Categories
New Wave Punk/Rock Why We Love

ANIKA: the Totally Wired Interview

The artist currently known as Anika is no stranger to the feelings of separation and isolation that we’ve all struggled with over the past 18 months. Born in Surrey, and currently based in Berlin, she sees herself as “…a foreigner in both lands, belonging to neither…” Anika is a musician, a poet, a political journalist, and a DJ, and she’s spent the majority of the pandemic busily weaving the threads of her multiple artistic practices into the creation of Change, her first album in 11 years.

Her debut album, Anika, released in 2010, was produced and co-written by Geoffrey Barrow and his band, Beak. Anika’s choice to include a cover of Yoko Ono’s “Yang Yang,” (a prescient song that explores the mindset of a sleazy politician and his scurrilous dealings) on her debut garnered attention as the sign of a precocious talent with encyclopedic musical knowledge and a keen-eyed perspective influenced by her training as a political journalist—think The Velvet Underground and Nico meets Yaeji, meets Nilufer Yanya.

Change is an album full of both hope and warnings (Anika wrote “Never Coming Back,” after reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a wake-up call to the devasting effects of humankind on the natural world,) but on the title track, Anika’s trademark, icily cool Nico-esque drone takes on a certain tenderness, assuring her listeners that, “…I think we have it all inside…I think we can change…”

Change has already been named by Rough Trade as one of the best albums of 2021. Stereogum, Uncut, and Mojo have earnestly sung its praises. Anika is soon to embark on touring efforts, playing across Germany, France, and finally reaching the U.K., which will be her first trip to her homeland in two years.

TWM: It’s been 11 years since the release of ‘Anika.’ How has your approach to creating music changed and evolved since then? 

Anika: Quite a lot of time has passed. I have done a lot of collabs and learnt with each one, the most significant of which was Exploded View; that one really taught me how to be in a band, how to talk to each other, how to compromise, be compassionate, be honest and respectful. 

The first album was recorded without the intention of purpose or ever releasing it. This one was written very much with purpose, though the songs seemed to write themselves. That’s the thing about the texts, I don’t like to sit and write about specific topics. I bring diaries, books and notes to the demo recording session and then the music takes hold and I flick through the notes and the right ones float out; the music acts like a key to unlock all the stuff that is on my mind, but I hadn’t quite registered. 

I recorded it in stages. I’d make drum loops the day before and layer some chord progressions on top and go in armed with these. I’d loop the drum, play it in the back, then try the chords on different instruments, change it up, push against it. Last would be the lyrics. With ‘Freedom,’ and ‘Finger Pies,’ I did those at home, during some crazy night sessions, playing layers over each other. 

As for the lyrics being a freestyle gateway to the unconscious, it was very much like that with ‘No One’s There,’ from the first album (2010’s Anika.) Also, all the Exploded View records were recorded like this. 

This time around, I also wrote the music, which is a big difference from the first album because Beak were fully responsible for that. I also really wanted to co-produce this time and that was important. Once I was done with the rough track ideas, I did speak briefly to Geoff (Barrow) about whether I should take them over to Bristol to record there but with corona, this…was off the cards and to be honest, I am happy the way it turned out because it pushed me to do even more myself and learn more that way. Geoff is also cool like that; he likes to give space for growth and doesn’t try to hog projects. Probably because he is so busy and in demand! 

TWM: What was the process of creating and recording an album during a pandemic like? 

Anika: Yes, that was weird. It was very intense. Specifically, because my home situation was very intense and I was going through quite a lot of personal stuff at the time, on top of corona and the apocalyptic news events. I had to trust somehow and keep going, without overthinking what or why i was doing this. There were less people involved, that also made it more intense.


TWM: ‘Change,’ is an extraordinarily hopeful song, especially in the face of an increasing deluge of frightening news and events…I find it incredibly moving for these reasons, and I think it’s a very important song for people to hear and to fully absorb. What inspired you to write it?

Anika: I was reading all this stuff in the news about people doing bad things. I was also seeing people close to me do bad things. People do bad things. Sometimes it’s just for a time, it may be due to circumstance, their history, we can never really know what leads to it. Especially in this climate of distorted news and news bubbles, people are led into traps and false perceptions of reality. I think it’s important to stick together in these times and see these bad decisions and actions as transient and that most people have the capacity to change.


TWM: You posted on Instagram that you kept, “Covid19 Diaries.” Did anything you wrote in them end up on the new album, in the form of lyrics or otherwise?

Anika: I think ‘Sand Witches,’ actually came from this, or parts of it. Also ‘Change,’ had parts and for sure ‘Never Coming Back.’ All of them were a little from it. It was really important to keep these diaries because it kept my mind active and interactive with events and things going on. The instinct is to shut off, [to] numb. I wanted to embrace the thoughts I thought I should be scared of. 

TWM: How has your background as a political journalist influenced your artistic career? 

Anika: The way I consume information, books, news and process has a lot to do with my education in this field. English was actually my worst subject at school. My spelling was/is terrible and sometimes I would feel like words were road blocks to my expression, blocking me into corners, as opposed to rivers. Luckily, studying journalism helped break down this fear and also helped my ability to process information better. Before I mostly studied math, so my brain was wired a little differently. 


TWM: What music did you listen to most during lockdown?

Anika: I listened a lot to the John Peel sessions. There are so many good ones and his lovely nature seemed to coax out these very personal and unique performances from many great artists…Bowie, PJ Harvey, Basement 5, Archers of Loaf, Flock of Seagulls, A Certain Ratio, A Guy Called Gerald, etc. The curation is very special. It was also the nearest I got to live shows. They are raw, yet very well recorded. Great stuff.

TWM: Which dates of your upcoming tour are you most looking forward to?

Anika: I love playing at Bad Bonn Festival, it’s so much fun! Also, France is a great place to play. The venues are so friendly, and the crowds are very cool. I’m nervous and excited about the UK, too. I have never really toured there, and I haven’t been (home) in about two years now! That will be strange. I’m very excited to play with the new all-girl lineup, they are killa.

You can find Anika on Instagram @annika.henderson. Her new album, “Change,” is available for purchase on Bandcamp. https://anika.bandcamp.com/album/change Tickets for her upcoming tour are available at: https://anika-music.com/tour-dates

Categories
New Wave Uncategorized

Why We Love: Zalagasper

The unmissable Slovenian duo known as ‘Zalagasper’ (za-la-gas-pah) are an ambient fueled daydream who weave electronic soundscapes with deadpan vocals to create their uniquely supernatural sound.

In a small city in northern Slovenia, a sudden unexpected partnership occurred after singer Zala Kralj met with songwriter and producer Gašper Šantl via Instagram. Teaming up allowed these two already talented songwriters to interpret each other’s work and craft a sound all of their own.

The two soon became musically inseparable and stood out amongst their local music scene with a sound they simply describe as ‘sensitive story-telling.’ Their explosive popularity led them to represent their country on the world stage at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019.

The strong bond between the two is beautifully apparent and their enigmatic performance certainly secured a mass of new followers from around the globe who were similarly held captive by their mysterious yet enchanting nature.

Kralj’s soft, eerie singing style is arguably what first strikes you about this band. Since the memorable performance of their single ‘Sebi’, the band soon went on to release their debut album ‘4’ which received much praise from their growing following, especially across Germany, Poland and other regions across the world who were similarly taken in.

The album is built around much the same charming and detailed instrumentals, quickly becoming the bands signature theme. The album owes a great deal of it’s effect to Gašper Šantl’s own talents as a trained producer, who has certainly taken them from one level to the next.

Storytelling seems to be a popular theme throughout this duos work together. Through intrinsic melodies and soft-spoken lyrics, these two musicians fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. The picture they paint in their collaboration is one that needs to be seen (or felt) to be believed.

The bands most recent single, ‘sto idej’ suggests a promising follow up to their first album with a somewhat change in mood. With more experimentation, their sound is slowly beginning to evolve – I hope you’ll agree that a staple of any great band is to keep on surprising their listeners. With no sign of their success dwindling, these two performers from a small corner of Europe might just take over the world yet.

Listen to Zalagasper on Spotify now.

Categories
New Wave Punk/Rock

Hidden Gems: Delta 5

Delta 5 were just one of the many post-punk bands to arise in the north of England during the late 70s and early 80s. Like one of their many new wave counterparts Joy Division, the group only released one album in their short-lived time together, but hell did they write some kick-ass tunes.

After the early success of their singles Mind your own business and You, the band signed to Rough Trade before eventually releasing their debut album See the Whirl with Charisma Records. Despite their initial success, the album received poor reviews, and as a result, the band split shortly afterwards. Despite once being at the forefront of the feminist post-punk movement, Delta 5 is often overlooked in new wave music history.

For years their early singles remained underground classics to those who could find a printed copy until a compilation of their earlier material was released under the title Singles and Sessions. They were thrust into the limelight once again when various Netflix and BBC dramas including Sex Education featured their songs. Delta 5 may not have had the success they needed at the time of their first album, but they certainly have it now. One thing’s for sure, this group’s music doesn’t go quietly into the night.

Listen to Delta 5 on Spotify now.

Categories
New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized

Hidden Gems: Stars – The Five Ghosts

Stars are a pop/rock band from Montreal most notable from their truly unique storytelling ability in their songs.

Masters of creating diverse and imaginative narratives through the use of their lyrics, each of their songs offers a door into a fairytale-like world, one full of wonder, heartbreak and other-worldly characters all soaked in deep-felt nostalgia.

The band’s fifth studio album, released in 2010 and appropriately named ‘The Five Ghosts,’ is just one such example of this group’s powerful ability to conjure up melancholic and mysterious images in the mind.

The first track from the album ‘Dead Hearts’ is perhaps the reason I and many others first fell in love with Stars – a powerful story and a definite tear-jerker of a track. The lyrics in this song describe an abstract or even poetic yearning for things once lost or forgotten.

“They were kids that I once knew… Now they’re all dead hearts to you.”

Followed up immediately by the striking track ‘Wasted Daylight’ the album then twists and turns through emotions quite unlike any other LP. Through optimism, grief, longing and relief, each track pulls more heartstrings than the last.

Putting on this record often feels like running away – moving through life out of your comfort zone and off on some mystic adventure – who knows what characters inhabit this new place.

The thing you remember while listening to this album in full is that old things end and new things begin – It’s always been my go-to album for those difficult transitional periods of life. Nothing else quite like this set of songs describes exactly what those situations feel like – a feeling familiar to everyone but one that no manner of words could ever describe – a feeling of mourning for the past while striving for the future – an album I will keep in my heart forever, cropping up at the most difficult times.

Alongside the album’s release, Stars premiered a six-part documentary about the making of The Five Ghosts, in which we get a peek into the production of each track. The most curious thing for me was their unusual use of synths, a tricky instrument to utilize on anything but upbeat pop songs, but something which really makes this album.

As lifelong childhood friends, all members of the band grew up in Toronto. I think something must be said for how this sort of friendship has shaped so many bands. A bond formed over a lifetime, people who have laughed together, cried together and shared the same sense of belonging. It all sounds very poetic, but you can easily see that this connection often produces some of the greatest and most personal music – take Joy Division, The Smiths, Saint Etienne, you see my point.  Bands with shared experiences often write the music which speaks to us most.

Stars understand the brittleness of the human heart – I do believe their music would warm even the most unfeeling soul – but don’t just take my word for it, I encourage you to do something terrifying; lay back with their record on and simply allow yourself to feel. In this album, Stars have surely captured perhaps the most integral part of being human – that you are alive.

Categories
New Wave Punk/Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: La Femme

Some bands are difficult to understand. Not being able to speak much French, I understand just about as many lyrics from the exquisite french band ‘La Femme’ as I understand their mind-boggling, hypnotic and seemingly other-worldly style – but you don’t need to speak the language to find out what a truly amazing band they are, you just need to listen.

La Femme are a group totally unafraid of playing around and creating mesmerising sounds. Completely entrancing at the best of times, they are truly one of the best psych-rock bands out there at the moment. I’ve often found myself sitting on a train listening to one of their songs and totally losing all attachment to reality, like the world around me is melting away between my fingers – usually, I’m listening to this corker of a tune;

Their debut album Psycho Tropical Berlin is something I keep coming back to on a regular. My year doesn’t feel right without listening to it at least once. Putting on their songs feels like falling through deep space, or one of those heist movie scenes where they gear up and put their plan into motion… I thought this edit perfectly describes listening to this particular song, however, TWM does not endorse drug taking of any kind, unless that drug is La Femme.

Everyone loves a good psychedelic punk band, but La Femme are something else. Heavily influenced by bands such as Velvet Underground, guitarist Sacha Got and keyboard player Marlon Magnée formed La Femme in 2010 then released their first two EP’s to high national and international praise.

Since the band’s beginnings in Biarritz in the South of France, nine people from cities across the country now form the band’s lineup today.

Last month, the band released their brand new single ‘Paradigme’, along with a message for their fans; “Paradigms vanish, masks come off. From now on, nothing will be the same anymore.”

The band also released this truly captivating video quite unlike any we’ve seen from them before:

With a bold new image and brand new ideas, La Femme have set out to re-brand themselves for a new era. The announcement of their partnership with IDOL digital distribution and the promise of an upcoming album means we’ll be keeping a close eye on La Femme and are looking forward to our brains being melted once again by this truly remarkable group with a surprise around every corner.

Listen to La Femme on Spotify now.