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
“My aim with music is to create mood enhancers for people,” says Lenka, whose fourth indie-pop album, The Bright Side, drops on June 16th. “That gives me the most joy, when people say my music makes them feel better.” And the Australian singer-songwriter’s gift for sharing her bliss has served her well.
Whether or not you realize it, her buoyant, wistful songs—most notably “The Show” (off her self-titled debut) and “Everything at Once” (from Two, her follow-up)—have been sound-tracking your life for almost seven years now. She’s lent levity to several commercials including spots from Windows 8, Old Navy, and Coke; charm to dramedies like Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty; and imbued films such as Moneyball with graceful poignancy.
In a music culture that leans heavily on branding, Lenka has stood out for willfully being herself—occupying a spot between the upbeat-ness of Top 40 singles and the thoughtfulness of indie albums. “Music is a wonderfully direct way to enter people’s psyches,” she explains. “Mine is about keeping a sense of wonder about the world.” To that end, since first dropping music seven years ago, Lenka has charted hits everywhere from Germany to China. And her videos, which she art-directs with her artist-husband James Gulliver Hancock, have racked up tens of millions of views.
The Bright Side, about chasing optimism, packs similar appeal. “I’m very happy in life—that is my biggest truth,” she explains. “My previous album, Shadows, was a quiet lullaby album, because I was living a quiet life, having a baby. Now my life is much more energetic: I’ve got a toddler who wants to dance. He doesn’t want to hear slow songs. He wants to hear rhythms.”
Lenka first conceived the tune to “Blue Skies,” The Bright Side’s first single, as way to entertain her son in the car. “A storm was passing, and I looked at the sky,” she remembers. “I just started singing that hook. “Blue skies/For you and I…” She recorded that melody on her phone and a week later, laid down some chords on a keyboard to give the bluesy-sounding song a more new-wave filmic vibe.
Much of The Bright Side was written and recorded this way: on the fly, over one-and-a-half years, whenever Lenka got a free moment. (She worked on the album in-person in Los Angeles and New York City, and remotely, from Sydney.) “I haven’t written about being a mum, but it infiltrates my songs: hopes for the future, dreams, trying to have a good life,” she says. “I’ve also been thinking about my fans: They’re often young women around the world. These are messages that I want to give them, about attacking their lives with love and fervor.”
Passion is something Lenka has always been able to tap into. “I was quite a forthright child, confident, and definitely an entertainer,” she says. Her father, a jazz musician, put her in piano and trumpet lessons when she was 6. Still, Lenka wanted to be a professional ballerina. Then in her teens, she got into acting. Later, she went to art school. And again, in her early 20s, she fatefully returned to theater. “I had an epiphany while acting in a play where I had to sing alone,” she says. “That was a beautiful experience. I suddenly realized my gifts lay there.” So she immediately enrolled in a music conservatory. Says Lenka: “I hated it as a child, but I’m so glad now that I learned the piano.”
She’s symbolically returning that favor to her dad with “My Love,” one of The Bright Side’s most sentimental tracks. “I actually wrote it with my dad,” she says. “He sent over a few ideas and I really wanted to fit those ideas into the song. But it took me about five go’s of trying to write it—it was challenging, but I was determined to make this work! It feels so good to have a song on here with my dad.”
The earthy, ambling “The Long Way Home” is another homage to fathers and daughters. Lenka was commissioned to create a song to open Believe, a TV series co-produced by Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón. “He was in a car with his daughter, and she was singing one of my songs. So he asked me to write something.” Lenka frequently gets asked to pen songs for various projects, and sometimes, she says, “I decide I love those songs so much that I want to use them”—which is how “The Long Way Home” made it onto The Bright Side.
In other cases, songs such as the nimble, carefree “Unique” end up taking on a life of their own. That track started out as a concept, until Lenka realized, “It’s actually hard to write a whole song about being unique!” Vigilant, she reached out to Jason Reeves, who co-wrote “The Show.” “I went out to Malibu, and we sat on the sand with a guitar. He started smashing out some chords,” she says. “We did the song together, and I went back to Australia and finessed it.”
In fact, much of the album’s writing process was creatively challenging for Lenka. “Unique was out of my comfort zone lyrically,” she explains. “‘Blue Skies’ was out of my comfort zone stylistically, because I don’t normally write electronic music.” She also worked on “Blue Skies” remotely—something she’s not accustomed to—with Canadian producer Damian Taylor (Björk, The Killers). They sent recordings back and forth between Sydney and Montreal until they’d perfected “Blue Skies.”
“I was a bit scared it would go off in a weird direction,” she says. For The Bright Side, Lenka likewise worked with writer-producers Chris Braide (Sia, Lana Del Rey), Tim “One Love” Sommers (B.o.B., Eminem), and Dan Romer (Ingrid Michaelson, Greg Laswell)—sometimes over Skype. Why? “It’s a paradox for an artist: You want to experiment and stretch your creative limbs. But at the same time, you really want to make sure you sound like yourself.”
If “Blue Skies” is her sweet ode to optimism, “The Long Way Home” is her rally to embrace change. “It’s about how if you step outside of the box, take the long way home, you’ll have more of an adventure,” she says. And that is the power of The Bright Side: “Explore a little bit. Get lost in the world,” she says. “See what happens.”
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.