Nothing makes me smile more than poignant piano pop from a postmodern princess. And somehow the two most poignant of said princesses have found themselves on a 9-date jaunt through the Northeast this June. This jaunt includes a stop this Saturday, June 11th at the North Star Bar, which I have been bandying about town as what will surely be the show of the summer: Lenka and Elizabeth & the Catapult.
Anyone who knows me has surely heard me, over the course of the last three years, proclaiming Elizabeth Ziman and her Catapult to be currently the best band in existence. And surely you all know who Lenka is. The Australian chanteuse whose 2008 debut single, “The Show,” a cynical satire about the ridiculousness of the human experience, is at least the best pop single of the past half decade (I am well aware that I have the habit of speaking in superlatives.)
While Elizabeth & the Catapult have remained steadily on the scene (at least in the Mid Atlantic), it’s been a while since we’ve heard from (or seen) Lenka, who recently relocated from California to Brooklyn. On April 19th she released her sophomore album, Two, on Epic Records. Although she continues to produce cleverly upbeat takes on the more existentially troublesome aspects of life on Earth, her latest adds an 80s electronic danceability to her aesthetic.
I recently chatted with the Australian songstress about her new sound, her upcoming tour, and her own personal remedies for when “all life offers is black and blue.” Her replies were as delightful as you would expect from a girl called Lenka who writes songs with titles like “Heart Skips a Beat” and “Live Like You’re Dying.”
Izzy Cihak: Being that we’re a Philadelphia publication, I have to ask your thoughts and memories of the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. I know you’ve been here a few times now.
Lenka: Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to explore Philly yet! Hopefully this time around. Tours can be so brutal!! I like that it’s called the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. That’s very sweet.
IC: While your solo debut was more in the realm of singer/songwriters, your latest has a much dancier electronic element to it. What inspired this shift in sound?
L: I wanted to give this album an upbeat, uplifting, energetic spirit. And I’ve always liked mixing different sound elements together. So it’s not total electro dance, but has just a dash of that style to enliven the mood.
IC: You have a knack for writing relatively cheery songs about some of the drearier things in life. You also seem to have a sincere interest in helping people “Roll With The Punches” of life (as you proclaim on the third track of Two). What is it that most helps you to “roll with the punches?”
L: Oh, I don’t know exactly. It varies with each bout of depression/self-doubt. I guess I try to put things into perspective and find the silver-lining to my dark cloud. I’m generally optimistic, but I have to work at it.
IC: …And then there’s album closer “End of the World,” one of the happier songs I’ve heard on the subject. How would you ideally spend the end of the world… or is it all in the song?
L: I hope I can just go with it. Just accept it and smile and be grateful for the time we have had on this long-suffering planet. And I’ll eat an ice-cream if I can.
IC: How would you define this blending of the melancholy and the hopeful that is present in so much of your music?
L: It’s a result of the fact that I use song-writing (and music-listening) as therapy. It’s almost like I’m writing a message to myself to hopefully remember next time I go through something similar!
IC: You have an art school background and I’ve heard you mention people like Miranda July and Michel Gondry as influences. What are some of your other non-musical influences?
L: I do. I also love Hundertwasser, Kandinsky, Mathew Barney, Kara Walker, and I draw a lot of inspiration from fairytales and science magazines.
IC: What should fans and potential fans expect of your tour with Elizabeth & the Catapult? I’ve been telling people that your June 11th show at the North Star is going to be the best show of the summer (sorry for any added pressure).
L: Haha, thank you! I expect it will be a very fun night. I guarantee you will leave with a smile on your face.