We pick the hottest new live acts so you can tell your friends you heard them first. Meet Melbourne-based multi-disciplinary artist Anita Lester.
If the idea of ‘Nick Cave and Mary Magdalene’s love child’ peaks your attention, it’s time to meet Melbourne based multi-disciplinary artist Anita Lester.
Art has always been a part of Lester’s life. At 10 years old, she’d spend her days painting in her attic bedroom, when she turned 12 years old, her mother passed down her late father’s collection of classic poetry.
There is also filmmaking – her film Noch Am Leben (I’m Still Alive) was shown in over 50 festivals around the world and won 23 awards. Her irreverent and striking paintings that nod to mythological stories can be found in books, as can her poetry and storytelling.
Then, of course, there is her music. Powerful in its gracefulness and restraint, and heart-achingly beautiful, Lester’s is a voice as made for reflection and solitude as it is for connection.
After spending years touring the world with rock outfit Lester The Fierce, in March 2020 Anita Lester emerged as a solo artist, with her debut EP Erato in hand.
The heartbreakingly beautiful pace of single ‘Wrong Time’ caught the ears of fans right around the world, as did her cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’ – a song that, through an earlier version, was praised by Cohen just before his passing – which was picked up by film and television, including The Walking Dead. This also led Lester to create, produce and curate the show Ladies Who Sing Leonard, which included Kate Ceberano, Katie Noonan, Deborah Conway, Gabriella Cohen, Emma Donovan, and Kee’ahn.
Across the last decade and a half, Lester has continued to explore the many facets of her art practice, establishing herself as a force in not only music, but visual art, literature, and film – weaving themes of death, sex, love, longing, slavery, and spirituality throughout.
Now we’re receiving another beautiful addition to Lester’s songbook – her latest single, the enchanting folk ballad ‘Sun and Moon and Stars’.
Written in the midst of 2020’s uncertainty, recorded to tape, and produced by Australian troubadour legends Husky, it is another example of the powerful emotional energy and passion Lester is a master of conjuring.
Her poignant, poetic verses see her pouring her heart out atop a delicate melody of piano and plucked strings. Here, every moment washes over you, leaving you yearning for more.
“It’s been a long journey for me in this world of music and I’ve always been told that when you hit 35 it’s kind of all over. When the world silenced and I was left with what was important, I realised there is no limitation, except for the one that you create. I’m attempting to normalise making art outside of the boundaries of a very conservative industry and showing that with growth, the best art is made.”Anita Lester on ‘Sun and Moon and Stars’
To celebrate her new single ‘Sun and Moon and Stars’, we sat down with Anita Lester to find out more about her.
Check out ‘Sun and Moon and Stars’ by Anita Lester:
The Anita Lester Story
From the beginning
Anita Lester: “My love of Laurel Canyon folk aside, I started writing poetry at 12, being much like that character in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, who has a love affair with Shakespeare as opposed to being obsessed with Jonathan Taylor Thomas (showing my age here). But I didn’t actually know I could sing until I was 18. I put the two together and found the most amazing escape into another world.”
What you’ll hear
“My sound is very grounded in melodic folk, but I am also inspired by ’90s/’00s sad rock like Radiohead and Nick Cave. I always, however, come back to allowing the story to lead the sound, so most of the time my music is fairly stripped back and full of space.”
Influences & inspirations
“I am a fan of the written word first and foremost. Poets have always been the base of inspiration, like Dylan Thomas, E.E Cummings, Aaron Zeitlin, Leonard Cohen. I also am a professional painter, so the aesthetic actually comes from that same departure point. I love anything that tells a story and pulls you into a different world…even just for a moment.”
For the love of music
“When I found music, it was like everything went from black and white to full colour – the world totally made sense. It comforts me when I’m sad and is the soundtrack to so many memories. Being on stage is almost religious and seeing a song come to life is beyond words. “
The Leonard connection
“When I heard Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want it Darker’ for the first time, it broke me into a million pieces…which a great song can do. I made a small video on my London rooftop, posted it, and when I woke up it had gone viral and I had a note from Leonard and his team.
“They posted it on their socials, he died just a month later and I became a strange place for people to express their grief, as I was one of the last visible things on his media.
“When I arrived back to Australia I was asked to sing his songs for a film festival , but I had a better idea that took beautiful, deep and visceral women and put them in a formation, paying tribute.
“Leonard is so masculine and sexy, but there is something so feminine about his music. It’s such a tribute to his love of women. Ladies Who Sing Leonard has been a career highlight for me and has been very successful. The cover has taken me on a big journey, it’s also been placed on cult Zombie show The Walking Dead, which has opened some very unexpected fan portals.”
“I haven’t got one career highlight in particular. I actually have struggled with knowing what success is and have spent a long time putting pressure on myself to appeal to the masses.
“In truth, my biggest achievement is still making art. Anyone who knows this world, knows its struggles. Having said all that, I feel great pride in what my 18 years of music making has led me to…it makes me wonder why artists in their 30’s and 40’s are not given more industry love.”
The year ahead
“It’s a little hard to plan, but I have put together a live show that is something I am seriously excited to debut. I have my fist show with them at Chapel off Chapel in August and it’s going to be a big vibe. I have a lot lined up for performances, I am releasing more music and am currently writing my first album.”
Anita Lester – Howl
“This was, in my mind, the hit that never quite hit. I wrote it in 30 minutes, it was to fill a space in an EP of my previous rock project ‘Lester The Fierce’, and I sat in the coffee and tea room of Bakehouse Studios in Melbourne with my unplugged electric guitar and out it flowed.”
Anita Lester – Man
“This is a song that I had written for the purposes of the music video that accompanied it. Shot in Israel by my brilliant filmmaker brother Yoav Lester, it is a tribute to my father and people. It was made with no budget, but with creativity, looks like a Hollywood epic.”
Anita Lester – Wrong Time
“Written in London with a big fat broken heart, I think this is one of my favourites. It’s accompanied by another video shot by my brother, on St Kilda Beach, covered in pythons at 5am on a freezing winter morning.”
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