the catchy first single “The Show”, from commercials (Telus, those bastards) to TV shows (yes, Grey’s Anatomy).
Already she’s met with more international success than the two years she spent doing the Sia thing (Sia got her start with Zero 7) singing with Aussie outfit Decoder Ring, and the years spent acting on Australian TV shows. We caught up with the “dainty small” (as one blogger described her) Lenka Kripac (her father’s Czech) in New Mexico, prior to a couple more American and Canadian dates and a more extensive tour of Europe and Asia.
Shawn Conner: Is there anything on your TV resume you would like to wipe off?
Lenka: That’s such a mean question! Uhm, yes. There are some weird things, some weird tangents, that I wish I hadn’t done. But you know, everything happens for a reason, so I don’t really regret anything. But possibly some things if I could’ve thought them through with a bit more wisdom I wouldn’t have done them.
SC: But you’re wise now.
Lenka: Yeah. [Wise]–ish.
SC: So you’re living in L.A. Are you a Scientologist yet?
Lenka: No, not yet. But there are Scientology things everywhere, and I have met quite a few. The weird thing is, all the Scientologists I’ve met are really cool. But I’m not in danger of really ever being one because I just don’t really dig self-help therapy stuff. My songwriting is my therapy. I don’t need to spend money to have someone sort me out, which is basically what Scientology is, besides the whole Hollywood cult aspect.
SC: I hear it’s a great career move.
Lenka: I’ve heard that too, but I think that’s a bit creepy. If I was getting a job just because I was a Scientologist, that’s really not the way to get work. I think it’s a bit of fallacy, too. There are a lot of lower-rung Scientologists that aren’t benefiting from that. It’s all very mysterious and strange, but I think in general it’s gotten a lot of black press. Aside from some sinister elements, it doesn’t really deserve that.
SC: You’re in the 100 Most Beautiful in Who Magazine.
Lenka: Yeah, I know. I’ve had so many friends and family right to me about that. My mom bought three copies.
SC: Does that mean the 100 most beautiful out of all Australia, or the world?
Lenka: To me it does [laughs], but I think just Australia.
SC: And you’re playing with a band, a four-piece?
Lenka: Yeah. A girl drummer, a guitarist, bassist, and a horn player.
SC: You found them in Los Angeles?
Lenka: Actually, the drummer’s Australian, but I met her in New York. And the three boys are from California.
SC: That’s kind of neat, having another girl in the band, and an Australian to boot.
Lenka: It’s awesome. We can share lots of jokes. We’re educating the boys on some Australian-isms.
SC: Have you got them eating Vegemite yet?
Lenka: We do, actually. People are digging it! We’re spreading the word. And the Vegemite. It’s a great thing to travel with. I’ve got a tube of it in my bag, and you can put it on a cracker or a piece of bread and it just makes things tasty. Actually, my Californian trumpet player squeezed it on some noodles the other day. I’m very proud of him. He used it like soya sauce. But if you haven’t grown up with it, people just can’t handle it. Plus it’s a nostalgic kid thing, and I love my nostalgic kids’ things as you can tell from my music and artwork.
SC: I really like the artwork on the cover, by the way. You did that?
Lenka: My boyfriend does it, actually. He’s in the room hearing me write the songs, so there’s a real connection there, and the two grow at the same time. I’m doing a lot of slaving away when it comes to making sets and making the paper-cut videos, we definitely do those together. It’s all his design work, his style. James Gulliver Hancock is his name.
SC: Is he Australian?
Lenka: Yeah. We moved over together. We went on a big adventure together. I came to LA for a couple of weeks then I met him in Vienna, where he was doing an art residency. And then I came back to LA, which ended up where I got the publishing and album offers, so it was a practical decision to move over. Also we discovered a side to Los Angeles we didn’t expect, and it seemed like a good place to build a life.
SC: Like a bohemian kind of scene?
Lenka: Yeah, underground, anti-Hollywood.
SC: And you don’t have to go too far to find your Vegemite?
Lenka: I go back to Australia. I think you can get imported Vegemite, but I have so much. And every time an Australian comes to visit, they bring me Vegemite.
SC: You cover Modest Mouses’s “Gravity Rides Everything”. You’re a big fan?
Lenka: I’m not a hugely obsessed Modest Mouse fan. A friend suggested it, and I picked it because I wanted to do something quite male, and to challenge myself in doing something that really wasn’t my style. When I listened to this song I thought, “Okay, this isn’t really my style of melody,” because he’s got a screamy style of singing, not screamy, indie –
Lenka: Yelpy. I thought okay, this’ll be a bit of a challenge. When I sat down to play it on piano I really fell in love with it.
Video – Lenka, “Gravity Rides Everything” (Modest Mouse cover, live at The Independent, San Francisco, 01.15.09: