As a latchkey child of the ‘90s, there is one genre of music that is close to my heart and that is TV theme songs. Today, we just don’t get enough so when we do – I’m all over them and it just so happens Lenka was behind one of my favorites in recent years. A show that audiences really should have loved more because it highlighted a family dynamic we don’t get too often, ABC’s short-lived ‘Splitting Up Together.’ While I didn’t take my time with Lenka to gab about this infectious theme song, we did touch on her latest releases, a cover of a classic summer anthem, the roots of her amazing songwriting skills, and more. Find all of that, as well as her new single “Ivory Tower” below!
Kendra: You went solo over a decade ago and since then have released a handful of records. With that, what have been the most crucial discoveries you’ve made about your artistry between writing and recording your 2008 solo debut to your 2020 releases?
Lenka: I’ve learned lots of little things but probably the most crucial is that I need to give myself time. Working under pressure doesn’t end with the most creative ideas from me. If I’m allowed to percolate an idea for a bit longer, it’s usually better.
Kendra: ‘Discover’ and ‘Recover’ showcase originals and covers, and when looking at the cover art – they both go hand in hand. Did you know when you were working on ‘Discover’ that you’d soon release a cover album soon after?
Lenka: Yes totally. I wanted to release them on the same day but it was too difficult to achieve that with all the streaming platforms. They are twin EPs and actually, the vinyl has ‘Recover’ as side A and ‘Discover’ as side B.
Kendra: Being of a particular age, “Steal My Sunshine” is close to my heart and one of those one-hit wonders that is iconic in a beautiful, strange way. So much so, it’s one I feel would be hard to reimagine but you did it! You gave it depth and made it a bit melancholy.
Lenka: It is a pretty iconic song. And rather a strange one once you break it down! I love songs that are full of metaphoric nonsense that leave it up to the listener to interpret. I felt like it was about a party night gone wrong, which would have a somber tone perhaps?
Kendra: Was the version on ‘Recover’ the initial one or did this cover go through some evolutions before you were like, it’s ready?
Lenka: I demoed it alone on my keyboard and came up with that slow groove. When I was picking which songs to cover, it was about finding a way that felt comfortable in my body and finding something new to bring to the song. Then with the producer, Josh Schuberth, we tried to capture that feel but filled it out more. So I don’t think it really changed from the initial way I felt like it should be, it just got fuller.
Kendra: You also covered your own song on this record. As someone who has breathed new life into one of their biggest hits, do you feel more artists would benefit from reimagining their older songs later in their career?
Lenka: Yes, I think it’s hilarious to do that! So meta. Taylor Swift is obviously feeling this too now, even though it’s a business choice for her. It was really good fun to reimagine a song I’ve played so so many times. With all, I’ve been through, how I’ve changed, how the world of music has changed, it was nice to give it a re-jig. I still like the OG too though. I usually play it live in its original form.
Kendra: You’re not only a master of covers, but originals that have a timeless feel as we’ve heard with “The Show.” When you were growing up, were you listening to a lot of artists that have proven to be everlasting like the Beatles, Madonna, and Michael Jackson?
Lenka: Yes, I definitely absorbed those artists. I devoured my mum’s Beatles vinyl box-set as a kid. And my dad is a trad jazz musician, so there was a vintage music thing going on in our house mixing with the ’80s and ’90s music I grew up with. I reckon I took away a lot of tips from all these artists on how to craft a melody and a story within a song.
Kendra: Usually, I ask this at the start, but since we just talked about when you were growing up – when did you discover your voice, and were you quick to use it once you realized you could carry a tune like no other?
Lenka: I performed with my dad’s jazz band when I was six and a few times at school. But I didn’t want to be a musician until my early/mid-twenties. I wanted to be a dancer, then an actor, then a sculptor. Exhausting!
Kendra: Back in the ‘80s, MTV made music visual, and that hasn’t gone away since. Now with social media, it’s even more so the case. With that, how do you feel your fine art studies have helped you in the visual side of your craft?
Lenka: Very much so. I’ve just made a new music video and it has an ’80s MTV video vibe actually. I love working on the visual side of things. But it is a lot of pressure to constantly come up with content for social media. It’s very time-consuming and I find I dip in and out of trying to do it.
Kendra: Speaking of art, you and your husband just partnered up to launch Gulliver Creative. Can you tell us more about that?
Lenka: Well it’s mostly his thing, his art/homewares collection, but there is one collaboration on there that we made together. We both work from our home studios and we are constantly involved in each other’s biz and I really wanted him to make ceramic talismans and I did the weaving together of the pieces. They are inspired by our time honeymooning in the Greek Islands where you see evil eyes hanging all about the place.
Kendra: Lastly, it’s getting a little easier with the vaccine rollouts, but it’s still kind of hard to have a definite answer when it comes to future plans given the current state of everything, but as far as what you can control when it comes to your career and creativity – what do you have planned in the coming months for yourself?
Lenka: We are limited to staying in Australia for at least the next year because of the travel ban in place. I’m on the list to get vaccinated when it’s available, in the hope that we’ll be allowed to travel soon! But we do have some Aussie travel plans and our local town life is quite wonderful, so I’m just focusing on that. I feel like the creativity doesn’t need to stop because so much happens via the internet now! Grateful for that.