Pop isn’t a dirty word! – proclaims Lenka Kripac.
A cross between a woodland pixie (her petite size and candied charm) and a ’50s pinup model (her girl-next-door allure and vintage bent), this Australian-born American transplant — known as Lenka to music listeners on both continents — is nothing if not a loyal pop crusader.
Dressed in polka dots and crinoline-swelled skirts, the songstress skipped her way onto the scene in 2008 with her self-titled debut album, cooing her way to the top of the charts with whimsical toe-tapping melodies such as “The Show,” a Top 10 hit in over 10 countries. Out of the recording studio and back on tour promoting her latest record, Two — available April 19th — Lenka is growing out of her Dorothy-phase and wiggling her way into womanhood. And what a beautiful sound her coming of age is.
Climbing further up the sugar mountain she launched her first record from top of, Lenka has reached new heights in her pursuit of “joyful music,” as she likes to call it. “I see it as my dance/love/celebration record,” says the singer of Two. “It has an uplifting feel, though a lot of the songs were born out of intensely negative emotions, like anger and frustration.” Uplifting seems something of an understatement when listening to “Roll with the Punches,” a blues-ridden tune about being bullied by a hard-knocked life, which —judging from the song’s showtune-ish jingle, one would assume is about as dire straits as missing out on the daily lunch special. But that’s entirely the point.
“I really want my fans to like this album,” shares Lenka. “I feel somewhat of a responsibility to provide the same effect that the last album gave, which I’m told is music that cheers you up, helps put you in a better mood.”
Flashing her dimples and winking at the camera, when not coquettishly doe-eyed, Lenka wears cute as self-consciously as the title character of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie. The former vocal lead for Decoder Ring, an electro-ambient group back in Australia, Lenka’s shift to the sunnier side of music — otherwise known as “mainstream” — hasn’t diluted her creative vision. As unabashedly pop as she is dear (fitting that her favourite song growing up should be “Walking on Sunshine”), Lenka’s persona, like her sound, is all about accessibility. “It was a choice to reach more listeners,” explains Lenka when asked about the crossover. “But I have actually always loved pop music and had this urge lying dormant in me while I was doing the indie band thing. I love a good hook and I love joyful music.”
While recognizing that fans from the early days of the Sydney scene might turn their noses up at the catchy tunes that have garnered the singer commercial success — including spots on Grey’s Anatomy and The Hills, as well as ad campaigns for Old Navy, Coca-Cola and the all-mighty Apple — Lenka makes light of fickle judgments. “I don’t mind,” she shrugs. “At least I can afford to buy them a beer!” Behind her Snow White disposition, Lenka is a multi-ranged, intelligent, savvy and ambitious musician that understands the business of the industry, as in-depth as the art of her vocation. Genre stigma and indie cred simply don’t concern her; she prefers to straddle the line between indie and commercial and let the chips fall where they may. “Your indie-cred ‘ain’t gonna put food on the table, and it may not even get your music to the ears of fans,” she says frankly. “I do get tired of all this labelling, and I think it really confuses the music a lot of the time. I want my music to reach a lot of people, and made the choice for it to be accessible enough to do so without losing my own creative integrity.”
Lenka shares that as far as her musical taste goes, she writes a whole range of music, much that is more experimental (she’s a great admirer of Björk and worked with her producer, Guy Singworth, on 3 of the tracks off her Two) and which actually doesn’t fit her current project. But, for the immediate future, pop — in all its perky merrymaking — is exactly what she wants her sound to be. “Maybe in the future I’ll do a side project, or the Lenka albums will take a different direction,” she contemplates. “I want to try to keep being true to myself and reflect where I’m at in life, so I guess that will affect the music I make.”
In the present, Lenka is thrilled to be one half of a creative pair, or so one can only assume from the mood of her latest release. Bubbling over with glee seems the natural affect of listening to the syrupy sweet doo-wop tracks that comprise Two — aptly named in light of starry-eyed love songs including the poppier-than-pop “My Heart Skips a Beat,” which inspires visits from imagined cartoon bluebirds.