Bam! Kazam! Ladyhawke! A superhero for The Noughties. Beamed direct to you from The '80s. MUSIC OMH
One nostalgia trip worth taking. Q
"Truest beauty is unaware of its own value and Pip has that quality in spades. A studio tinkerer and tune-obsessive, shes the girl who fell to Earth; devotedly, myopically all about the music." NME
Although sceptical of the build-them-up-to-knock-them-down hubristic attitude of the music press, Pip has summed up her astounding and soaring journey so far, with the enthusiastic line, Everything thats happened has felt like an out-of-body experience! And with venerated artists such as Courtney Love, Kylie and Peaches, toasting her spangly, sumptuous and sugar-spun music who like the rest of the world, have fallen madly in love with her unrivalled blend of melodic electro-synth pop, gilded disco rock and 80s revivalism, which is flecked and fortified with a sun-kissed cool. Ladyhawke is unequivocally a bona fide Pop Star, who has struck gold thanks in no small part, to her aptitude and flair for modernising an old formula skills that have left her sitting at the top of the class!
Because when the loping Back Of The Van was originally posted on the Internet, it blew up, spreading to clubs / radio stations and falling into all the right hands. Currently based in London and signed to Island Records in the UK, and the hip label Modular in Australia. The self-taught multi-instrumentalist, spent the first 18 years of her life in Masterton, New Zealand, as a music obsessed child under the music tutelage of her mum (a singer) and stepfather (a drummer). Both of whom, now proudly keep track of their beloved daughters progress over the World Wide Web. Cutting her teeth in the punk band, Two Lane Blacktop (who even once played a gig at New Yorks CBGB) and next after relocating to Sydney, Australia the experimental dance duo, Teenager. In 2005, Pip then decided to try life as a solo artist, which would enable her to focus on a personal project she had been working on for some time and completely express herself in anyway she wanted.
Taking her persona from the 1985 Michelle Pfeiffer fantasy flick, Ladyhawke, as she sees herself as a sort of pop superwoman creating radio-friendly songs which are single bound. Endearingly, as an alter-ego, it was also her way of trying to overcome shyness / feelings of awkwardness (Pip suffers with Aspergers Syndrome), although once admitted, It was the perfect plan, but as time passed and I performed more shows, I came to the realisation that I cant really escape that Im Pip. And even now, gig after gig, she still cant look an audience member directly in the eye for too long, due to stage-fright. Reasoning, Even though I get nervous and everything, I just have to tell myself its over in about 40 minutes my sets arent very long. I love playing, its kind of a love / hate thing and you get so much free alcohol!
Ladyhawke also has a penchant for cats, toys, video games + zombies, and her musical identity is bolstered by a strong visual identity, which again, is very much indebted to The 80s. With a combination of retro T-shirts, skinny jeans, waistcoats, plaid shirts, leather jackets and Doc Martens, finished off with Pips soft feminine features, long platinum blonde hair and either a headband or her trademark flat-brimmed black hat. Her best friend and artist, Sarah Larnach, is also the person responsible for the eye-catching watercolour paintings that adorn all of her record sleeves, and can be seen in the stunning My Delirium promo video. At 9.15pm, Ladyhawke bashfully walks on stage following in the footsteps of her all-male live band, with expectations from the packed Bristol Academy particularly high, as just a little over an hour ago, Patrick Wolf gave a typically flamboyant, outlandish and engrossing performance!
As with her self-titled debut album, the mercurial Magic is the opening song in tonights set list and includes the rather apt lyric, "You came to my show and I saw you in the crowd, I didn't know your name, I didn't know your name." Before her honeyed / lambent vocals and the catchy, cloud-bursting chorus, "One journey for you, but it's worth it, one life and with me and it's magic," reels us in. Towards the end of the track, Pip swings her guitar to one side to play additional keyboards, helping dapple and lather the omnipotent vintage analogue synth sound, which is complimented by a visual feast of blue, yellow, purple and pink lighting, that frequently silhouettes the group.
Thank You Bristol she beams afterwards, acknowledging the audiences applause, before Professional Suicide starts up one of the darker moments in Ladyhawkes canon. Rinsed with castigating lyrics that seem to be aimed at someone who has wronged her, You do what you want and you play what you want, but its shit what you do and it sucks what you play its professional suicide, professional suicide. The hooky told-you-so, Na na na, na na na na and the scattershot / dextrous drum pattern, briefly lightens the mood, before the ultimate put-down for any fallen musician is unleashed with the stinging kiss-off line, Youre always bagging me behind my back, you must be making up for what you lack. I see you had a hit in 89, too bad we all dont age as good as wine. Ouch!
Dusk Till Dawn is the first Ladyhawke single out of the traps and in contrast to the previous track, its much more uplifting with a radio-friendly vibe I defy anyone to not sing along to, or at least hum the infectious, joyous and bouncing, Do do do do, do do do do, which strikes you like a bolt out of the blue! If there were any chin-strokers, or non-believers with arms folded in the excitable crowd this evening, then this would surely have been the clincher, as the eruption of yells that greet the songs finale are near-deafening. Definitely a set Hot Spot! Interestingly, one thing that you do notice about a live Ladyhawke outing, is the faithful recreation of her textured and layered studio sound (Pip worked with a number of producers on her debut long player, including chief collaborator and the world-renowned producer, Pascal Gabriel).
Having had a gradual and old-fashioned slowly-but-surely build, the album has since topped 100,000 sales in the UK alone! And if you dont already own the record which is bathed in a lush, warm haze and thanks to its high-production values, is buffed with a glossy topcoat it truly is a box of delights and is a gift that keeps on giving! Of the ubiquitous adulatory press its subsequently accrued, The Guardian raved, Its full of percussive flourishes and synth curlicues, decorations on a musical cake that tastes of all those 1980s hits by Brown's heroines: Kim Wilde, Pat Benatar, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks. And for Fact Fans, Pips Top 5 Albums are: David Bowie - Hunky Dory, ELO - Time, Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac, Rumours and Tango In The Night.
Slightly slowing the sets pace, is the ebbing and flowing mid-tempo rocker, Another Runaway, which is nestled next to the despondent and meditative, Love Dont Live Here. Along with emotional outpourings and breathless, haunting harmonies, it details the breakdown of a relationship, as Pip laments, Love, love, love is always so unsure, but bleeding hearts have always known no law you say that you dont need me anymore. A subject that has long motivated many songwriters to put experiences into words, feelings into melodies. In-keeping with the Ladyhawke cinematic theme, Crazy World, could easily have been written for a John Hughes movie, especially when you realise that Pip likes to think of her LP as A Soundtrack. Employing waterfalls of major power chords and yet another glorious chorus (Ladyhawkes ace up the sleeve), Were part of a, were part of a, were part of a crazy world. This track is pure heaven, and builds towards a sizzling alpine guitar solo with a sonic boom that encircles and elevates the audience skywards!
Next up, we come to the first Ladyhawke song that I ever heard and which is still my personal favourite (although it is very hard to choose), Back Of The Van. Its often reported that this confection is an homage to Stevie Nicks, and as Pip coos, In the dark, in the back of the van it certainly evokes the sound and feel of classic Fleetwood Mac, who Ladyhawke aficionados will know are Pips all-time favourite band! The chorus of, Cause you set me on, you set me on, you set me on fire sees the whole crowd singing and shaking along obviously, this is one of the ones people came for! Saving some of her biggest tunes until the end, Paris Is Burning is then despatched as fast as a spinning-top, without the group even stopping to compose themselves. Featuring a thumping elasticised bass-line, it was inspired by an eventful and memorable weekend that Ladyhawke once spent in the French Capital, not to mention giving her a huge smash hit!Short and sweet, it seems no sooner has the set begun, its nearly over but not before we go out with a bang, as Ladyhawke and her gang finish with an extended version of My Delirium. After the now customary midpoint song breakdown, where the other musicians fall away leaving Pip to play a lone vibrato guitar lick. The band then really begin to have some fun, as they jam and improvise, before Pip steps back up to the mic and hollers the final refrain of, Hey, youre playing with my delirium and the longer I wait, the harder Im gonna fall. Stop, playing with my delirium, cause Im out of my head and out of my self control. As the group put down / step away from their instruments to sizeable cheers, Pip says a heartfelt, Thank You everyone it was great to be a part of the Dot To Dot Festival in Bristol! Job done, next stop the Nottingham Dot To Dot Festival tomorrow, where Im sure Ladyhawke will have much the same effect!
To wrap things up, I thought it would be fitting to leave you with something that Pip wrote in her self-penned bio, which for me, perfectly encapsulates her genuine and ever-questing creative spirit: "I wanted to make music that could put a smile on peoples faces and give them a feeling of nostalgia, even though they may be hearing my songs for the first time. I love how music evokes memories of a certain time. I draw massively from many, many influences. You could definitely say I wear them on my sleeve. But what I have tried to do, is really recreate the same vibe that so many amazing records of The 70s and 80s produced. I wanted to capture the "happy-sad" vibe that so many Eighties classics had. Music that came out of the Eighties had such a unique and definitive sound. Big production, big synths and big guitar riffs. The songwriters were incredibly significant, and the whole musical era left an everlasting impression on me. Me and Ladyhawke are two sides of one coin. She is an incredibly important part of my personality. Primarily, above all else, as a songwriter I only ever wanted to create something that evoked feelings. I hope that Ladyhawke does. We were all once teenagers, listening to music at full volume, jumping on the bed with the door shut.
A very special thanks to Sophia Seymour @ Universal Music, for all of her time and help.