Wild Things / UK Tour
June 2016
Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

After several years away from the glare of the public eye, Ladyhawke is soon set to swoop back into your lives with a panoply of effervescent new songs and Herculean hooks! Her press release reads: "Ladyhawke aka Pip Brown has just announced the release of her third album ‘Wild Things’ to be released via Mid Century Records. The first single is ‘Sweet Fascination’ and it’s a glorious return to form for the one-woman synth-pop outfit whose self titled debut 2008 album peaked at No. 16 on the U.K. album charts and No. 1 in Australia and New Zealand’s album charts.

“People wonder why there’s always a massive gap between my albums,” says Brown, “The reason is both complicated and easy. The simple explanation: I’ve never released anything I’m not proud of. That’s important to me. I wanted this album to reflect the frame of mind I was in when creating it. I tried very hard to change my life for the better, and to create a positive and bright environment to exist in. This album really is a reflection of the headspace I found myself in after achieving this. Colourful is one word in particular that springs to mind.”


Brown’s conviction to authenticity led her on this third album journey, which started back in 2013. She scrapped a full album’s worth of material before taking around a year to craft the blissed-out ‘Wild Things’ with producer Tommy English (Børns, Tiësto, Dark Waves), whom she met through her L.A. neighbor, tattoo artist/musician Kat Von D. “I think I went even more synthy and poppy this time around,” Brown says of the buoyant ‘Wild Things.’ “I feel good for the first time in 10 years. I have a clear mind! I have a wife. I feel stable. That is what I’m celebrating.”"

Available from early June, the record is available to pre-order as part of different signed collector's bundles from Ladyhawke's official online shop, with international options even including limited edition shoelaces and a USB memory stick in the shape of Pip herself! In the UK, the long player will also be accompanied by a tour at the same time to help promote the album.

If you may be interested in a Ladyhawke apéritif, you can learn more about her musical past, impressive mastery of multiple instruments, influences and other interests in an archived in-depth feature / live review on the R*E*P*E*A*T website. But now, here's a recent chat that I had with the super lovely and beautiful songstress after I called Pip via Skype (on April 19), at her Los Angeles home. An interview in which she discusses her long-awaited return to music, her creative process, how making Wild Things helped her to become much more confident in the recording studio, how she feels that she's now really starting to come into her own as a songwriter, and, so much more...

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1. Your press release outlines how you "scrapped a full album’s worth of material before taking around a year to craft the blissed-out Wild Things," and how you were also conscious of the length of time that you'd been away from the music scene. But is the build-up to releasing a new record still as exciting for you, and what's the meaning behind the LP's title?
"It is still as exciting, yeah, and I wanted to name the album after one of the songs, because that just sort of felt right and the name seemed appropriate you know? It's really hard to explain, but I guess it's the abandonment of youth that you have when you're young – you do whatever you want and don't even care about the consequences! So, I think that was the essence of what helped me to write this record, those experiences and realising all of the stuff that you've done in your life (laughing)!"

2. I know that the material you rejected was due to the fact that you felt it was "far too dark and wasn't giving you goosebumps." But what was the first song that you wrote for Wild Things and did this motivate you + set the tone for the rest of the long player, in terms of production or a 'checklist' of what you wanted the other tracks on the album to have?
"Yeah, I do remember that – the first song that I wrote was Wonderland. I did the album with Tommy English, he produced it, and after we'd recorded Wonderland we were just listening back to it and that was the song when I knew that was 'it'. I was like, "Great," and I felt so happy (excitedly)! I left the session feeling really positive and I just knew that that was the beginning of the album, and that it was going to come quite naturally after that."

3. Some songwriters will deliberately force themselves to write every day, believing that "music breeds its own inspiration," whereas others prefer to not be so regimented and allow songwriting to happen naturally. What's your approach?
"I can't write music when I'm working an album (pausing), I've finished the album now and I'm in the process of doing all of the promo for it and I'm about to tour. So I find that I can't ever write when I'm in that process, because I'm so fixated on the music that I've already written. But I quite like writing just on my own terms you know? I have a studio set-up at my house – just a basic one – and I like walking in and just messing around and not putting any pressure on myself, saying that it's not for anything in particular, it's just for fun. Also, to better my skills as well. You know, I try to do lots of different things, like learn Logic (music software) and make myself quicker at it – all that sort of stuff. Then, if I want to work with someone, like my producer Tommy, that's something I had to set up, so I had to reach out to him and ask him if he had time. So, it's a mixture really, but it definitely doesn't happen when I'm promoting my current album. It's usually in-between times that I write songs."

4. Whether knowing what they're going to do first or even using music and words that they've had stored away, the creative process is approached in countless different ways by songwriters, although there's a sage adage which applies to all: "Songwriting is like fishing in a stream; you put in your line and hope that you catch something." But when you've 'caught' a song, do you try to finish writing it in one siting so that you're still connected to the lyric, or do you purposely come away from the track and revisit it afresh?
"I'll quite often do the music first and finish all of that, then I'll go away from it and have the mp3 of just the music and listen to it over-and-over in my head. Then, I'll go back into the studio and write the lyrics and the melody and record that. So yeah, I don't often sit down and complete a song in one go, I'll usually finish all of the music and go away and come back to the lyrics and melody another day."

5. Prior to entering the recording studio, some artists / bands purposely prefer not to make demos as they feel that they can become too attached to them. Even acknowledging how they find it liberating to not always use instrumentation or record ideas, and simply let their imagination run free by describing to a producer exactly how they want a song to be arranged and to end up sounding. So, with this in mind, I wondered if you make demos as a sonic guide?
"I never go into the studio with half-ideas – I know loads of people do that and loads of my friends do that, but that's just not how I've ever worked. I like going in with a completely clean slate and making something in the moment, so that it's not something that I've had time to over-think, which I tend to do. So yeah, I'll go into a studio and we'll make what's technically called a 'demo', but we end up using (pausing), every song on my record is the 'demo' essentially, but it's been polished-up and mixed properly (laughing)."

6. Do you think of different keys as different colours?
"When I hear music, or if I've been creating a song, I get a colour palette in my head..."
*I ask Pip if that's what is known as 'Synesthesia' – a condition which Charli XCX also has*
"I'm not sure, but I've always just had that. Like with Wonderland, the first song that I did, I could see pinks and really warm tones and that was why I knew I was going in a good direction!"

7. I know that you hold music dear to your heart which has a "happy-sad" vibe. But, do you have a favourite happy song and a favourite sad song + with so many people speaking of how 'great art can come from great sadness', which do you find easier to write – can emotional turmoil help?
"For a favourite happy song and a favourite sad song (thinking)... Oh God, my mind is completely blank – like, I've had 3 coffees this morning (laughs heartily)! Sorry, I can't even think and I'm really bad at being put on the spot. In terms of emotional turmoil helping me to write though, yeah, but with this record I chose not to draw from it. I wanted to use those experiences as an opportunity to move on and create something more positive, that wasn't reflecting on the bad stuff. Because my second album (Anxiety) was quite a tortured record and I felt tormented as a person. I'm very proud of that album, but it makes me feel sad for myself back then you know? Like when I hear the music, it just reminds me of all the stuff that I was feeling. So this time round, I really wanted to not draw from the pain, I wanted to just focus on the positive aspects and the good things that came out of everything, as opposed to the bad stuff."

8. When looking back over their careers, a number of songwriters have talked of how they can't even remember writing specific songs at the time, because they let the lyrics / music guide them and followed their muse. But, do you ever consciously change the way that you write tracks, i.e. have you set out to evoke a 'feeling' rather than adhering to traditional verse / chorus song structures?
"Not as Ladyhawke, but that is something that I'm open to. In the past, for other projects and for other bands that I was in, I would do that sort of stuff all the time. I haven't yet delved into that as Ladyhawke, but it's something that I'm interested in and I would totally be open to doing something like that in the future."

9. Is it important to you to actively seek out new topics for lyrical content? For example, Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers, Brett Anderson from Suede and Brian Molko from Placebo, all constantly relish immersing themselves in literature – reading as many different books as possible, as often as possible – to continuously satiate their need to spark fresh ideas for lyrics.
"No, I've never really done anything like that, I just sort of listen to the music and the lyrics come depending on however I'm feeling – they just sort of pop into my head. I mean, that would probably be quite a good idea to read more books (laughing). I should probably do something like that!"

10. Are there any lyricists who you think always come up with intriguing subject matter in their tracks?
"Bowie (without any hesitation), I love Bowie's words! I also like Kurt Cobain, how dark he is in his lyrics – but I also loved how he was obsessed with pop music. That's not something that people often think of when they think of Kurt Cobain, but I always thought that it really came through in the way that he wrote songs and the way that he wrote lyrics as well, his sort of mood patterns. That was quite influential on me when I was a teenager."

11. Would you intentionally change your lyrics if you felt that they were too personal or revealing?
"Oh, I definitely conceal personal lyrics and I quite often use a lot of metaphors. A lot of my lyrics are pure fantasy, like stories that I've made up and I'm maybe drawing from something that is vaguely the truth you know? Because I sometimes feel (pausing), it is quite exposing when you write something that's really personal and it's hard to sort of let people in that close. So, I'm always quite careful the way I word things."

12. Given the chance, are there any lyrics that you would now like to rewrite?
"Everything that I complete, is how I want it to be. If I don't like something, then I get rid of it – I trash it. I do toil over things, like I'll listen to a song and think, "Is there anyway that I can fix this or better it?" If I love it though and even if it's a silly word, like, "That doesn't quite make sense but it sounds really cool," or if it has a cool rhythm to it, I'll leave it in."

13. Do you write away from music, such as poetry or short stories etc?
"I really used to when I was younger, but my Sister is BRILLIANT at writing stories – she just writes so many short stories and they're all amazing! She definitely got that part of the gene and I got the songwriting gene (laughs heartily)!"

14. If the opportunity ever arose, would you like to collaborate with a cherished author or lyricist on a song, whereby you would provide the music for their words?

"Ooh (thinking)... Actually, it would be quite cool to write music to The Doors Of Perception by Aldous Huxley, because he wrote that while he was on mescaline. So (giggling), it would be interesting to write a soundtrack to accompany that book."

15. Just out of curiosity, do you class yourself as a musician, as a songwriter, as a singer – or as all three – and did you sing prior to playing any instruments?
"Well, my whole life I always called myself a musician and I never, ever called myself a singer! I still struggle to call myself a singer, but I have to get over that (laughing). But in the last 4-years probably, I think, I've been quite proud of how far I've come as a songwriter. Because just personally, I can see that I've matured a bit in the way that I write songs and I'm way more comfortable in the studio. I sort of feel freer to create ideas. So now, I would consider myself as equally a songwriter as I am a musician!"

16. Would you say that you have an ear for music / that you could pick out and play a tune just from hearing it?
"Totally (enthusiastically)! When I had a guitar as a kid, I would listen to anything like Hendrix or whatever I was into at the time, like The Beatles. I would get my guitar and on the lowest string, I would slide my finger to where the bass note matched the sound on the CD, or the tape, or whatever it was that I was listening to. Then, I would try and figure out how to play the chord to match it (laughing)! But still to this day, I don't know the names of heaps of chords (laughing), because I was just sort of learning that way, 'by ear'."
*I say to Pip, that I think a lot of famous guitar players grew up doing the same thing, even re-watching / pausing video clips of guitarists on TV, to see the exact position of their hand on the guitar neck and what their fingers were doing on the frets*
"Yeah, yeah, exactly!"

17. When writing and recording, a lot of musicians explain how although their internal critical voice comes into play, they also know when they need to take other people's opinions onboard. However, with hindsight, certain creative decisions made at the time can later prove to perhaps not have been the right ones after all, and sadly, can even be detrimental to some artists' careers. But, for you personally, do you feel that taking chances and possibly making 'interesting mistakes' with your music, is important to your long-term development?
"Ooh... Well, I feel like my whole second album is like that (laughing)! I had a certain vision that I wanted for the record (pausing), I created it with Pascal Gabriel – he's such an amazing guy and a great friend – and he knew that I was in a dark place and he knew that my vision was quite dark as well, but he just went along with it. I had a lot of ideas that were quite dark, and at the time, I was like, "I don't think this is going to be the best move for me, but I'm doing it anyway!" In hindsight, I'm really grateful that I did that whole record, because I feel like it's something that I needed to express, like a different side of myself and it really helped me move on. It's quite cathartic making something like that and getting it out of your system, and I know that when I'm older and I look at my albums all in a row, in order, I'll see a pattern and they'll all make sense."

18. In terms of 'Art vs. Commerce', do you ever consider the commerciality that a song has?
"I just write the song and I can never really (pausing), I love hooks, like, I love a good hook and I love a good vocal hook – that's one of my favourite things and I love creating that! But, I never know in the moment if what I think is a great hook, other people will think is a great hook. So me and Tom, when we were making this album, we were sort of in our own little world making all of these songs and we loved them, we were excited, but we hadn't played them to anybody. And it wasn't until we saw other people's reactions that we thought (excitedly), "We've done something quite cool!""

19. In the past, as an emerging talent, you were candidly open about your worries of having to deal with the more unpleasant sides of The Record Business and the music press. But, do you think things such as established artists giving local groups the chance to support them when they play in their city or town, Foals' business talk for young musicians and more recently, music shops giving free music lessons as part of 'Learn To Play Day', are all positive opportunities for budding artists?
"Yeah, totally and all of those things are so great (excitedly)! Because music has been in my life since I was a little kid and I was lucky enough to have (pausing), my Mum has always been very musical, she played guitar and piano and she's got a lovely singing voice, so I was always around that. My Stepdad is a Jazz drummer and he taught me drums when I was 11, so I just think it's so important if a kid has an interest in music, that it needs to be nurtured. There's just something so expressive about music, that it's a great way to (pausing), I think when you're a teenager and you're going through all of those conflicting emotions and hormones and stuff. Playing music is one of the best ways to get your frustrations out and it's a good way to distract yourself as well, to give yourself something else to do and have something really cool to focus on. So, I think that's really important to give young musicians as many opportunities as possible, be it support slots, talks or kids getting free music lessons – that's AMAZING!"

20. As there's a much greater need for acts to tour nowadays – especially as this has become the main source of income for a lot of professional musicians and is what enables them to reinvest in their art – I wondered if life on the road (and all of the emotional / physical demands that it entails) has changed for you over the years?
"Not drinking alcohol anymore is definitely a huge part of what's going to be different for me when I tour, but for positive reasons you know, like I'm not going to wake-up feeling like crap and I'm just going to feel better all round. All I have to worry about now, is battling the tiredness, which gets so intense sometimes. I just came back to LA after a few weeks in New Zealand and Australia doing promo, and I got so exhausted, I thought I was dying (laughing). I thought I had some deathly illness and I went to the doctor and she said, "You're just really tired." I thought, "God, I need to figure out a way to combat the tiredness." So, that's my thing now, I need to work out how to cope with that when I'm on tour."

21. When onstage, do you know that everything will come together when you perform a particular track live?
"I think Magic always gets a really good response and I usually open my set with that song. I love the synthy intro coming in really big and strong, and that usually gets the crowd going! My last song is always My Delirium, I try to always end on that (laughing)."
*I mention that I've seen Ladyhawke play live on numerous occasions over the years, so I know how Pip tends to structure her set list*
"Yeah (giggling), I'm quite a creature of habit really (laughs heartily)!"

22. Once you've completed a record, I know that you won't listen to it again. But as a music fan, are there any famous – or revered – classic albums that you've never heard?

"That's a really great question, and yeah, there probably is (thinking)... When you start thinking about things like that though, you realise how many albums you've actually listened to (laughing)! They're spread all over your life these records... I can't think, but I know there would be something (thinking)... Maybe King Crimson – and I love their artwork, they've got great album artwork, it's really, really, really trippy! That's the first thing that sort of popped into my head."

23. Is there a song that you can't wait to hear each time you put on a treasured LP, and if you could have any long player in your entire record collection fully-autographed by the artist / band who made it, which one would you choose?
"I would have LOVED to have had Hunky Dory signed by David Bowie! The funny thing is, I always thought of Bowie as a friend and I'd never even met him, but I always had this weird sense that I'd meet him. I was like, "I'm sure I'm going to meet him one day – I'm sure I'm going to!" I was so gutted when he died, I cried and cried and cried. So that's what I'd pick, because also, in terms of a song that I can't wait to hear, I just love Hunky Dory from start to finish!"

24. The way in which you present Ladyhawke has consistently been multidimensional, with your record sleeves almost acting as a lens for listeners to view your music through, so that they can fully-absorb themselves in a complete audio / visual and multisensory experience. But can you tell us more about your new approach to album artwork with Wild Things, as aesthetically, you've now moved away from using illustrations on your covers?
"I worked with Sarah Larnach again, who's done all of my artwork in the past, and we sort of came up with this concept where we wanted it to look like a classic album cover, but with a modern edge to it you know? So we had all of these references, like old photos of Blondie and Debbie Harry and really cool old pictures of women with really cool t-shirts. So we came up with the idea of Sarah designing a t-shirt for me, that looked like I was wearing a band t-shirt of a band called Wild Things. Then we got my friend, Jenn, to photograph it – I went to London last year and she did the photoshoot. I picked that picture because I like the way that I was looking down, like you don't really know where I'm looking (laughing). That was sort of the intent behind it anyway. There's going to be lots of different coloured vinyl as well I think, and I know that here in the States, they're doing marbled vinyl which I'm really excited about!"
*I tell Pip that I've pre-ordered a signed album from her official online shop and also remark that I think the sleeve is really beautiful*
"Ahh, thank you!"

25. Lastly, what do you most enjoy about living in Los Angeles, and what do you most miss about New Zealand?
"I think at the top of my favourite list for LA, is the weather! Like, I'm looking out of the window right now and it's just perfect blue sky and there aren't any clouds, so that's really, really, really good for me, because I love being in the sunshine and seeing blue sky! Another thing that I love about LA, is that I've lived here for 3-years and I'm still discovering new things, like cool restaurants to go to that I never knew even existed. It's such a big, sprawling city and it reminds me of a giant suburb, because where all of the skyscrapers and big buildings are, that's downtown and you don't really go there as it's a bit grimy and a bit scary at night. But the rest of it is all like a big, sprawling suburb which is one of my favourite things you know, because I'm a small-town girl. What I miss most about New Zealand I think, is just my family really. My Niece is just over 1-and-a-half and we Skype and stuff, so she recognises me, but I hate that I don't get to see her grow up. So, those are the big things that I miss, but I think I'll move back eventually."

A very special thanks to Pip, and to Kate @ Toast Press, for all of their time and help.

"One Life Here With Me And It's Magic"

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?