To be honest, when a close friend handed me his iPod and I listened to a song from the gadget, I quickly asked him, “Is this a new song from Lily Allen?” With a grin on his face, he said, “No, she’s
not Lily. She’s Lenka, dear. Just listen some more before you put names.”
I followed his suggestion and he was right. Several months since I heard “The Show” (Lenka’s fi rst single), I still feel glad to know and memorize most of the lyrics from this 31-year-old Australian singer.
Yes, the cute sassy voice with melodic catchy-kiddy tunes and such cool video clips somehow pin themselves easily into your head and yet remind you of Miss Allen’s voice. But if you listen to the lyrics and the way Lenka Kripac sings, she’s so much different from any other lady singer we know.
This was made true to me after I saw her live performance at the LA Lights Indie Fest last week, where she shared the stage with Indonesian bands like Pee Wee Gaskin and Rocket Rockers,
the UK’s new pop-rock band Raygun and famous indie emo band The Ataris.
With her sexy red tube dress and a batik shawl over shoulders and her peep-toe red boots, she’s far too witty to be compared to anyone else.
“People keep asking me why I look like her [Allen],” says the singer who admits her biggest makeover
style is her bang, which changes her face a lot.
“At first I didn’t get it. Then I kind of fi gured it out by myself.
Well, they may say so probably because we have the same bangs and same hair color. We like to wear
kid’s dresses and sing about bringing out the child in our womanhood.
“But we are different, really. I think she’s bit more teenage with a teen act, while mine is like a 5-yearold girl who lives in LaLaLa land.
We both are different, as different as Lady Gaga from J-Lo, but I understand and I’m cool with it. If people still want to compare, I wouldn’t care so much about it.”
So she just skips along and feels so happy to be able to make her voice heard.
“Honestly, at fi rst I never thought I’d be in this position,” Lenka says.
“I still remember when my Dad used to force me to learn piano and trumpet and how much I hated it. Thanks to him, this experience somehow found a way to introduce me to the world where I am now,”
adds the singer who started her entertainment career with roles on Australian television and indie
Lenka graduated from the Australian Theater for Young People and was mentored by Oscar winner
One of her roles in a play required her to sing, at which point life took her for the fi rst time to her
musical path. She joined the band Decoder Ring as their vocalist when the band was in process of making the soundtrack for the indie film Somersault.
The band traveled, had two albums and short tour to the US in 2006. In 2007, Lenka moved to Los
Angeles to pursue her dreams as a singer and musician and wrote one her fi rst songs, “Anything I’m Not”.
“The song is about times when you feel insecure, not fi tting the mold and feeling very upset about
yourself,” she says.
“Most of the time I like to be myself, but there are moments in life when we get to the point like
the one I was trying to show in that song.
“For me, that moment was when I first move to LA, started my career in music, getting rejected and being away from the people that love and know you. I think it’s human to feel like that,” says Lenka, who once visited Bali with her parents during her childhood.
This time, on her second visit, the singer has already adopted a fondness for pisang goreng (fried
bananas) and gado-gado (vegetables with spicy peanut sauce).
It must have been tough for an Australian stranded as an alien in Hollywoodland to try to make her
dreams come true.
“Yeah, it’s a bit challenging because they want you to play American music instead of yours and turn
you into something that you’re not,” Lenka says.
“But when they found out about my Aussie background, they kept asking me to say something ‘cause it sounded cute.
“It’s a bit annoying at fi rst, especially their attitude of thriving to be a success. But somehow I feel exotic from being different and it gave me a kick up the butt to keep me productive and work hard everyday.
I guess life is how you prefer to see them through whichever colored glasses. I like to have mine rose, I guess,” says Lenka, who performed her new song, “Wrote Me Out”, at the LA Lights concert.
Even though Lenka performed eight songs during the show, it felt short for me. Unfortunately, that
night she skipped one of my favorite songs, “Skip Along”.
“You know what? ‘Skip Along’ is my favorite song too,” she says enthusiastically.
“I wrote the song as a pick-meup kinda song, when you feel down and blue. And sometimes all you
gotta do is just skip that moment and go along with everything you have. It’s harder than it may seem, but you just have to keep on smiling.
It pretty much recaptured what I felt right now,” says Lenka, who admits to playing make-believe as a
princess when she was a child.
But why does “Skip Along” suit Lenka’s condition now, when she manages to go on tour around the
world and gets her songs played on radio in places she never imagined before?
“Well, if you ask me the hardest time being in the music industry, I must say its NOW,” she says.
“Try to imagine yourself making a tour in a van for two-and-a-half months in America. You don’t get
good food, stuck somewhere in the middle of desert, getting extremely tired and wondering ‘what am I
“But when you’re on stage with people cheering you and singing your song, it gives you a feeling of
majesty and it’s awesome. So in the end you just have to skip along and try to keep on smiling.”
Lenka lists The Beatles (Abbey Road), Bjork (Post), Goldfrapp (Seventh Tree) and Stevie Wonder
as among her favorites.
One thing she also considers difficult is being separated from James, her boyfriend of four years.
“I really miss him. I like to think of him as my portable family, since we only have each other in LA. Now we’ve been apart for like fi ve weeks and only got Skype, phone and all of the electronic things, which aren’t real, between us,” she says.
“Usually at the end of the day we still try to share what we’ve been doing and tell each other everything. But still…”
Lenka says she loves to post updates of what she does every day on her Twitter account to make her
boyfriend feel closer to her somehow.
“I know I’m such a Twitter addict. There were times when I challenged myself to stop tweeting, I guess it only lasted a day or two. The power of the Internet and putting everything online scares me sometimes. Especially when that habit becomes too important in someone’s life and gets out of
control,” she says.
“But for me, you still can’t replace the power of real touch and the feeling of being hugged by someone
you love, no matter how deep your relationship is with the Internet,” she adds.
Life is about to choose. After the release of her self-titled debut album, Lenka knows what she is up
against. She will always be that girl who looked cute in vintage stewardess uniform from Indonesia’s
flagship Garuda, which she luckily found a couple years ago at a flea market in Australia.
But things also changed for her. The reality of being in Jakarta, Indonesia, but not being able to hop
over to Sydney, Australia, just to say hi to her dad is also the reality she needs to face. That is the price, but she’s making the most of every minute of it.
At the LA Light IndieFest Concert in Jakarta. JP/Meninaputri
“Being able to be here, with these young musicians at the LA Lights Indie Fest is kinda shooting more
adrenaline into me,” Lenka says.
“There is so much hope in their eyes to fulfi ll their dreams. I like this band Blackstocking. I guess it
was from Yogyakarta, you know, the one with the unique voice from the vocalist.
“For me, they don’t try to sing like other bands, that’s why they stand out. Really, I never thought
the Indonesian music scene had a lot to offer as well. There are so many genres and it feels so alive to be among them.”
After all the ups and downs, and many more to face in the future, what would she rather be? An actress? A singer?
“I’d like to see myself as a musician instead of an actress. It’s much more empowering to do music. I get to do what I want and I’m controlling everything that I want to tell to people, you know, like which message I want to bring,” Lenka smiles.
“Yet I still get the chance to act in music videos and perform on stage.
“Ten years from now, I still see myself singing, and no, I don’t want to go back to acting. I just hope that by that time, you will still enjoy the show.”