[MUSIC: Interview] Ladyhawke
When Anxiety Attacks
By Alasdair Duncan
Pip Brown would like you to know that she’s feeling alright. People have been inquiring about this a lot lately – ever since the New Zealand singer, otherwise known as Ladyhawke, revealed that she had chosen the album title Anxiety as a reflection of her own state of mind. Some chose to interpret the title as a cry for help, but she tells me that this was definitely not the case. “I have quite bad anxiety and everyone around me knows it, to the point where it’s accepted that it’s just the way I am,” she says. “It actually became a running joke in the lead-up to this album. The label kept calling me, asking what the album title was going to be, so finally I said, ‘It’s going to be called Anxiety, okay? Get off my back!’ I said that as a bit of a joke, but I realised I actually really liked it. I didn’t realise the effect it would have until much later – people are on the phone to me all concerned asking, ‘Are you okay?’” she says with a cheeky laugh. “I’m just thinking, ‘Ohh shit, what have you done?’”
When you hear Anxiety for the first time, you may be surprised – the vocals are still as beguiling and the hooks just as effortlessly catchy as on Ladyhawke’s 2008 self-titled debut, but the synths, a key element of that album’s sound, have been replaced by guitars. Brown says that the switch largely comes down to the two years she spent touring her debut, and the attachment she developed to her guitar throughout that time. “I did an awful lot of touring after the first album came out, and all the travelling really takes it out of you,” she says. “You start to feel like a ghost. I found that I loved having my guitar on stage with me. It’s almost like a security blanket, something I can hold on to. I decided I wanted there to be more guitar for me to play on the second album, and more pedals for me to push, so I made sure it happened like that.”
The blissfully fuzzed-out sound of Anxiety is a result of Brown’s new-found love of effects pedals. “I wouldn’t say I have a huge collection or anything like that,” she says, “but when making the album, I became really obsessed with pedals and what they can do.” Going into the studio, Brown was determined to get her hands on a Big Muff pedal, of the kind Mudhoney famously used. “I went on eBay and got my hands on one, but [it’s] from the ‘70s – and it’s just far too precious to play live! I can use it in the studio, but I can’t take it on the road with me for fear of it breaking.” So she bought a backup pedal for touring, a slightly smaller ‘80s model that’s not as prone to breaking – although it will doubtless be getting a workout in the months to come. There’s a lot of touring on Ladyhawke’s agenda. “Well, I just finished a three-week tour of the UK on Friday, and now I’m doing the big build-up before the album comes out, interviews and photo shoots and all that kind of stuff – and then I’m coming back down to Australia! I was just saying to my tour manager that I really feel like me and my band have been spoilt by Australian crowds. They’re just so rowdy, they’re a really good audience to play to,” she says. “I take every opportunity I can get to come to Australia, I really look forward to coming back. After that, I’m off to the States, then to the UK and Europe – so yes, it’s turning into a busy year for me.”
It’s impossible to predict the future of course, but Brown reckons that the third Ladyhawke album will come a lot more easily than the second. “From the minute that Anxiety was finished, I could feel in my bones that the third one would be easier,” she says. “It may not be easier in the sense of songwriting, but I just feel like it’s not going to be as stressful. I really needed to take time off after the first album, because I did so much touring for so long that it got to be really intense. I needed to take time off after that, and I think I disappeared a little too far down the second album hole, and took too much notice of what people were saying to me. People kept asking about the Difficult Second Album, which is a concept I wasn’t even that aware of, but I kept dwelling on it until it turned out to be true. I don’t know – I mean, I may regret saying this, because the third album may prove to be impossible. But I hope not.”
I’ve heard Pip Brown is a collector of old-school video-game consoles, and can’t help but ask if it’s true. “That is true,” she says. “I’ve been obsessed with games since I was a little kid.” Taking the opportunity to revel in a shared nerdish delight, I ask what some of her favourites are. “Well, with me at the moment I have a Nintendo Super Scope, still in its box. The cartridge that comes with it is six games you can use the Super Scope with. I have a couple of Sega Master Systems at home, and an original NES in its box, packaged up with Super Mario Brothers. I have a Mega Drive and a Nintendo 64, a SNES… so much stuff. Lots of the guns in their boxes, and heaps of games. I get really into collecting them – it gets ridiculous.” Right now, her sights are set on obtaining a Vectrex console, a relic of the early ‘80s. “I really want one of those, but they’re impossible to find – and if you did find it, it would never be in its box. It came with these funny acetate things you had to slot in the front, and the problem is they tend to split and crack. I’m trying to find one in good condition, but it’s really hard.” I promise her I’ll put this in my article, and she squeals with delight. “I’d love that! I want one of those so badly!”
With all pretence of music talk out the window now, I ask Brown if she keeps her toys in their boxes, or takes them out and plays. “Oh yeah,” she says, “not yet, but as soon as I get my gaming room set up in my house, that shit is coming out of its box and I’m going to play! I’m really excited about this room I’m going to make…” By this point, I’m excited too – and all I really want to do is fly to New Zealand and play Duck Hunt with Ladyhawke for the rest of my life.
What: Anxiety is out now on Modular/Universal
Where: The Metro Theatre
When: Wednesday July 18
Posted: June 5th, 2012 under Brag 465 (June 4), Feature Music, Music, Music - Interview, New.
Tags: Alasdair Duncan, Anxiety, interview, Ladyhawke, Metro Theatre, Music, Music Feature, Pip Brown, The Metro Theatre