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Interview
Ladyhawke

Ladyhawke

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
date
Tuesday 12th June, 2012 10:30AM

Ladyhawke has followed up her critically acclaimed self-titled debut album with Anxiety, released at the end of last week. UTR caught up with Pip Brown to discuss the new album in relation to earlier work, the highly personal elements of Anxiety and why she loves pop music.

You must be on the promotional circuit at the moment - you probably don’t enjoy this part of the process?

I mean it’s funny ‘cause you don’t think about it when you’re making the music and stuff. You’re not like ‘oh once this is finished I have to do a bunch of interviews’. You finish the interview and then it kind of happens. It’s like a band-aid, you just rip it off really quickly and it’s done.

And are you going on tour for Anxiety soon?

I started about a month ago and just finished. It's not over but it was a pre-tour sort of thing around the UK. Then I’m heading over to Australia in a few weeks time and then to New Zealand and then back to Australia and then the States and the UK and Europe.

Do you like the touring experience? It must be pretty intense for you?

I get into tour zone and sort of end up working on auto pilot. Everything’s done and you don’t really know how your legs are moving but they are. I really enjoy it and I like all the people I tour with, it’s only when it ends that everything goes pear-shaped. I’ve just finished touring and I’ve just gotten sick and I think that’s because I work so hard on being in tour mode and being healthy and getting through it that as soon as I relax I get sick.

Are you doing anything different with your band or live set-up this time around compared to previous album tours?

 

I’ve got the same band I’ve had for years and it’s a bit rockier live than it is on the record just because it’s live and I quite like playing something live and having it sound slightly different, so it’s not like you’re listening to a carbon copy of the album. It’s definitely an energetic show I guess.

Let’s talk a little bit about Anxiety. Tell us about following up such a critically acclaimed debut.

So I toured the first album for two years and I finished touring in February 2010 and then I was really tired so I thought I needed a bit of space. I moved back to New Zealand and took some time off and then started writing the record mid year. I didn’t know exactly how I wanted the record to sound but I knew I wanted it to be different but still a Ladyhawke record. I wanted to keep it interesting for myself and try some new sounds and experiment and have fun. I knew how I wanted the guitars to sound, I knew the distortion I wanted to create. I had a good starting point and then once I jammed up some ideas and went into the studio we got the first song down and once that song was done I felt really happy because I knew it had set the tone for the rest of the album.

Reflecting on the finished product, how would you describe the tone or theme of the album?

 

Um, the music is still pop. I always liked the idea of someone being led into a false sense of security by the upbeat music but they realize, when the listen to the lyrics, that they are completely the oppsite. The music is quite upbeat but the lyrics are quite dark. I started doing that without realizing it: the music felt happy but the tone of the lyrics is quite different to the music. I’ve always loved that with songs: playing a happy sounding bass note with a sombre sounding guitar note underneath it or something – not that that’s what I did on this record. I like two emotions fighting for attention on the record.

It seems like it’s an honest, personal record?

Yeah, some of it’s storytelling and some of it is needing to get stuff of my chest. I was writing the lyrics for the song ‘Anxiety’ and I came up with the lyric ‘I take a pill to get me through the day’ and I wrote it and I was like “I don’t know if I should write that because people might think I’m a drug addict or something” but it was true so I did it anyway. I usually don’t like baring too much of my soul but there are going to be people out there who relate to it because everyone gets anxiety.

It must be quite difficult to balance those sorts of conditions with being a successful person who has to have a public persona. Do you struggle with that?

People get me which is pretty cool. With the first album it took a while for people to get it: they went to the music first and learnt more about me later. I was kind of expected to be more of a big, poppy personality and it took a while for people to realize I was the opposite of that. I’ve never dressed like a pop star and I never will and I just don’t have that personality - I would feel really embarrassed if that happened.

I think people get me now and they don’t expect me to be a massive personality or anything - they seem to accept how I am now. The other night I went to see CSS perform at the Bush Empire and they were so amazing and I thought I’d love to have that sort of energy on stage with absolutely no shame whatsoever; just putting on a good show and giving the audience everything. I’d love that but I can’t do that, it’s just not me.

You kind of do it, you definitely have a persona on stage. How do you prepare for your live show?

If I’m playing a show I can’t eat for at least six or so hours before the show. I won’t be able to sing if I eat, so I end up eating nothing all day and if I eat nothing all day I’ll have one drink and it’ll make me tipsy, so that normally works because I’m super anxious. I’m not recommending anyone to do this at all by the way it's terrible advice. I’ll just have a beer or something and then I’ll go on stage and hope for the best.

I remember going to Two Lane Blacktop gigs when I was a kid down in Dunedin. Your history is quite a lot rockier and DIY than Ladyhawke. What was the transition to moving into pop with Ladyhawke?

I think it was my personality maturing and my skills as a musician growing. I loved playing in Two Lane Blacktop - that band was my whole life, and to this day some of the best memories I have were playing in that band. I love songwriting and I knew from Two Lane Blacktop for the minute I started writing songs that I got a real enjoyment out of writing the songs. When I moved to Australia I started playing in Teenager and that was pretty DIY as well, but my music taste is so broad, I listen to Black Sabbath and Hall and Oates in the same day.

So after a few years in Teenager I just got really sick of seeming like I didn’t have my own thing. I wanted to branch out and explore my songwriting more because it was developing. So I started writing songs in my room as Ladyhawke; it was never supposed to be a massive thing, it was always a bedroom project for me. It started to snowball, but it wasn’t a fast snowball, over a few years, which is great because it eased me into it a bit more. It was just me wanting to try all sorts of different songwriting and I really wanted to try pop. I love pop and I love writing pop melodies; I get such a kick out of it. So that’s how it all started.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Well the album is out and so I’ve got a whole year of touring basically. I’ve got touring planned out until September next year. I don’t want the momentum to slow down; the momentum is a really positive thing and I want to start writing other stuff. I want to have another project basically.

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