Ayka describes her new EP Eleven as "a tiny record marking my coming of age as a musician". It's both a small, tongue-in-cheek statement and a huge one; in that way, it mirrors her songwriting, where seismic and serious details are woven into grunge-pop melodies that feel light and breezy. Like any good coming-of-age story, Eleven is filled with angst, joy, romance, and of course, anthemic choruses. "It's a conscious first step into the sonic world of adulthood," says Ayka, never far from laughter. "Yeah, I’d like to try making music, like, fo’real."
Music has always been a part of the Turkish-Norwegian artist's life. Born Ayça Lingaas in Liverpool, UK, where her mother was studying at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and her father was a musician, she was surrounded by creative people from her very first moments. The family moved to Germany when Ayka was still tiny, before relocating again to Norway when she was around 4. Her parents (including her stepfather, who her mother met in Norway) were studying as she grew up, and so the family moved often – as much as once a year, until Ayka was 12.
"It felt adventurous, moving around and meeting new people," Ayka reflects. "I think the longest I've lived somewhere, still, is about a year." Among the moves, her constant was music: her mother would blast Madonna and Sting, while her stepdad was a punk who introduced her to the Sex Pistols. He would bring her to his home studio when she was as young as 6, where they'd make recordings of her singing and playing her acoustic guitar. At around 10, she started taking an interest in GarageBand, teaching herself how to make simple loops, inspired by her love of Gorillaz and Amy Winehouse. By the time she was a teenager, she'd discovered Soundcloud R&B – predominantly her lo-fi hero Abra – and was taking the production more seriously.
She was uploading covers of Abra and Kali Uchis to Soundcloud when her now- label manager reached out, and expressed an interest in her delicate-yet-tough voice. She agreed to record a few songs, with no intention of it really going anywhere. "I was always satisfied with it being a hobby," she laughs. "Or maybe I'm just lazy." But those sessions revealed a bright, bold new songwriting voice, full of immediacy and a playful sense of the surreal. "Tuna Tune", for example, her glittering synth-led debut single, was written from the perspective of a cat. ("I want some affection," she purrs in the first verse.)
The majority of her debut EP I'll Show Myself Out Now, however, Ayka describes as "auto-fiction". "Window Gazer", a gauzy indie-pop song made for long drives, tells the story of her childhood on the move over an insistent beat. "It's very directly inspired by moving around a lot as a kid, looking out of the car window and feeling dramatic." Her songwriting process is random: "it can be anywhere at any time. I just fall into it. And then it's like a blackout, for one to four hours. It's a very intuitive process – it just appears, and then I try to grab it as quick as I can."
For her second EP, Ayka spent time at a farmhouse just outside of Oslo, going into a cocoon where she could evolve and finetune the songs even further beyond those first intuitive sparks. This time, the majority of the songs were written at the beginning of a new relationship – when she met her current boyfriend, she immediately wrote five songs – while others deal with depression and insecurity. She describes it as "much more personal" than her 2021 debut, as well as having a richer sound owing to being co-produced in a studio.
Adding to that personal feeling is the fact that the record includes her first ever song written in Norwegian, "lallefall". "I've always been hesitant to write in Norwegian," she admits, "because it's more intimate writing in your own language. It's like being naked. Though, it didn’t take more than a little jazz tobacco and downtime till I found myself enclosed in the Norwegian woods writing Norwegian riddles." The resulting song, with its layered vocals and washes of guitar, feels as blissed-out as a stoned day of watching the sun peek through the trees.
"Hey Punk!" is the driving rock song that delivers most explicitly on Ayka's "coming-of-age record" promise, with its fist-pumping, John Hughes movie energy. It's inspired by being invited to a New Year's Eve party by her crush, and having extreme social anxiety about being there. "'Hey Punk!' represents young, cowardly and delicious love as well as being an introvert and occupying the toilet without physical cause," she winks.
Elsewhere, Ayka sings frankly about battling depression on the slowly unfurling "Cobalt Moment". "I’ve had my fair share of blue happenings and it can be very physically exhausting," she says. "Suddenly grocery shopping and dental hygiene becomes more of a drag than usual. You gotta make it kinda fun when you musicalize these moments – otherwise it’s too depressing and people can’t listen to it as much. To deal with the seriousness of life, you ought to take it not as seriously." The song is characteristically Ayka: a beachy guitar-pop song that wouldn't sound out of place on a long summer afternoon, even as the chorus is crying out for relief from sadness.
The record takes its name, Eleven, from the spooky prevalence of the number in Ayka's life and relationships: it's frequently appeared in home addresses, and in connection to people she loves. "I'm neither spiritual nor religious," she clarifies, "it's just popped up a lot!" It feels extra significant, perhaps, because these songs were written during a time of such transition in her life. "I felt like I really was coming of age during the time that I was making this record," Ayka says. "I had just dropped out of my bachelor's degree, and it was lockdown, and I'd got this record deal. I had broken up with someone, and met someone new. I just felt more grown at the end of the process – as a musician, but also, as a person."