Calling in from London, Pip Brown is one sick Lady(Hawke). Brown apologises profusely, “I have been sick for the last few days and I’m still a bit under the weather today but nowhere near as bad as yesterday.”
“I had a fever and was all hot and cold and that stuff,” she says. Despite being crook, the New Zealand sensation still manages to be sweet and ingratiating. This is no mean feat, especially when you look at her gruelling schedule of writing and recording; as well as an upcoming tour kicking off in July in support of her new album Anxiety; it is easy to understand why the poor woman needs a rest.
The Ladyhawke juggernaut at first rumbled gently, before turning into an all-out roar in 2008. For a whole summer and beyond, it was impossible to turn on the radio without hearing “My Delirium” or “Paris Is Burning” from her self-titled debut album.
While the buzz surrounding her grew, Brown had little time to revel in it. In fact, she may have been the last to know of the attention Ladyhawke was receiving both at home and offshore. “I was touring the whole time so I didn’t really notice,” she confirms, “I was playing shows in front of ten people and really low bill festival things, then it slowly built up from being bottom of the bill.”
As word spread, the sparsely attended UK gigs gradually became bigger and bigger until Brown herself could not help but notice. “I really just couldn’t believe that I was standing onstage in front of 2,000 people that I had sold out myself. From twenty people in Nottingham to 2,000 people in London, it was crazy,” says Brown.
While it was the synth tinged pop of her self-titled debut that initially hooked fans, it’s follow-up, Anxiety, sees Brown strap on her guitar to deliver a distinctly rock-hued album. “From the word go I never thought of myself as being a ‘one genre’ sounding artist.
“After all the touring and stuff I knew I wasn’t going to make that album (Ladyhawke) over again,” she continues, “I wanted to try something a little bit darker. I remember I said that to my record label in the UK and they thought I meant something like PJ Harvey… I absolutely love her but I didn’t mean that at all. I was like “no, no, I mean dark as in lyrical dark, not everything dark!” laughs Brown.
Unsurprisingly, the singer’s influences while making Anxiety bounce comfortably from flamboyant seventies rock to nineties grunge, and when she names her listening material it is easy to see why. “It isn’t really anything new”, she explains. “A lot of David Bowie, Garbage, Nirvana, Pixies- all of that sort of stuff.”
Upping the rock n roll pedigree of Anxiety, Brown once again teamed up with producer Pascal Gabriel. After mostly fruitless attempts at beginning the album, Brown relocated to Provence, in the south of France at Gabriel’s suggestion. “I ended up recording most of the album [there]… Pascal said ‘why don’t you come to my place in France? It is in the middle of nowhere and we have a spare room that is all yours and there is a studio directly upstairs.’ So that is how all of that happened,” Brown details.
Considering the idyllic images a stint in the south of France may conjure up, the album’s title was a direct reflection of the journey Brown took to complete it. “It was a bit of everything really. It was a bit of me poking fun at myself, I was joking for a long time that I was going to call the album Anxiety just because everyone knows I’m super anxious.”
“Then I ended up writing a song called “Anxiety,” says Brown, “at the end of the album process I [thought] “I may as well call the album Anxiety” because it really felt like it summed up the whole process.”
While Australian and New Zealand audiences get to enjoy her second record a full week before fans across the pond, Brown is impatient for her adopted homeland (having lived in London since September of last year) and the rest of the world to hear it, “It’s driving me nuts! I want it to be out everywhere.”
As for where Brown sees Anxiety sitting on a CD shelf stylistically, she pauses for a long time before laughing, “It wants to go sit at the cool lunch table!” More pregnant pauses, before she carefully answers “I’d like it to sit next to Beck’s Odelay, The White Stripes White Blood Cells, maybe ELO? I can’t think- my mind’s gone blank!”
As the interview winds down, it is too tempting not to ask Brown what she thinks about the televised singing competitions bombarding the airwaves (here’s looking at you, The Voice) with butchered versions of formerly good songs. As expected, she isn’t a fan, but not for the reasons you may think.
Brown very diplomatically answers “I haven’t actually watched The Voice yet. I don’t like them (reality singing competitions) very much but it is not because I’m a music snob or anything, I just get horribly embarrassed and I cringe. Not just during shows like that but reality shows where people pull pranks on each other… I have to cover my eyes. I always hate when the judges are mean to people and they look like their heart has been ripped out.”
Sounds like something Brown would be anxious about…
Anxiety is available now through Universal and Ladyhawke will head out on a national tour in July. Full dates and details here.