THE SCENE: Australian native heads to Michigan


Scene/Mix Editor

If you haven’t her song “The Show” on the radio, chances are you’ve heard it on an Old Navy commercial or an advertisement for an episode of “Ugly Betty.”

Singer/songwriter Lenka hails from Australia, where she was once a television actress on shows like “GP,” a drama series, and hosted “Cheez TV,” a children’s show. She was also part of the Australian experimental-electronic band Decoder Ring, as the band’s vocalist and keyboardist.

Lenka is touring with Missy Higgins and Justin Nozuka and will be at the Royal Oak Music Theatre on March 11. The Oakland Post interviewed the artist Feb. 24.

The Post: In the past it seemed like you had a lot going on in Australia — what made you want to move to California?

Lenka: It was kind of accidental actually. I came over with the band Decoder Ring in 2006 to do South by Southwest and I never really expected to like it, I guess. I felt like I wanted to go somewhere different from Australia. If it hadn’t been America it probably would have been Europe. I felt like I wanted to have an adventure.

I came back over and I did some writing with people. One thing led to another and I ended up getting a good response to what I was doing and finding a record deal. It was kind of accidental, but a very happy accident.

The Post: What messages do you hope to send with your music?

Lenka: Generally this album [“Lenka”] has a positive message and the main thing I’m trying to do is cheer people up with the music or help put things into perspective for people, which is something that I love about music; it’s always really helped me get through situations and times of depression. I really wanted to try and do that with my first album, but at the same time there’s some more complex things that I’m dealing with in the songs and situations that I would be in, so it’s not always necessarily happy, but I tried to give it a happy tone.

The Post: You write your own songs; could you give a description of the meanings behind a couple of your favorites?

Lenka: The song “Trouble is a Friend,” I was feeling really kind of miserable and angry at myself for once again stuffing up everything in my life seemingly. That song is trying to deal with that idea and maybe take the responsibility off myself a little bit and put it onto this make-believe character that comes into my life sometimes.

The song “The Show” is about feeling out of control in your life and if life feels kind of crazy, sometimes the best thing to do is just sit back and be an audience member rather than try to control it. In general, I’m trying to give myself advice and using the music to work it out in my head.

The Post: Hardcore metal fans have confessed to loving your music. Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Lenka: I don’t know about “guilty,” ’cause I don’t really feel that ashamed for liking some really commercial pop music. Every so often a song comes on that wouldn’t necessarily be my style but I just love it, like Danity Kane or something. I really dig people like Rihanna and Beyoncé and sometimes they come out with something really cool.

People would probably be surprised to know that I listen to much darker kind of music stuff like Tom Waits and Pink Floyd and Nick Drake, much more male, not necessarily metal or like hardcore rock ‘n’ roll, but definitely music that does not sound anything like mine.

The Post: What advice would you give to those hoping to pursue a career in acting or music?

Lenka: I’d say go on and do it if you really, really have to and really, really want to because it is a bitch of a career to try and pursue. I don’t want to discourage anyone that loves it, but it is something very challenging to take on.

My next advice is if you really, really love it, just don’t give up. Keep trying and make your own work. I think that’s very hard when you’re an actor and I’ve struggled with that. I was bored because I was waiting to be hired.

When you’re a musician you’ve got to keep writing songs and recording them and playing live and initiating your own art. It’s both empowering because you’re part of the scene but also it gives you a chance to get what you’re doing out there into the world and have people see you.

The Post: What would be your dream tour?

Lenka: It could be a four-band line up with me, The Shins, Gnarls Barkley and the Guerrilas. I like all those groups; I think they’re doing really interesting stuff. Visual and melodic and not very similar to me but I feel like that would be a great night out watching music.

The Post: Are you hoping to achieve a better image for the younger generation?

Lenka: I don’t want to send the wrong message, but I’m not famous so I don’t really have to think about it too much, thank God. What I would like to do is relate to young girls and women, let them know that everybody is flawed, everybody has problems and everybody has aspirations and that’s all OK.

This idea of perfection is so far removed from who we really are as people.

The Post: What are your five-year plans?

Lenka: I would have liked to have released two albums by then; I’ve only released one at this point. I’d like to have been around most of the world playing music and I’d really like to be at a place in my career where I have enough money and notoriety to be able to do any project with anyone in the world, the power to green light projects. That would be cool, and it would be like the playground of creative art.

More info on Lenka can be found on and