Two years is a long time to be on tour, but that’s what New Zealand-born Ladyhawke did between the release of her first album and the creation of her second – so no wonder the new one, out 4 June, is called Anxiety. We caught up with Ladyhawke, real name Phillipa ‘Pip’ Brown, to discuss her new musical horizons, zombies hands, allergies (of which she has many), computer games, dressing-up in men’s clothes and just who is in charge of her Wikipedia page (’cause that’s where we got the last bit from)?
How the devil are you?
“I’m good, really good actually.”
How’s your day been so far?
“It’s been really chilled out, it’s been nice sitting in this place where it’s just quiet. I love the quiet.”
How does a love of quiet work with being a noise-making musician?
“It’s funny, I forget about it from time to time. Touring feels like a routine, and I like having that routine, because I get into my special mode of doing things, and I know that when I go to a gig it’s only going to be loud for a certain period of time. What annoys me is when you’re sitting in a café and there’s loads of people talking, too many conversations for your brain to process.”
A little bit like when a new band has to endure everyone talking over their set?
“Totally. Total disinterest. My first year of touring as Ladyhawke was so disheartening. I did so many shows, which ended up being a good thing because I was working at it and getting better, there was always a couple of people in the crowd who are really excited about it, and they’ll go and tell their friends. Even if you’re in a room full of people who don’t give a shit, it’s likely there’s at least one or two who do.”
Does the album title Anxiety come from a personal place? You apparently have a lot if allergies, so does that make you quite anxious?
“I’m even allergic to aubergine! I went to a vegan café and ordered a soup with eggplant in, and I had no idea what it was, I had to ask my friend who thought I was insane. About 20 minutes after eating it I was really sick. That’s the problem, because of the dairy thing I have to eat vegan mostly, but most vegan things have aubergine in them. Like at least 75 percent of the time you order something vegan it’s going to have aubergine in it. It’s horrible.”
What else causes you anxiety?
“The whole process of making an album I guess. I’m quite an anxious person anyway, and it’ll come on without any warning sometimes. I’d been touring for two years and I thought I could just start writing straight away. I went into the studio and I was so exhausted from touring that I was just falling asleep all the time and I could barely move. I decided to take some time off before the next album, which is why it took so long to come out. During that time there was nothing for me to do. I was sat around just thinking, Man… I’ve got an album to make! and my friends would, innocently, say things like So how’s the album coming along? When’s it out? Ooh, second album curse! I thought my album was doomed to be shit because of this fabled second album curse that everyone keeps mentioning. Even people on the street would say it to me.”
How was that lengthy two year tour for you?
“There were some really awesome moments, though it was a lot of hard work. One of my fondest memories is Glastonbury in 2009, where I was playing on the John Peel Stage. I get quite nervous anyway, but with festivals it gets really nerve-wracking because of all the people. I was sitting in the little backstage cabin, peeking out to look at the crowd every now and then, but I couldn’t really see. As soon as I went on I was confronted by so many people, and I was completely overwhelmed. I was really happy, it was cool.”
Anxiety has more of a hard-edged rock feel to it than your debut, was that a concious move?
“I still wanted to make a pop record but this one felt like a natural move from the first album. I wanted to explore and experiment with new sounds, plus I’ve played in rock bands my whole life, where I was always the guitarist, never the singer, so I thought it’d be really cool to draw from some of that. I was in a crappy grunge band when I was in high school called Gel. I can barely say it it’s so embarrassing. It was so bad, all we played was Smashing Pumpkins covers. I think the first album had rocky elements to it, but after two years of touring I felt determined to do something that wasn’t just synths, you know, rock out for a bit and see what I can come up with.”
What’s the significance of the illustrated artwork? You’re face is on there a lot….
“I’ve never really thought about what people will think when they pick it up. I told my designer that my favourite album cover was The Beatles’ Revolver, and I thought that’d be a cool inspiration point, but she said it would be interesting to do something with my hair, put aspects of my personality into it, so there’s different pictures of me over the time that I’ve been Ladyhawke, and then there’s other stuff like zombie hands – because I love zombies – the wolf from Paris Is Burning, a snake, a cat’s claw, a Death’s Head moth… I think the Death’s Head moth is going to become a major theme with this album.”
As well as the animals, we’ve heard you’re also fascinated by computer games, is that true?
“I collect games consoles, I have ever since my family first rented our Sega Master System. It blew my mind, even though the first game was Paperboy, which used to piss me off because the dog would just run fast and fuck you up every time. Even before that I was playing stuff in arcades, saving up my money. I like modern games as well but there’s a certain magic about the old school ones.”
Would you ever release your own game? Health recently got to soundtrack Max Payne 3 so there appears to be more gaming/music crossovers
“I’d love to, but I wouldn’t want to to be some shit gimmicky thing, it’d have to be proper. It’d be a great job but I wouldn’t even know where to begin with it. I don’t know if it’d be music related or not, though…”
It’s also been noted you have a love of men’s clothing?
“See, that’s funny that that’s on my Wikipedia page, it’s like an 11 year-old has written it, it’s fucked. I keep trying to get it changed so all the stupid things are taken out, like once it said I was in a coma. I do like men’s clothing, but for no other reason than that it fits me better. I like men’s shirts, men’s shoes… I just like men’s style, actually. I’ve never been a girly girl though.”
Would you ever consider launching a male-influenced women’s clothing line then?
“Yeah that’s something I could definitely get into if I had the time! I have a bachelors degree in design so I reckon I could try my hand at it. I started off doing illustration, because my dream was to animate for Disney, working on their films. Pixar wasn’t really a thing back then, but I still wanted to work on their movies, more like the classic animation that you see when you’re growing up.”
For more head to Ladyhawkemusic.com.