Parenthood is a gamechanger for pretty much everybody, but for Lenka, as an artist, having her little boy brought on a total revamp of her perkier sound. Instead, she began to explore what she calls “lullabies for adults,” and her third and most recent album Shadows is packed from start to finish with smooth melodies and sweet vocals delivered serenely by the Australian singer. “It’s more folky and mellow and dreamy,” says Lenka of her new sound. “It’s a more quiet set, which has been great because I’ve been playing the old songs as well and am sort of re-imagining those tunes in a new way which has been really fun for me.”
In conversation, Lenka is just as relaxed as her songs, even as she tries to calm down her just awoken son. The soothing nature of her latest output and current taste seems to have had as pervasive of an effect as she hopes her music has on her listeners’ dreams. She even shared her favorite playlist of dreamy tunes by some of her favorite artists with us because adults need a moment to relax, too. (Lenka’s Spotify playlist follows interview.)
Lenka plays Joe’s Pub tonight, July 18.
How will you go about translating the lullabies for adults to your live show?
Having violin and cello is new for me. I love strings and have been putting [strings] a lot on my music lately. I just really want to create a very soothing atmosphere and have the audience go home and feel all yummy and cozy and tuck into bed and go to sleep and dream and then my songs can be a part of their dreams. That’s the plan.
What inspired you to go with this new theme for Shadows?
Pretty much becoming a parent, which was very much an influence on this. I wrote and recorded pregnant and then I had a little baby. It was very much inspired by that whole experience, and I wanted to have lullabies in my life at that time, of course. It’s also something I’ve always wanted to do because I love those albums. I love the artists that can record something really mellow, like Sigur Ros, Iron & Wine, or an old jazz record, and [I like to] know that if I fall asleep, it won’t wake me up and that it won’t bother me as I’m drifting into slumber. And I’ve just kind of always wanted to make one of those and my first two albums were not like that. They were both dynamic and uplifting and the choruses were big. This time, the vocals are quieter and the dynamics don’t change too much. It’s a more streamlined journey, and I aimed to make everything more mellow and relaxing.
Do you think adults need lullabies more or do you think children do?
I think [adults] need them more. Your sleep gets so fucked up when you become a parent because you just constantly get things broken up when the baby’s up then you try to go back to sleep. Babies do need lullabies, too, but I think we all need soothing time.
What was your favorite lullaby growing up?
I loved this song, when I was a kid…I remember it. It’s called “Inchworm.” [Sings “Inchworm, Inchworm / Measuring the marigolds”]. It’s really weird. Like, kind of freaky. There’s a guy on Sesame Street who did it in the ’70s, but it’s from a Hans Christian Andersen musical. It’s all about counting. I like singing that to the baby.
Going forth, do you think you’ll continue to expand on the lullaby theme or go into a different direction?
I’ll probably go into a different direction again. I tend to go from album to album and try new things each time. I’m actually going to release a remix album in a little bit. I’ve gotten some done, and it sounds fucking awesome! This album actually translates really well to dubstep with the dreamy vocal over the top. I’ve been really digging that, and I kind of want to let everybody hear it. I’m writing new material. A bit more upbeat again. We’ll see. I’ll kind of see what happens in my life because I definitely write about my own life and use it as inspiration for the new album.
You mentioned some artists earlier, like Iron & Wine, that you find to be very good sleeping soundtrack. What are some other artists you like that fit that theme?
Sigur Ros, Nick Drake, Emiliana Torrini. You know what, I’ve got this playlist called “Quiet List” on my iTunes that I listen to on planes and stuff – Bonnie “Prince” Billy, M. Ward, Jose Gonzalez, Midlake, Donovan. I love Donovan. Cat Power, Goldfrapp, Cowboy Junkies. I’m one of those terrible music people who listens to playlists rather than full albums.
I love playlists. It’s a great way of sharing music as well.
Yeah! And it’s longer as well. You can have a couple hours of music. I’ll also have it on shuffle although a lot of these albums don’t work on shuffle because the songs drift into each other.
What are some artists that you’re currently listening to that are the polar opposite of someone to expect you to be listening to right now?
I really like Robyn. I like Lykki Li as well. And Kanye West. Robyn is probably my favorite because she brings so much emotion and character and story to her songs.
What do you hope that the adults listening to your album gain from listening to it and having this lullaby-esque, dreamscape music?
My secret desire is to actually go into people’s dreams. That’s my sort of my goal with this album. People can listen to it then fall asleep with the music still playing and then I can be inside their subconscious. But I guess I want people to feel soothed as well in the same way that I enjoy that from other music. I want to give that to people. I want to kind of make them feel yummy inside and let the world kind of drift away and replace it with optimism, hope, and loveliness.