Last year British-born, Berlin-based post-punk-leaning, avant-garde singer/songwriter Anika (real name Annika Henderson) released Change, her second solo album and first since 2010, on Sacred Bones. In September we chatted about the album (which was inspired in equal parts by ‘90s alternative music, the current state of politics, the pandemic, and the works of great minds like Hannah Arendt), in addition to her newly formed all-female live band, who were currently playing Europe shows, but planning a tentative US tour for, hopefully, the near future. In the time since Anika released a remix EP [Hear “Planningtochange (Planningtorock Remix)”], did a cover of Psychic TV’s “Godstar” for Todo Muere SBXV (Sacred Bones’ tribute to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge), and embarked on that American tour. The tour kicked off on May 14th in Austin, and will have Anika playing Johnny Brenda’s this upcoming Sunday, May 29th. Last week I got a chance to catch up with Anika about her current live show and how she’s planning to spend the remainder of 2022.
Izzy: The last time we spoke was September of last year, a few months after Change dropped. What have been some of your personal highlights since then? You’ve done quite a bit of touring and even released a remix album earlier this year.
Anika: One of my favourite things was putting this live band together: Eilis Frawley on drums, Zooey Agro on keys, Sally Whitton on bass. It is possibly my favourite band to date. Saying that, I can’t compare to say Exploded View because they were wonderful in other ways but it’s certainly a very different thing, working with an all-female lineup. I was at a certain point in my life, things were happening in the world, it felt really important to try to assemble an all-female band, be active about fighting/disassembling power structures. I didn’t really want to be exclusive about it. So, I thought I’d try and see how my search went. The Important thing was that everyone was queer-friendly, respectful, kind and of course an amazing musician. Somehow, I managed to find these three very different, extremely talented and friendly people, who luckily were up for being part of this project. It helped take this headphones record, breathe life into it and create a live version, that spoke to the audience in a different way. I was never sure if this album would get the chance to be played live but when it appeared, maybe it would get this chance, it became clear that it had to embody all the themes it spoke about and further enforce them, act as a call to action, engage the body and the mind of the audience. So here we are.
Izzy: Speaking of your band, how would you characterize the dynamic between the four of you?
Anika: As I mention above, this was a very new and soul-feeding experience. It was odd to not have the usual conflicts and in other ways, have new concerns to deal with. All three are very different, yet very talented and extremely caring individuals. The live dynamic is pretty powerful. All are very, very strong characters.
Izzy: And have you developed any road rituals or habits touring with them, whether things you especially enjoy listening to or just certain kinds of places that you make a point to check out in each city?
Anika: It’s strange how we are all so different but somehow have many bridges between us. This makes things like music listening in the van great and eating out together. I think someone from the outside might find us a bit weird but I’m ok with that.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live show when you play Johnny Brenda’s in the near future, both in terms of the setlist and just the general energy of the evening?
Anika: It starts quite calm, slowly reigns you in, and ends with a lot of energy. The music does its own thing. People don’t normally leave.
Izzy: You recently released a cover of “Godstar” as a tribute to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, who I understand you consider to be one of your biggest influences, specifically citing Orchids as one of your favorite albums. Do you have any other favorite works of theirs, whether musical or otherwise? I understand they did a work called “Period Piece” (which I can’t find much about) that you found to also be particularly poignant.
Anika: Orchids is definitely an important one. I used to listen to it every morning when waking in Berlin. It was a soft start in a harsh city / reality. It’s strange how there is such a delicate footing in this record, so many samples of animals and nature, all combed into the record. This after their punk and obtuse records, which I also loved. it’s like a balm on wounds. That’s life.
Izzy: And you’re going to be playing Psycho Las Vegas later this year, which has always seemed like such a cool thing. Are there any artists that you’re especially excited to get to share a stage with there, or just get a chance to see? … Trail of Dead are one of my all-time favorite bands and King Woman, Marissa Nadler, Blackwater Holylight, and Death Valley Girls are some of my favorite people in music.
Anika: For sure Marissa Nadler. I’ve been a fan of hers since university and now we find ourselves on the same label, which is very cool. Also, I’d like to see Boris and the KVB, who are also label mates but from Invada. It’s nice to see your mates around the world, who you respect and admire. I’ll have to check the lineup again to see who else. It looks pretty cool for sure. The nice thing is, we’ll be there two days, so we actually get to see the bands, without stressing about our own soundcheck and such. That’s a nice thing.
Izzy: The last time we spoke you said that you wanted to write a new album. Have you started working on that yet? And, if so, how would you characterize the direction of your latest sounds?
Anika: Yes, I’d like to start on this. I haven’t yet. Things have been so busy with putting together the band, touring and, organising all this stuff. I plan to work on new stuff in the next months.
Izzy: Finally, what else is in the works for the second half of 2022? Are you planning to focus on Anika, both in terms of touring and making new music, or are there other projects with whom you’ve got plans? You seem to always have a lot of things going on.
Anika: Yes, definitely looking to focus on new Anika material. I have quite a few plans up my sleeve for this. I was working on a few other bits this year, which kept my creative part moving, things like the Current Joys cover (“Dancer in the Dark”) which I made alone at home, locked in my home studio, as well as working with Gudrun Gut and the crew for the Malaria! project and beyond, which unleashed my noise guitar, Martin from Exploded View in Mexico on a project with no aim other than creative sustenance, and Chris Clark aka Clark on some haunting tunes via email. I always stay busy even when there is no apparent output. That’s music: constantly growing, stretching, experimenting, readying yourself for something.
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