I have officially lost count of how many times I’ve listened to Hatchie’s Sugar & Spice EP (out now on Double Double Whammy), which has been on heavy rotation in my headphones all summer long. It’s nineteen minutes of pure dream pop bliss, and if you haven’t heard it, I’d strongly suggest downloading it ASAP.
Known as Harriette Pilbeam in her non-musical day to day life, the Australian artist cruised through our neck of the woods earlier this month, but she’s back in NYC to play three nights of shows (9.26, 9.27 + 9.28) at Warsaw starting tomorrow, plus will be posting up at Baby’s All Right for an evening next week (10.2). In advance of the gigs, we had a chance to get caught up over the phone to talk about this whirlwind of a year (which has been full of much-deserved attention for Hatchie), misconstrued lyrics (they’re not all love songs, you guys), growing into leadership roles, avoiding early pigeonholing, practicing gratitude and more!
Internet-eavesdrop on our full chat below, grab tickets to see her live if you can (all Warsaw shows are already sold out, but there is still hope for Baby’s if you act fast), and I repeat, GET HIP TO SUGAR & SPICE BECAUSE IT IS REAL REAL REAL GOOD!
This has been a SUPER busy year for you in general, but how’s your summer (or, Australian winter I guess) been?
It’s been really good! It’s been nice to have an extra summer; we left right in the middle of [Australian] winter, and the weather here is a lot nicer. We’ve just done so much touring! It feels like the year has gone by incredibly quickly. I don’t know, I’m still kind of in shock about how quickly everything’s happened this past year, but it’s been nothing but positive experiences.
That’s what it sounds like! And of course that’s the ideal scenario, but has it been overwhelming at all? Do you have any tips for someone who might find themselves bombarded by a similar amount of attention in the future?
I don’t know. I guess I’d have tips for touring, you know, not getting too stressed out, taking everything as it comes. I’d also say takes lots of time for yourself, and make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well as everyone else. In bigger terms, the other main thing I’ve learnt is just to really appreciate every moment, every positive thing that happens. Any time something negative happens, or you don’t get something you’re going for, just remember how much you’ve achieved already, and how much more is to come. I like to have a look at the positive side of everything. I have spent years in other bands where I’ve kind of focused on the negative things, and everything that’s not happening, and in doing that I made the experience kind of worse for myself. So I’m really all about gratitude and taking everything as it comes these days.
Absolutely, that’s smart. And since you mentioned some of the other bands you’ve been in, how’ve you found the shift going from being more a member of the team to actually leading up the helm of this project?
It’s been cool. It was a bit scary at first – I’m really indecisive, and I’m definitely not a born leader. I often ask people for advice or get help with things, which I have no shame in admitting, but it’s definitely been a bit of a learning curve. It’s been cool being able to make a lot of decisions myself, or with just one other person. I feel like everything happens a lot quicker because of that, because you’re not trying to please a million different people, not constantly pulling and pushing in different directions to come to a compromise. Which is fine, and there’s still a little bit of that, but I think I’ve learnt how to grow into the leadership position. It’s been a big change for me as I’ve been more of a follower in the past. It’s been cool.
That’s good to hear! You’ve also received some really flattering comparisons to legendary acts (the Cranberries, Cocteau Twins, etc.) regarding the sound of this project; I’m sure all of them have felt really good to hear, but I read in a few interviews that you were hoping to avoid being boxed in to any specific parameters. Do you think that gets harder when you are (for better or worse) sometimes described by this kind of peer comparison? Or does it feel more difficult to stake your own claim?
It’s been pretty crazy. Honestly, every time I get a reference like that I’m chuffed, but I’m shocked. I feel like I don’t deserve…well, I mean, for example – when people compare me to Cocteau Twins, they spent so many years finding their sound, and I’ve kind of just come along and taken a few elements of that, and I feel like I don’t deserve to be compared to so many cool, established artists. With my upcoming album that I’ve been working on, I’ve tried to branch out a bit so that I’m not just putting myself in a corner or pigeonholing myself. I think maybe the first EP was a little in danger of doing that, and I feel like if I were to do that over again with this album, it would just solidify my sound so early on. Which isn’t a bad thing, but I kind of want to expand my sound and grow as an artist now, before I get stuck. It’s been interesting to hear the comparisons, though. I enjoy it, especially if someone brings up an artist I hadn’t thought of before. It’s like, “Oh wow, you’re right! It does kind of sound like that. I didn’t mean it to, but I’m happy to be compared to that.”
Tell me a little bit more about the branching out aspect. You’ve talked about this before, not wanting to limit your lyrics to the subject of love, which I completely understand. BUT, and I know this is potentially annoying to bring up since it feels like it will almost never be a thing people let go of, do you feel more pressure to diversify in that way being a female artist? Because let’s be real – a dude could write three thousand albums of just love songs, and no one would bat an eyelash about it.
Totally, yeah. I think I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself, especially a couple of months ago when I was doing a lot of writing. I kind of drove myself a bit crazy, and at the moment I’m trying to step away from caring about what other people expect of me and what they think my music should sound like, just doing what I want to do for the sake of my mentality and the sound of the music. I think it’s best just doing what I want to do and not trying to follow other people’s cues in that regard. And it is a funny balancing act as a woman with that lyrical content, like you were saying. But actually, I didn’t even realize until I was looking back on the EP that it really did sound like it was all about love. I’ve had a couple of songs that actually aren’t about love, they just sound like they are, and people have been quite quick to presume that they are. When I wrote “Sleep”, it wasn’t about anyone in particular, it was just about a concept of not being able to communicate with someone and wishing you could just communicate with them in their sleep. I guess some of the lyrics, especially the bridge about someone having the same feelings as you, make it sound like it’s a love song. But it was never meant to be when I wrote the lyrics. It just kind of came together that way. I do think it’s important for me as a role model to younger people, not just women, to not just write about love, even though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I don’t know, it’s all a learning process, and I’m still kind of figuring it out.
That’s totally fair. Well, now that you’ve mentioned writing lyrics, how long have you been at that? Like, obviously not just for this project, but even going back to childhood maybe – do you remember the first songs or even poems you ever wrote?
Yeah, I had a bit of a go at writing songs when I was in my early teens and started learning guitar, so that was probably thirteen to seventeen. But all of those were terrible. And I knew at the time they were terrible – it wasn’t even like looking back I realized they weren’t great, I knew at the time. I was like, “This sucks! This is so lame, no one can ever see these or hear these.” But I hadn’t really experienced anything yet, you know? Like I hadn’t even had a crush on a guy properly, and I hadn’t really been through anything else that was particularly amazing or terrible, so there was nothing for me to write about. My teen years were just really, really boring. Things didn’t really click for me until I was eighteen or nineteen, and I was in another band at the time and was trying to write lyrics for that project.
What’s your process like? Have you got one more or less established at this point, or is it a work in progress, aka it’s constantly changing?
Usually (these days, anyway) I like to sit down at my computer, and I start recording from the moment I start writing. Writing a song and recording a demo are kind of one and the same for me at the moment, especially because I am leaning towards an album, and I kind of want every idea I have to be recorded in case I need to come back to it, or if I want to make three different ideas work together, then I can do that. (I guess that’s more of a pop way of writing when it comes to mixing a few different songs together.) But in the past, I’ve kind of just sat down with the guitar and written a full song that way, then recorded it later. It kind of changes for me, and I think that’s a good thing, because I get really bored. Or if I stick with a certain way of writing, sometimes I end up writing the same sorts of songs. I just want to change it up, so I’m trying a bunch of different things at the moment.
What do you find to be the scariest and/or most challenging about all of the different things you do with this project?
Let me think about it…well, I guess I kind of touched before on how I’m not naturally a leader, and I rely on a lot of people’s help and confirmation of my ideas. So I think a lot of the decision-making, especially with creative ideas or artwork, is something that doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me. Music is the number one creative thing for me; I’m not really a visually creative person. I think I have good taste when other people show me their ideas, but I can’t come up with something like that myself. So that’s something that I’ve learnt a lot about, and I’m sure I will get better at it as time goes on, it just comes down to being indecisive I think.
And obviously everyone has an opinion these days, it’s not even like a select few people are offering up those thoughts. That’s not to say you value or take seriously every single random opinion, but do you pay much attention to social media and all of that sort of thing? Because that can get exhausting in terms of how it relates to creative endeavors.
I think I’m paying less and less attention to it, which is good, especially for my mental health. I know that in the early days for this project it was like, every little thing that got posted I’d see. I was reading reviews, reading back interviews that I’d done, and I guess now I don’t pay as much attention to that stuff since it was driving me a bit crazy. I would focus too much on what I’d done wrong, so I try to stay away from it for the most part now. In terms of Instagram and Facebook, I guess I am still pretty online with those things. It’s hard, because when you’re on tour there’s so much waiting around in airports and in the car, you know? There’s not much to do except scroll. When I’m at home and living a normal life, though, I try to be offline most of the time.
Well, speaking of you being back at home and leading a normal existence, what’s the sort of immediate plan after this stretch of dates wraps up?
We’re going home the first couple of days of October, and then we’ve got a few shows here and there in Brisbane, Sydney, places like that. At the end of the month we’re doing a few more shows, going to London and Paris, and then we’ll do more recording in December. It’ll be like a second batch of songs for my album, which, provided we finish recording by the end of this year, should be out next year and we’ll hopefully be doing a lot more touring around that. Other than that, there’s not so much planned – we’re kind of just looking forward to starting fresh.
Featured photo by Alex Wall