Interview – Lenka
– by Shawn Conner
Lenka‘s self-titled debut, released last year, has spawned numerous song placements, especially for the catchy first single ďThe ShowĒ, from commercials (Telus, those bastards) to TV shows (yes, Greyís 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 ďdainty smallĒ (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: Thatís such a mean question! Uhm, yes. There are some weird things, some weird tangents, that I wish I hadnít done. But you know, everything happens for a reason, so I donít really regret anything. But possibly some things if I couldíve thought them through with a bit more wisdom I wouldnít have done them.
SC: But youíre wise now.
Lenka: Yeah. [Wise]Ėish.
SC: So youíre 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 Iíve met are really cool. But Iím not in danger of really ever being one because I just donít really dig self-help therapy stuff. My songwriting is my therapy. I donít 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 itís a great career move.
Lenka: Iíve heard that too, but I think thatís a bit creepy. If I was getting a job just because I was a Scientologist, thatís really not the way to get work. I think itís a bit of fallacy, too. There are a lot of lower-rung Scientologists that arenít benefiting from that. Itís all very mysterious and strange, but I think in general itís gotten a lot of black press. Aside from some sinister elements, it doesnít really deserve that.
SC: Youíre in the 100 Most Beautiful in Who Magazine.
Lenka: Yeah, I know. Iíve 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 youíre 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 drummerís Australian, but I met her in New York. And the three boys are from California.
SC: Thatís kind of neat, having another girl in the band, and an Australian to boot.
Lenka: Itís awesome. We can share lots of jokes. Weíre educating the boys on some Australian-isms.
SC: Have you got them eating Vegemite yet?
Lenka: We do, actually. People are digging it! Weíre spreading the word. And the Vegemite. Itís a great thing to travel with. Iíve 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. Iím very proud of him. He used it like soya sauce. But if you havenít grown up with it, people just canít handle it. Plus itís 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. Heís in the room hearing me write the songs, so thereís a real connection there, and the two grow at the same time. Iím doing a lot of slaving away when it comes to making sets and making the paper-cut videos, we definitely do those together. Itís 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 didnít 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 donít 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”. Youíre a big fan?
Lenka: Iím 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 wasnít my style. When I listened to this song I thought, ďOkay, this isnít really my style of melody,Ē because heís got a screamy style of singing, not screamy, indie –
Lenka: Yelpy. I thought okay, thisíll 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: