This July Berlin-based musician Anika (Annika Henderson) released Change, her first album since her 2010 debut, Anika. Although, despite this decade+ gap between LPs, the British ex-pat certainly never left the music world, taking up DJing, forming Exploded View, and collaborating with the likes of Shackleton, Dave Clarke, Tricky, and I Like Trains. The songs of Change fall into the realm of avant-pop and channel optimism amidst a world too easily regarded as bleak and cluttered with anxiety and anger. Anika spent much of September playing live shows and has more in the books for November and December but, during a recent chat about the return of her solo project, she tells me that she also hopes to return to the states in the relatively near future.
Izzy: You recently released Change, your first new solo album in over a decade. Do you feel like a completely different artist from that that recorded your debut, or does it feel just like picking up where you left off?
Anika: Yes, of course. I’m a different artist and a different person. Life happened in between. The last ten plus years were an exploration of personal and public, of the world, of theories, disproving, proving, writing, questioning. That’s been the beautiful thing about playing music and touring the world with it. The chance to meet with so many people, ponder the questions of the world, of life. Priorities, dreams, goals, perspectives change. Isn’t that what life is about? Nothing is certain.
Izzy: This is a pretty big question, but what have been some of the highlights of your career in those 11 years since Anika dropped?
Anika: Forming Exploded View and being in Mexico, the music residency in Iran, collabing with Tricky, so many beautiful collaborations with people that became friends. It has been a most wonderful journey.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the most significant influences behind this album?
Anika: Exploded View was an influence for sure. That band taught me how to be in a band. How to communicate, how to become friends, how to be honest in a working context, how to say when you don’t like something. I was so happy that Martin was able to co-produce the album with me. As for wider musical refs, I would say Goldie, PJ Harvey, Madonna, The Cardigans, Dub music, Grace Jones, Patti Smith, Hole, Basement 5, so many great people.
Izzy: Have you had any particular favorite reactions to the album?
Anika: I’m surprised that it has connected with people in the way it has. It was a very personal and vulnerable record and I’m really happy to share it and to share experiences of others through it. Surely that’s the beauty of music, the meaning keeps developing through interaction. I like to throw it to the wind in that respect and see where it goes.
Izzy: You’ve put out a number of videos for singles from the album, which I really dig (especially “Rights”). What kinds of things or artists tend to inspire the visual elements of your work?
Anika: I love film as an expressive medium. Going to the independent cinema is a favourite past time. So many great artists. I am a big fan of Björk’s collabs with Gondry. I like to experiment with color, costumes, to test boundaries and paint a bigger picture. It was great to work with Sven Gutjahr, Sabrina Labis and the Schiefer crew. Each is so different. Next time I want to edit it myself.
Izzy: I understand that you consider the album to be sort of an optimistic outlook for a problematic time and situation. I heard that you were inspired, in part, by Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem. Are there any other works of art (of any medium) that you find to be especially inspiring, or helpful, or relevant to our current situation, that you would encourage people to check out?
Anika: I’m a big fan of Toni Morrison. Her texts question and unpick social norms. This is an important part of change, of changing perspective and of leaving a space for a new form of reality to take its place.
Izzy: You’ve actually been on Sacred Bones for a while, which is one of my favorite labels. How is it being part of that family?
Anika: Yes, they have been an extremely supportive label and have believed every step of the way. They work in a transparent way, which is invaluable for an independent, outsider, DIY artist. I love what they do. They are proper sweethearts, professional and do a bloody good job. Their curation is personal and passionate.
Izzy: You have kind of a large handful of shows coming up through the end of the year. What can be expected of the live show on this batch of dates?
Anika: I am working with a new live band, based in Berlin. We are four on stage: Zooey Agro on keys, Eilis Frawley on drums, and Sally Whitton on bass. It’s the first time I have had a fully female band. The dynamics are very different. They are also proper kick ass and very talented. It’s wonderful to play shows again. I hope they all take place. The plan is to take this lineup to the states too. They are all very special. So can’t wait to play more shows.
Izzy: And, finally, what’s next for you?
Anika: I want to write a new album. Watch this space.