Geoff Barrow of Portishead was looking for a vocalist for his band Beak>. Enter a young political journalist living between Berlin and Bristol, and three weeks later Anika was created.
A lo-fi dub collection of covers that is winning over the hearts of listeners with its own brand of “uneasy listening.” The group’s singer, Anika, discusses her double life and self-awareness, or lack-thereof, below.
Considering the fact that your debut is about a year old, you have an anniversary coming up! I imagine your life as a political journalist differed quite a bit from the life of a touring musician. What has the past year been like for you?
It’s been pretty tiring and I have had to shift priorities quite a bit. I still work like crazy, as always, but have had to learn how to be a musician. I was used to being the facilitator for so many years and now I have to be the performer, which means things like looking after my health and myself. Otherwise, I’d lose my voice after three shows. It’s a strange experience, touring, but a good one.
Did you play in bands before this? I know you had written lyrics, but had you been involved with other groups performing in a live setting before?
No, I tried playing with a South Wales rock band around the same time as I ended up on Beak>’s doorstep but it was so wrong and my vocals were drowned out by wailing guitar solos. They also didn’t like my lyrics and were confused by the way I sang, so when Beak> were like “yeah, that’s cool,” it was good. For me, it was just an experiment. I didn’t think I was ready to actually release something. I just wanted to see if it could work. I like testing myself. I also had a lot to say and no platform to say it. It’s a chance for me to leave the apologetic, overly polite Brit at the door and embrace the outspoken German side of me. It’s a great release.
You recorded Anika live over a 12-day period. I read that the process was very straightforward with not much rehearsal. Was this a comfortable method for you? Looking, or rather listening back to the tracks, do you have any regrets or moments you wish you could have done differently?
I only listened back to the tracks a whole year after we recorded them. It was too close for comfort for me. Why would I have done them differently? They captured me and a scenario at a certain time. If I re-recorded the same tracks now, I think a lot of the rawness and imperfections would have been lost. I didn’t know the tracks would be released when we recorded them, so the process on my part, at least, was very unself-aware. This is something that I will never be able to get back because from now on, any recording will contain a certain element of self-awareness.
Considering how produced most music is today it seems that you have taken the opposite road, going so far to say in your press release that the group is “an experience in uneasy listening”. What are some of the benefits in providing an uncomfortable setting for your listeners?
Mistakes are often the most creative and so when they are constantly cut out or papered over, often that creativity is lost. The minute you feel uncomfortable with the final product, the more likely it is to be pushing the boundaries of what we consider acceptable. For me, making music was not a task to be liked. It was more of an experiment and a research mission. It’s also very fulfilling to let that side of my personality out.
Anika is a collection of covers. How were those particular tracked decided upon? Are there plans to release original tracks in the future?
They were picked for a number of reasons. Dylan because it made politics in music relevant/acceptable again and applied it to now, Ono because I liked the way it sounded when I spoke the words and sweet 60s tracks because they were perfect victims to be twisted into darker, more sinister songs. The next album will contain more originals than covers but the covers are still necessary. The irony is lost if there is no original to juxtaposition with.
You are on a U.S. tour right now and will eventually end up at the Moog Festival in North Carolina. How has the response been so far? Is this your first time touring the states? Are you able to continue with writing assignments while on the road or do you take a break from that side of things?
Yes I sit in the van and continue work as the UK correspondent, wifi aerial on the roof and then on breaks just perform quick shows and do hours of press. Unfortunately I don’t own a Bernards watch, nor am I wonder woman, despite my brother’s beliefs, so yes, I have had to sideline political Journalism. It is a full time profession and so is being in a band, possibly 2 of the most time-consuming, all encompassing professions. I’ll get back to it some day.
What will you most look forward to doing upon returning home?
Writing songs, reading lots, drinking good coffee, drinking good beer, watching good movies at Babylon, Berlin brunch…
Anika play The Independent Wednesday, October 19th. Jel and Starving Weirdos provide support. Doors are at 8pm and tickets are $15.