Interview: Hachiku on Iceland, Community and Staying Motivated

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Amidst the craziness of Iceland Airwaves, I sat down with Melbourne-based up-and-comer Anika Ostendorf aka Hachiku in a cafe in the heart of Reykjavik, where we spoke about her love for Iceland, Melbourne’s music community, her Milk! Records family and how deadlines help her remain focussed.

Inspired by the spirit of Iceland’s unique and diverse music scene, she would love to add Reykjavik to her list of places that she’s lived in — which includes Michigan when she was born, Germany where she grew up, London where she studied, and now Melbourne where she works and makes music. “Around five years ago, I was really obsessed with Iceland. Even though it’s small and a bit isolated from everywhere else, so many people here are involved with something artistically.”

Back when Ostendorf lived in London, where she studied biology, she attended a showcase of Icelandic music, which included a performance by one of her favourite bands, MammĂșt. She has always felt drawn to the way Icelandic musicians can portray the natural beauty of their country in their music — and even though she hadn’t visited Iceland before Iceland Airwaves, she could imagine what it would look like through the sounds of Icelandic musicians. “I always thought it was intriguing to hear the music and then imagine what the country would look like, it’s vastness and beauty.”

Though she can’t see it happening for some time, she admits that she has considered moving to Iceland one day. “I still have the dream of one day moving here," she says, “even if it’s for a few months or half-a-year, just to experience what it would be like.”

But until then, she’s found solace in Melbourne, where she is surrounded by her Milk! Records family. Out of all the places she has lived in, it’s Melbourne where she has felt the most at home creatively. The city has had a big impact on her music and the way she approaches her craft. She particularly feels drawn and connected to the small and tight-knit music community within the city. “I think of all the places, it’s Melbourne where I’ve felt the most welcomed, the city is exactly what I imagined it would be and everyone’s really supportive of each other.” She also notes that the supportive nature of the music community that surrounds her in Melbourne also allows her to enjoy the process of making and releasing music.

As well as being signed to Milk! Records, she’s also very involved in the label. When she first came to Melbourne, she interned there and now she’s an employee. “I interned at Milk! when I was an exchange student, I then went back to Europe and then came back to work there.”

For Ostendorf, it’s bewildering to think of herself as ‘signed’ to the label, as it sounds “too proper,'' as she says. “It feels more like being taken in by a community of really amazing people and not just signed to a label.” In the beginning, there were no contracts — Jen Cloher and Courtney Barnett loved what Ostendorf did and wanted to help her get her music out to the world by sharing it on the label’s Bandcamp and promoting it on social media.

Milk! Records might have moved from Cloher and Barnett’s home and the label has signed more artists since, community and working closely and supporting their artists will always remain at the forefront. “Even though it’s much more serious now, it still feels like working with friends rather than what I imagine it would be like at another label, where the relationships might feel too business-like.”

Despite enjoying Melbourne and feeling inspired by the city, it’s also important for her to travel and surround herself amongst different settings when she can. “I definitely thrive on having a change of scenery once in a while as well. Sometimes I need that variation too. I need external stimulation to be creative and seeing different places definitely excites me and makes me want to write more songs.”

Whether it’s in Melbourne, visiting her family in Germany, or wherever her travels take her, she makes sure she is consistently working on music. She enjoys deadlines and how they help her remain focussed, “I’m easily distracted,” she says, “If I don’t have the pressure of, ‘I need to or should be writing a song’ I won’t do it. So I need to be like, ‘by this day, I need to finish a song,’ and then I’ll do it.” As long as she has her laptop with her, she can work anywhere and everywhere. At the moment, her goal is to finish at least another two songs before Christmas.

She’s prepping up for the release of her album, which she anticipates will be out in 2020. She’s spent approximately three years creating it, but working on the album during spurts of a few weeks or a month at a time has delayed finishing it. Feeling as motivated as ever, she’s determined to set deadlines for herself to ensure that it will be ready next year. “Putting pressure on myself and now settling deadlines to finish the album helps me maintain my motivation. It can be very demotivating when you keep on delaying work, a block of pressure can build the longer you put it off.”

Next year, she has plans to tour with Barnett in the US, play at SXSW in Austin and spend more time in Europe. Until she hits the road next year, her focus is on finishing songs and playing Milk!’s annual Christmas Party.

Along with being incredibly talented and an exquisite songwriter, Ostendorf is a hard worker with a humble attitude and good-hearted nature, and there’s no denying that 2020 will be her biggest year yet.

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)
Photos by Kristy Smolcic (folio)

Listen to her latest single 'Shark Attack':

Follow Hachiku: