Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, and even an Old Navy commercial. Epic Records music sensation Lenka has certainly made a name for herself lately and Vancouver audiences will have an opportunity to find out what all the fuss is about live as she makes a stop at The Media Club during her current North American tour on May 5th promoting her new self-titled album.
“It’s a mood-enhancer,” she says of her new record. “I don’t like it when people are depressed. I want to cheer them up,” she says.
Although the album is rife with broken romances (“Wrote Me Out,” co-written with AFI’s Hunter Burgan, strangely enough), self-loathing (“Anything I’m Not”), difficult relationships (“Dangerous & Sweet,” with – stranger still – Howie Day on guest vocals) and long distance longing (“Skipalong”), it is nevertheless uplifting.
In characteristic Lenka fashion, lead single The Show takes a dour premise – that life is a show, and sometimes a pretty bad one at that – and delivers it with unexpected aplomb, erupting into a bold, brassy closing refrain of “I want my money back!”.
Although her father is a jazz musician, Lenka’s early musical efforts were strictly a means to an end. “I was forced to learn piano and trumpet, but I really hated it,” she recalls. “My parents bribed me by saying that I could get my ears pierced if I got a B on my music exams. As soon as I got a B, I got my ears pierced and I quit.”
In her early teens, she became consumed by acting, inspired by her studies with Blanchett at the Australian Theatre for Young People. “Cate was extremely passionate, really inspiring and fun. She made me fall in love with acting completely and got me my first professional job,” says Lenka.
Alternating between art school and acting (including roles in well-received independent films such as The Dish and Lost Things), Lenka eventually came round to music when a role in a play required her to sing. She began recording demos in Sydney and her drummer, who was a member of Decoder Ring, suggested his band mates consider her as a vocalist on the soundtrack they were recording for the indie film Somersault. The film and soundtrack went on to receive numerous awards and Lenka and the band traveled to the United States in 2006 for an appearance at South by Southwest and a short tour.
She recorded a second album with Decoder Ring before going solo and becoming, as she puts it, “a gypsy,” shuttling between the States, Europe and Australia, as work and her visa permitted. Relocating to Los Angeles in 2007, her first night in L.A. was a memorable one, coinciding with the airing of “Follow,” one of her early compositions, on the FX network series Dirt. “It was in this scene of Courtney Cox masturbating with a vibrator,” Lenka recalls. “So we had a really good laugh.”
Lenka was pursued by numerous labels, but felt that Epic was the best match. “When I told them my vision for my career, they were really into it, and said ‘We just want to help you do that,’” she says. “They’re a major label, but have the philosophy of an indie.”
She began recording her debut last December in Montreal before the contract was even signed. After sessions there and in Los Angeles, Lenka wrapped up the album in Woodstock, NY and with its surrounding forests reminded her not her adopted home of Los Angeles, but the Australian bush, where she grew up.
To help celebrate her Vancouver visit, GayVancouver.Net (Gay Vancouver Online) is giving away a couple copies of her new CD and an autographed sheet music from her lead single The Show.