Interview with Ladyhawke

Pip Brown, better known as Ladyhawke, has been on an evolutionary musical journey for several years now. Having released her debut album in 2008 to international critical acclaim, she has seen songs from that album ride high in the charts both here in Australia, in her native New Zealand, and also in the UK charts. Never one to be satisfied with releasing mediocre output, she wrote and then subsequently scrapped an entire album of material, going on a journey of self discovery and giving up drinking, something she said she used to use as a crutch to combat social anxiety, before starting afresh with a clear, re energised outlook. The resulting album, Wild Things, has all the hallmarks of her passion and dedication to her craft whilst striving forward with a more synthpop dominated direction. We spoke to Pip recently about the new album, video shoots, and visiting Disneyland.

Hi Pip, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. 

No worries, thank you!!

Firstly congratulations on the new album Wild Things it sounds fantastic.

Oh thanks so much.

You’ve said that you scrapped an entire album of material in the intervening years between Anxiety and this album. Can I ask you to talk me through a bit of what was going on in your life that caused you to come to this decision?

I finished touring Anxiety pretty much through the whole of 2012 and then I moved straight to L.A. and it took me a bit of time to get on my feet here for starters; it’s always like that when you move to a new city and I’m constantly moving places, and I really just wanted to make L.A. my home so I needed a little while to get used to everything and then I thought “well I may as well start on the record”. So I started doing writing sessions and I pretty much worked on and off on it for a year and then I decided that I wasn’t going to use it, it was just dark and I wasn’t in a good place and I knew that I had a lot to work on in myself. I needed to get healthy and I wasn’t well I was sickly and drinking too much and eating crap food and sleeping all day, so I was kind of in a bad place and I remember thinking I needed to change my life because I was so sick of feeling like this. So I stopped drinking and eating sugar and all of the bad habits that I’d gotten into over the years I just quit. And that meant that I had to scrap that album because every time I listened to it, it made me think of the bad times, so I wanted to start from scratch with a clean slate and write music without having any alcohol in my system, which is a rare thing for me, and I completely changed everything about my life. And meeting Tommy English my producer was a random coincidence as well, it wasn’t a set up writing session at all. We met through a friend and it just kind of happened at the right time, and the album just kind of came after that and I was feeling great and I really enjoyed working with him; he’s got a great approach to music and he made it fun for me as well, so yeah that’s how that all came about.

Back in 2008, you performed an acoustic set with full classical band at London’s Union Chapel. Would you ever consider doing something like that again?

Definitely. I always make sure I’ve worked up a few acoustic versions of my songs, and I’ve got a new live guitarist and he’s really good on acoustic guitar, but I loved working with those guys. There was a grand pianist and a couple of cellists and a violin player, and those guys actually ended up working with me on quite a lot of stuff, I used them for years after that and they would come and play with me on live shows. I did a show at Coco’s in London and I got them along for the whole show, and it was a really good experience.

You and Sarah Larnach work together to create cover art for your music releases. Instead of just displaying an illustration on the cover of Wild Things, you’ve gone a step further by printing it onto a shirt and wearing it. Do you hope to see a sea of fans wearing that design at your upcoming gigs?

Obviously that would be awesome! I didn’t intend for it to be used as merch but then it’s kind of a no brainer. My Manager was kind of like “well you’ve just created your own merch here” so I think it will be a part of the merch. I actually don’t have a lot of merch, so I would love to see that.

What was it like doing a photo shoot with Cybele Malinowski? Do you feel as though she understood and represented you well in the images that resulted from the shoot?

Cybele is amazing, we go way back. When she was first starting out and building up her career as a photographer she used to use me as a model in a lot of her early stuff, so yeah she’s great, she’s one of the good ones.

The 90s style music video for ‘A Love Song’ was directed by Youth Hymns, produced by Susannah Sims and Partizan and shot inside the Playnation games store in Croydon. How long did the shoot take to complete and was it like taking a trip down memory lane with so many nostalgic pieces of ephemera in one room?

That was a really fun shoot actually, and what made it really fun was the director and the crew! I think that was the nicest set I’ve ever worked on, they were just great and lovely personalities. But yeah it was a full day of shooting so we started at the crack of dawn and it was scheduled to go until around 8:30 at night so it was actually one of the shorter ones I’ve done. I’m pretty certain the My Delirium one took around 20 or so hours so I’ve done some long ones. The unfortunate thing was that I hadn’t slept for about 30 or so hours when we did the A Love Song video so halfway through the shoot I got into collapsing territory, I was feeling nauseous and woozy so they got me a hotel room about three doors down and I slept for about four hours while they shot a whole bunch of other stuff and then I came back and finished the shoot. So yeah it was pretty gruelling and it was a really busy time, but it was well worth it because I was so happy with the video.

You’re giving fans the chance to receive multi-coloured shoelaces and customised USB drives as small thank-you gifts when purchasing shirts and albums from your online store. Do you collect merchandise from other musicians or performers and if so which items from your collection do you treasure the most?

You’ve asked me that as I stare at my Beatles Rubber Soul lava lamp!! You should Google that, they have a full range of lava lamps from all their different eras, and I am the person that people market this shit for. I love merchandise, I go to Disneyland and I buy the merchandise, I go anywhere and I buy the merchandise, I’m that guy.

A few fast questions for you now:

  • Which fruit or vegetable do you enjoy growing the most? I don’t have a garden, but the second I own one I’m going to grow all that stuff and I would definitely have massive bushes of herbs. I love fresh herbs. 
  • Would you rather watch a marathon of Star Wars or Star Trek films? Star Wars!!
  • Do you still own the fan-made Ladyhawke effects guitar pedal that was given to you several years ago? Yes I do!
  • What was the last board/card/video game you played? I’m sitting here with my PS4 controller in my hand because I’m playing the new Uncharted 4. It’s so good, the graphics are ridiculous and it’s like a movie that you’re helping to control. 
  • What’s the best thing about going to a theme park? I get sucked into the magic of it, I’m quite nostalgic and I love all the music and the atmosphere and the bright colours, the fireworks, the whole thing really. It’s like a big pantomime and I get really drawn into it. If I go to a theme park and it doesn’t have that, I want the magic and the characters walking around hugging people, that’s what I like. 

Thanks very much for your time today Pip and we hope to see you touring the album down here sometime soon. 

This interview was first published for Amnplify. Co-written with Jarrod Henry.

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