Ladyhawke is happy, and there should be no surprise as to why. Her latest album Anxiety, released in May, has opened to positive reactions across the globe, and she has been touring worldwide since April.
This is a relief, as the last time Ladyhawke, born Pip Brown, toured, feelings of anxiety and nervousness began to crop up. “After that first record, I toured for two years. When I finished touring, when the whole cycle was over, it was 2010. It was quite a long time of touring. When I finished, I was so exhausted and I felt like any music was not going to happen. I felt a bit brain dead, and I went back to new Zealand, hung out with my family, and decided not to go straight back to a new record. I couldn’t even pick up a guitar at that point, I was so tired I needed to take a massive step back from everything, and hang out with the family. Once I got started on the record, I got a flow going.”
Yet Brown still has mixed feeling about touring, explaining: “I get quite bad stage-fright, depending on where I am, and how nervous I am before a show. I always, before a show, look out, and if I’m nervous I’ll focus on someone in the back whose texting, or not listening, and think ‘Oh my god, he’s not enjoying himself,’ and I get really bummed out about it. It’s all in my head though, it’s not even real. Sometimes I’ll play a show and feel it was the worst show I’ve ever done, and my band will say, ‘Oh my god that was the best show we’ve ever done.’ So it’s weird, I really do notice people in the audience and it really shows sometimes.”
It may also be for this reason that she finds it difficult to write while on tour. “[On tour] I can’t really think about writing at all. The last tour was a big American tour, and I do feel that gave me a big injection of creativity. I felt really inspired to write, like I was ready to continue to be creative. That didn’t happen after the first record, where I was very uninspired.”
For Brown, song writing has to come naturally, or nothing will come of it. “I really try when I have these moments of being happy and excited, because you don’t always feel like that. So I take advantage of it when I can,” she explains.
This is part of the reason why Ladyhawke has toured with the same band for the past five years, using the same co-songwriter, Pascal Gabriel, whose home-studio she uses in preference to large studios which she describes as “too intimidating,”. Instead preferring her home surroundings as her “ideal scenario.”
“That’s a huge thing for me,” she elaborates. “That I’ve had the same band, same tour manager, same roadie. I love that familiarity. It’s comforting for me, like a support. They all get a chance to know me very well. We’re never shocked or surprised by anything we see, because we’ve all known each other for so long.” It is the presence of these familiar people, which have allowed Brown to go on extensive tours, despite the omnipresent feelings of anxiety and discomfort that touring creates for her.
Despite this apparent anxiousness on stage, she also feels that there are many positive aspects to going on the road. “I have a lot of fun all the time … You get to see the world, especially if you tour around America. You drive for the whole thing, so you get to see all the landscape; you get to see all these little backward towns. That’s the one part of touring I really enjoy, seeing all the different places, and collecting fridge magnets from every tour,” she laughs.
It is this nervousness on stage that her new record derives its title from; the appropriately named Anxiety deals with feelings that Brown encounters all too often. “I decided to call it Anxiety, because it’s sort of me poking fun of it myself. I can be very anxious before I play. [I can be] anxious on a treadmill, anxious in the studio, and particularly anxious making the second record. I’m not anxious all the time, but I do have my moments.”
Anxiety, while still being a pop record, is darker and more rock-influenced than her self-titled debut album. Brown however, is at odds with the general perception of the public as to what constitutes pop music. “I’ve always looked at pop-music as being really anything that is catchy. Metal can be pop. Metallica can be pop, for example. Some of them are super catchy, even though it’s metal. Nirvana is a great example of a grunge band that is also pop. Kurt Cobain was obsessed with pop like Abba and The Beatles, and it’s really reflected in his song writing. His songs are accessible to everyone because they are catchy, and catch emotions, and strike a nerve. Pop music can cross a broad spectrum of genres. The hook that appeals to people, I’ve always thought as pop music”.
Listening to her latest record, it is clear that Ladyhawke is breaking ground in pop music, combining influences from vastly different genres, whilst dealing with her own anxiety issues. One can only hope that she continues to channel these difficulties into creating an exciting and inspiring new kind of music.
Ladyhawke plays the Academy, Dublin, on November 6th. Anxiety is out now.