For Australian alt-pop artist and new mom Lenka, children's lullabies and prayers such as “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” are quite frightening.
“I was starting to sing 'Rockabye Baby' to my son Quinn, but I decided not to because it was just too creepy,” she says.
So she started composing her own lullabies instead. “Now I write them all day, every day,” she says. “Little story-songs or silly little melodies that put him to sleep.”
Lenka — renowned for her whimsical 2008 single “The Show” — plays San Francisco today backing her nursery-rhyme-dreamy third recording, “Shadows,” which she has dubbed her “baby album.”
Much of it is inspired by the 1-year-old child she had with her visual-artist hubby, James Gulliver Hancock. For example, “After the Winter” and “Two Heartbeats” were written from Quinn's in utero perspective and set to the rhythm of his actual heartbeat. “But then there are also all these other songs about him that I've written along the way,” she says.
There are motherly ditties such as “Sweet Pea, Sweet Pea, Growing on a Vine” and “Sleepy Time, Sleepy Time, Sleepy Time for You,” which always puts little Nemo straight into slumberland.
“So I sing that to him several times a day,” she says. “And there's another song about a baby who's been raised by birds.”
Hancock designed and hand-painted a surreal set of alphabet blocks which Lenka calls “somewhat subversive: 'A' stands for asp, amoeba or avocado — weird things you wouldn't expect.”
After her 2011 effort, “Two,” the U.S.-dwelling Lenka (last name: Kripac) was at a crossroads. She was off Epic Records, had a baby on the way and needed to reconnoiter.
So she and Hancock moved back to her native Sydney, bought their first house, became parents and sonically documented the experience via “Shadows” for their own indie imprint, Skipalong. Big kids themselves, the lifestyle adjustment surprised them.
“It was almost like a little science experiment, watching this creature grow that you created,” says the keyboardist, who still maintains a residence in Brooklyn. “Originally we intended to just be exactly the same. We were going to go see gigs and travel around, and we even bought our son those little noise-canceling headphones.”
“But we haven't been to a concert since he was born. We go to bed at 8:30 p.m. because we're so exhausted,” she says, sighing.
Lenka's look has matured accordingly. “It's a little less girly, less childlike, which suits the mood of the album,” she says. “But I still do wear a lot of little-girl-style dresses and bright colors. Every time I try to grow up, those dresses keep creeping back.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Café Du Nord, 2170 Market St., S.F.
When: 9:30 p.m. today
Tickets: $13 to $15
Contact: (415) 861-5016, www.ticketweb.com