After growing up in Germany and living in America and London, Anika moved to Melbourne to study and play music. We went to meet her in an old Brunswick warehouse, where she told us all about the Melbourne creative and musical scene. An atmosphere she “can’t find anywhere else”.
I met Anika a few months ago at a house party. I remember her randomly saying she was doing “some music”. Then in May I saw her perform at the Luxor Lounge Bar. I was blown away. She was alone on the stage with an electric guitar, a keyboard and a pedal. There stood a 20-year-old artist who immersed me in her dreamy space-pop universe. It even made me think of a young Karen O.
I went to meet her again in a huge Brunswick warehouse where she lives and records most of her stuff. Her room was full of Milk Records posters (home to Courtney Barnett where she volunteers), cables, and music instruments. I could even see a book called Home Recording for Musicians for Dummies on one of her shelves. One thing’s for sure—she’s dedicated to the job.
Tell us a bit about your musical history.
When I was six, my mother made me take classical guitar lessons. I never knew what the notes were and I was faking it a lot. At the end of the year, I had no idea how to read music. Then I took keyboard lessons in my grandmother’s village in Germany. At nine, I joined the Christian Classical School choir for seven years. That’s when I decided to be a Broadway star but I couldn’t dance or act so that was a huge problem [laughs]. That’s when I really started getting into music. Later I realised half of my motivation was basically my mother who pushed me to work on my keys all the time.
When did you write your first song?
I wrote it when I was nine. I just started learning English and was checking the dictionary all the time. I took all the weirdest words I saw and turned them into lyrics that didn’t make sense. One of the verses was “I’m a kid and I’m not very enthusiastic but nevertheless I go to the fitness centre”. That’s basically how I learnt my English vocabulary!
Do you think growing up in Germany influenced your music?
I actually left Germany the day I turned 17. I went to live with my father in Michigan in the US where I was born. I used that year fully to play music. I had this idea of a special sound. It was stuck in my head but I didn’t know how to get to it. I remember sitting with my acoustic guitar and having no clue what to do. I knew I would struggle finding a proper sound.
I think Melbourne helped me a lot with that. When I moved here I started to become more serious about creating music. I bought this random old keyboard and started to use sound effects. I like music that has a very organic sound but is also a bit out of this world. Like in another universe. I’m not only captivated by the music itself but by the whole soundscape around it. I’d like my music to be associated with colourful and dreamy images. A world between reality and fantasy. Creating this special space and make things float, in a way.
Who are your music idols?
I love bands that sound like layered dream pop with many instruments on top of each other. Beach House is probably my favourite one at the moment.
What’s it like living in Melbourne?
Oh man, it’s great! I came here because I found the music scene really appealing. It’s way more community-based compared to London, where I lived before. A lot of artists are just playing for the scene without trying to make a living out of it. It’s refreshing.
You create everything in your music and it’s pretty impressive. Can you explain to us the process of making a song like “Zombie Slayer”?
It took me a year and a half to finish it. The melody was stuck in my head somehow. I only wrote the lyrics afterwards for my grandma, when she died. It took me a while because I think lyrics make up half of the music. Then I took back a few high piano notes that my housemate Ben was playing and added a funky sound to it on my loop station. It’s kind of a mash of four songs put together actually.”
Tell us a bit about your new EP.
It’s going to be really different from my first release, Ani Petite, which I produced myself with an American sound engineer. He really put his signature style on it. It sounded like Americana folk music with a banjo. Now I’m moving away from it. I like that it’s still “homemade” though. I can decide 100% what I want it to sound like. It’s going to be a 5-track EP. If everything goes well you’ll be able to hear it in August!
Any last comments?
I want to change my name! I wanted to be called Anika O, but then Karen O released her solo album. I can’t compete with her [laughs]. So that means suggestions are open!
Hometown: Born next to Detroit but grew up in Germany.
Latest release: Ani Petite, released in 2012.
Sounds Like: Kate Bush meets Cocteau Twins‘ melodies meets Beach House. Anika wishes she sounded like “Mary Chain‘s distorted chorus guitar”.
Say What? She paid child’s fare on public transport up until last year, thanks to her “baby face”! Helpful tip for saving up some $$.
Amicalement vôtre, Charlotte