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