Words by David C. Obenour
It’s a concept we all got intimate with as we sat in varying degrees of isolation over the last two years. Change in our day-to-day routine. Change of how we do things. Most everything. Change in our employment. Change of the people we see. Change in how we see other people. Literally and emotionally.
Musicians and artists had their own changes to deal with. How to write. How to record. How to release that art out into the world. All of the old models that were already upended needed reimagined all the more urgently as other changes swirled around us.
For Anika, the change was a time to get back to her own art. Having worked with BEAK> and Exploded View, 2010 was the last time she recorded on her own. While the plans were there before shutdown, they intensified and shifted after it. The resulting album, Change is a personal statement of coming to terms with this new reality as an artist, both personally and professionally.
Off Shelf: Change is a very dynamic word. Can you talk about why you choose it as a title for the new album and what it has come to mean to you from your time writing, recording and now having released it out into the world?
Anika: Yes, it’s a dramatic title and can mean something totally different, depending on who you ask. When I wrote the album, I was stuck in a weird life situation which made me reflect on my capacity to change as well as holding on to a hope that those I held dear could perhaps change too. I was also questioning how it was that a majority of the public could vote for things like Brexit or Trump and it was this that led to a hope that we can change, be it for the good or the bad but that “this too shall pass.” That though we are in this place now, it won’t be like that forever.
As humans, I think it is important to remain hopeful and positive that things can change, that we can change. In hindsight, I suppose I’ve pretty much seen, as I kind of knew before, that you can’t change others but you can change yourself, the way you do things, patterns. Also, the world has moved on, it has spun on its axis, it has changed. I remain hopeful that we can change things for the better.
OS: This is your first solo album in 11 years. Can you talk about what you were feeling when you first realized the music you were making would be for a new album as Anika?
A: My name is Annika, with two ns but actually Anika became Annika and visa versa after a while. I’ve been joining the bodies for the last 10 years. The minute they aligned, the minute it became right.
OS: Your voice occupies a really fascinating place in these songs – prominent and unmistakable. How do you approach how it mixes and balances with the rest of the music?
A: This time I had something to say, it was a lot about the voice, so I reflected this in the way it was mixed. It’s a confrontational and reflective album, a “stuck at home during lockdown” album, alone with my thoughts. So for this specific record, that kind of balance was important. Also, at the time, I thought perhaps it could never be performed live, due to COVID restrictions, so I wanted to make a headphone record, something more personal and I reflected this in the mix and production too.
OS: You’ve talked about your move to Berlin and giving up your British citizenship – creating a feeling of being an outsider. Has that given you a unique perspective on the past years from those who surround you?
A: Perhaps, but Berlin is full of outsiders. It has been since the wall. It attracted the outsiders because it was off the radar. People trying to skip army service would hide out there, it was a place of refuge for those slightly outside, to hide and live under their own rules.
That is changing in Berlin now. But yes, I’ve always been half German, half English. My mother is German and my father English, I had two passports til the age of 18. I learned about WW2 in England and hid the fact I was half German.
Living as an outsider has always been the perspective. It was for this reason that I wanted to become a documentary journalist, to share the stories of others, of distant communities, of misunderstood peoples and try to bridge them somehow, show that we are all people and that which brings us together, unites us, is ultimately greater than that which takes us apart, divides us.
OS: There’s an underlying optimism throughout Change – even though it came out of some very dark times. Where did you get this from? Knowing how radically the world has changed over the last two years – I wouldn’t presume your outlook has changed – but do you think it’s evolved?
A: No answer, Im still chewing on that thought.
OS: The sequencing of Change moves naturally from brooding to pop to airry. How do you approach putting together an album as an artist and considering how the art will be consumed?
A: The song depended on my mood that day. It was not pre-thought or contrived. I started each day and found a bpm to suit and whether it was happy, pop, airy, dark or drastic, depended on what was in my bones, making my hairs stand on edge.
OS: You seem to have some European dates announced for later this year. How are you feeling about returning to performing live?
A: Very happy! I have a new all girl band and it is so much fun to play together. It is every different from before, not only because they are all girls but also because all of them have experience organising shows in the diy/music scene, so it’s a very collaborative and supportive experience. Music-wise, they are all amazing and playing together really is so much fun.
OS: What about the live performance is most important to you? What have you missed the most?
A: Connecting with other humans, whether in the crowd or other bands playing, or the crew, or the promoter, or the person at the gas station. People are my life-blood, despite also enjoying being alone, so such a long time isolated was quite strange. I like to learn from books but learning/experiencing/sharing from people is a whole other level.
OS: Do you expect to follow up Change? Looking back at the years between these previous albums – do you have any idea what that will look like?
A: Yes, I hope so. Strangely enough, I didn’t write up the document how that will look yet, nor did I plan my meals for the next year, or book any holidays yet.