An intimate evening with acclaimed Australian singer/songwriter
830 E. Burnside St.
Portland, OR, 97214
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
"I'm really in my element," says Lenka as the wind chimes sound and she surveys the forest outside the Woodstock, NY recording studio where she laid down the final tracks of her self-titled solo debut and is now noodling around on a few other tunes. The natural setting clearly reminds her of home – not her adopted home of Los Angeles, but the Australian bush, where she grew up.
"My parents were hippies and my dad built a house on the south coast of New South Wales," she explains. "I'm still very attached to that part of the world, even though we moved to Sydney when I was seven."
In Sydney, Lenka went on to become a teen actress who trained with Cate Blanchett, thereafter landing leading roles on stage, television and in indie films, a self-described "punk-ass art school student" and vocalist/keyboardist for acclaimed indie electronic/ambient outfit Decoder Ring. Now she has flung herself into two new worlds simultaneously: she's moved to California and become a solo artist. But no matter where she ventures, those early memories follow. Others may struggle to get in touch with their inner child; Lenka never lost hers.
Her sinuous vocals drape around her lyrics with the ease of a child hanging onto its mother's legs…or of a serpent wrapping itself around the neck of its prey. Whether channeling our long-repressed terrors ("Trouble Is A Friend") or long-lost innocence ("We Will Not Grow Old"), her music evokes primal emotions, unblemished by pretense or cynicism – and unashamed of cracking a smile occasionally.
"Trouble is a friend but trouble is a foe/And no matter what I feed him, he always seems to grow," she sings over an ominous piano vamp in "Trouble Is..." A vibraphone – one of numerous instruments she plays on the album – conjures up eerie visions of a deep, dark woods, but Lenka's spine-tingling "ah-ah-oo" howl suggests that Trouble really is the one in trouble now.
"It's a mood-enhancer," she says of her record and mood enhancing is something she's a bit of an expert at, having provided the "strangely haunting" (Rolling Stone) vocals for Decoder Ring's evocative soundscapes over the course of two albums. "I don't like it when people are depressed. I want to cheer them up," she says, giving Trouble a swift kick in the ass.
Although the album is rife with broken romances ("Wrote Me Out," co-written with AFI's Hunter Burgan, strangely enough), self-loathing ("Anything I'm Not"), difficult relationships ("Dangerous & Sweet," with – stranger still – Howie Day on guest vocals) and long distance longing ("Skipalong"), it is nevertheless uplifting.
In characteristic Lenka fashion, lead single "The Show" takes a dour premise – that life is a show, and sometimes a pretty bad one at that – and delivers it with unexpected aplomb, erupting into a bold, brassy closing refrain of "I want my money back!" "I decided I should just get all my friends to come in and be like the drunken tavern chorus," she explains. "Australian folk singer Missy Higgins joined in on the bit."
"Don't Let Me Fall," with strings conducted by composer/arranger David Campbell (otherwise known as Beck's father), began as a neurotic love song inspired by the work of filmmaker/performance artist/author Miranda July (Me And You and Everyone We Know), but evolved into an exquisitely soothing song that borders on lullaby. Producer Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, Jay Z) aided Lenka in this bit of alchemy, arranging for the session to take place in one of the historic Capitol Records studios.
"It was just extraordinary, being in a studio with nine string players and David conducting," she says. "I'm normally in a grungy garage making my music so this was pretty posh."
Lenka's fresh sensibility extends to every element of her music, as the whimsical, paper art, stop-motion animated videos she creates with fellow Aussie James Gulliver Hancock, a visual artist, demonstrate. "We're sort of an art duo. I'm really into craft styles, things looking a bit badly done and childlike on purpose – rather in the vein of Michel Gondry," she says.
Although her father is a jazz musician, Lenka's early musical efforts were strictly a means to an end. "I was forced to learn piano and trumpet, but I really hated it," she recalls. "My parents bribed me by saying that I could get my ears pierced if I got a B on my music exams. As soon as I got a B, I got my ears pierced and I quit."
In her early teens, she became consumed by acting, inspired by her studies with Blanchett at the Australian Theatre for Young People. "Cate was extremely passionate, really inspiring and fun. She made me fall in love with acting completely and got me my first professional job," says Lenka.
Alternating between art school and acting (including roles in well-received independent films such as "The Dish" and "Lost Things"), Lenka eventually came round to music when a role in a play required her to sing. She began recording demos in Sydney and her drummer, who was a member of Decoder Ring, suggested his band mates consider her as a vocalist on the soundtrack they were recording for the indie film Somersault. The film and soundtrack went on to receive numerous awards and Lenka and the band traveled to the U.S. in 2006 for an appearance at South by Southwest and a short tour.
She recorded a second album with Decoder Ring before going solo and becoming, as she puts it, "a gypsy," shuttling between the States, Europe and Australia, as work and her visa permitted. Relocating to Los Angeles in 2007, her first night in L.A. was a memorable one, coinciding with the airing of "Follow," one of her early compositions, on the FX network series "Dirt." "It was in this scene of Courtney Cox masturbating with a vibrator," Lenka recalls. "So we had a really good laugh."
Lenka was pursued by numerous labels, but felt that Epic was the best match. "When I told them my vision for my career, they were really into it, and said 'We just want to help you do that,'" she says. "They're a major label, but have the philosophy of an indie."
She began recording her debut last December in Montreal before the contract was even signed. After sessions there and in Los Angeles, Lenka wrapped up the album in Woodstock. With a little time on her hands, she was free to lay down an unlikely assortment of cover songs (including Modest Mouse's "Gravity Rides Everything," "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music and M. Ward's "Vincent O'Brien") and muck about in the forest, making little videos that will undoubtedly wind up on YouTube once she gets around to editing them. Woodstock may not be home, but it's close enough for now.
After scoring with her top selling album and singles all over the world, Lenka has returned to the US for a short tour before the end of 2009. For the past several months, Lenka has been on tour all over Europe and Asia and before she heads back to Asia in December, she will play a handful of select shows in the US.
There is a lot of individual talent in SATELLITE. So much, in fact, that one might wonder why it is they would bother to 'give up' their day jobs as thriving musicians and songwriters, to navigate the slippery slope of being a new band. It's pretty clear that to make it in the music business, you not only need great songs and musicianship, but you have to have that something special, that passion, that never-back-down mojo. Collectively, SATELLITE has it all, in spades.
Playing together for the past year in Los Angeles, SATELLITE got their start with Mitch inviting his friend Steven to a songwriter showcase he was hosting. Says Steven, "When I was done, you could hear a pin drop. I didn't know what it meant, but I felt good about it." Mitch suggested they work together, they pulled in Josh, an in-demand session guitarist once signed to Columbia Records, and then hired Justin Glasco to drum, recruiting him to record the EP shortly thereafter.
It's interesting that with such unique individual success, SATELLITE is where they choose to make their home. Steven and Mitch, who are both with the same publishing company, had known each other socially for years. Each did quite well in their own right; Steven was signed to Epic early in his career, and then found his niche writing songs for such varied artists including Street Drum Corps, Melee, David Archuleta, Crosby Loggins and international superstar Celine Dion. As for Mitch, since he began writing and producing, he has been nominated for a Grammy, won an ASCAP "pop" award for the Bowling For Soup song "1985," written 4 top five singles, and was also the lead singer of the platinum selling rock band SR-71. And while he has written and produced songs for a who's who of the music industry including Pink, Faith Hill, The Jonas Brothers, Daughtry, Joe Cocker, Simple Plan and more, he is emphatic: "I have sold over 15 million records, and worked with some of the biggest artists in almost every genre of music, but SATELLITE is what I am the most proud of."
The result is the self-produced EP, RING THE BELLS, with its outstanding single "Say The Words." The anthemic show-stopper builds to an energetic crescendo that has the crowd on its feet at every show and is the benchmark for the whole of the EP. Instead of relying on volume for emotional release, the band explores texture and complex melodies, putting forth songs that express a wide range of emotions, while retaining their own untarnished clarity.
SATELLITE's distinct sound has been called a mash-up between "Kings of Leon + Snow Patrol" and, "Springsteen meets the UK." Continuing to gain momentum in Southern California, the band has quickly built a fan base through television and film placements, and media buzz surrounding their live shows. Rare is the artist who sounds as good live as on your iPod, but SATELLITE swings it. The LA Examiner named them one of the 20 Bands to Watch in 2011 and they've been championed by Radar Online, Alternative Press, Kings of A&R and several other influential blogs. Touring around the west coast and an appearance at SXSW, have kept the band busy; the second half of 2011 found them finishing up their full-length album, a continuation of sorts to the RING THE BELLS EP, that will complete the album "thematically and sonically" according to Mitch.
With music that is both bracing and soaring, matched with lyrics that are vulnerable and raw, sung by Steven with an emotion that gets you right inside every song, SATELLITE is as close to a sure bet as this crazy business has ever seen.
"There is no substitute for honesty in music. Every once in a while a song speaks to you; reminds you of how you really feel. We truly hope SATELLITE becomes a voice for the joy, heartache, beauty and truth of life."
Satellite's new album, "Calling Birds" is came out on March 5 via Descendant/Sony Records. Their music video for their single "Say The Words" currently has over 1.5 million YouTube views.
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