Hatchie on Her New Album “Giving the World Away” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, July 20th, 2024  

Hatchie on Her New Album “Giving the World Away”

Beyond the Comfort Zone

Apr 22, 2022 Web Exclusive Photography by Lissyelle Bookmark and Share

Australian musician Harriette Pilbeam, aka Hatchie, like many artists, began to feel she might be approaching some sort of artistic existential crossroads as the global pandemic turned the world upside down. Would people have forgotten about her during the lockdown? Would she be able to maintain the momentum she’d established following her acclaimed debut album? Did she, musically, continue in the same vein or push herself out of her comfort zone and expand her sound into other areas?

“I mean music was obviously something I’d always wanted to do,” reflects Pilbeam. “My parents met when working in radio and I’d grown up with music. It was something I’d always had an interest in pursuing but I wasn’t really sure it was that realistic for a kid from Australia.”

After becoming a regular on the Brisbane music scene it was only when she put out a solo record as Hatchie (a family nickname) that things took off for her. “When I released my first track ‘Try’ it really surprised me how it blew up,” Pilbeam remembers. “I mean before that I’d been playing in bands for about seven years to pretty much exclusively Australian audiences so to have international blogs starting to write about me was amazing. And the fact that Triple J [Australia’s biggest alternative radio station] picked it up so quickly was crazy. We’d tried so hard to get their attention before in other bands and it rarely happened.”

After signing to Double Double Whammy and Heavenly Recordings, more singles followed, which all appeared on her sublime 2018-released Sugar and Spice EP, and she began performing to an international audience. In 2019 she then released her critically acclaimed debut album, Keepsake, and all was seemingly rosy in the world of Hatchie. Yet after the initial excitement subsided Pilbeam began to feel a sense of disconnection.

“I guess it took me a while to adjust to touring and being in the public eye, looking back. I think I had a bit of a delayed reaction to it all if I’m being honest,” she reasons. “I think there was a lot about my life a few years ago that I wasn’t really appreciating. I don’t know why but I used to really struggle to celebrate my achievements.”

However, the recent global pandemic allowed Pilbeam to step back and look at the bigger picture. Not being able to play live, which had been a big part of Hatchie, meant that Pilbeam went back to work in retail as the music industry ground to a halt. It gave her time to reflect and gain a sense of perspective about what she had previously achieved and a renewed sense of gratitude for being able to do what she does. Since becoming a solo artist she has also learnt to embrace opportunities and say “yes” to things far more than she used to. For example, when Pilbeam and her band were asked to open for Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue as part of her A Day on the Green performances in Perth, Hunter Valley, and Mt Cotton, Pilbeam’s initial reaction was one of confusion.

“I was like—why on earth have they asked us?” she laughs. “My immediate reaction was to say, ‘No, we are nowhere near at that level, we’re not exciting enough and we’ll just look stupid.’” Then again Pilbeam reasoned it would perhaps be even more stupid to turn down such a huge opportunity. “I’m glad we did say yes,” she enthuses, “because it turned out to be such a great experience and gave us an insight into what it takes to be an artist at that level. So now I’ve learnt to say yes a lot more these days and it’s been serving me well so far.”

Pilbeam decided she wanted her second album, Giving the World Away (out today on her new label, Secretly Canadian), to expand her sound and take things in different directions as well as allow herself to be open to things she may have previously turned down. For example, Pilbeam had resisted co-writing on her first outing. But this wasn’t down to her being against it per se or espousing the puritanical hypocrisy of Damon Albarn.

“What on earth was he thinking there?” laughs Pilbeam referring to Albarn’s recent outburst in the Los Angeles Times in which he dismissively claimed Taylor Swift didn’t write her own songs, and then when challenged by the interviewer said that “co-writing didn’t count.” “That was so random,” says Pilbeam, “of all the artists to single out! And didn’t he co-write his last album? At least he apologized when she called him out, although that might have been prompted by him being advised to rather than him meaning it.”

For Pilbeam being able to write her debut album on her own was something she felt she needed to prove to herself. “And I did it,” she smiles, “so this time around I was happy to look at other options, to work with people who could help push me out of my comfort zone and expand my sound for the greater good of the album. I mean we all have our strengths and weakness, for example, I’m not great at the production side so why wouldn’t I collaborate with someone else on that?”

However, she was also very aware that she had established a solid fanbase and when exploring new sonic territory she wanted to do so in a way that wouldn’t alienate those who loved her previous output. “It can be risky,” she admits. “Obviously, I wanted to keep my existing fans happy and not have them feel they are not getting the album they signed up for. But I also wanted to expand as an artist—so it can be a delicate balance.”

Ultimately Giving the World Away became a much more collaborative affair. “With Keepsake, I started writing almost all my songs on my own and would then work on them further with Joe,” she says, referring to Joe Agius, her Hatchie bandmate, musical partner, and now husband (he also releases his own music under the name RINSE). “This time around Joe started some of the songs, others we worked on together at songwriting sessions in LA. So it became more of a patchwork of ideas that we were drawing together.”

She was also mindful that some of the tracks on Keepsake didn’t perhaps translate as well into the live setting so she approached writing new music with the live show in mind, wanting to bring more of a dynamic, propulsive quality to proceedings. “After touring with Keepsake,” she explains, “I realized there were a lot of slower songs and emotional songs, which is fine, but I wanted to do something a little more exciting I guess. Something you could maybe dance to.”

The first songs Pilbeam wrote for the album were singles “This Enchanted” and “Lights On,” the latter being inspired by the drum sound on a Siouxsie and the Banshees track. “It was on ‘Kiss Them For Me,’” Pilbeam explains, “and it was also used on a Chapterhouse song. It was something we’d been obsessed with for years so we wanted to get that sound and recreate it. I think we actually used a trash can and a snare that we just began bashing on in the room, so it was very DIY. But I knew the sound I wanted to go for, a kind of shoegaze you can dance to, so when I sat down with producer Jorge Elbrecht I did say I wanted a more dancy kind of vibe, like Saint Etienne but with shoegaze elements.”

When the pandemic arrived along with its subsequent restrictions, Giving the World Away did begin to evolve into a different type of album. It still had huge soaring pop choruses but lyrically things shifted. “I guess that was down to the amount of time I spent on my own due to lockdowns, ” reveals Pilbeam, with the circumstances imparting a slightly more introspective bent to her songwriting. “The lyrics often didn’t lend themselves to the dynamic music I’d initially envisaged, so I kind of followed the ideas of the lyrics rather than rigidly trying to adhere to a particular type of sound.”

However, the album’s title track is a great example of an artist changing things up—literate, emotionally resonant electronic pop you can dance to but imbued with an almost post-rave comedown vibe as the sun rises. “I liked that the title was kind of vague,” Pilbeam reflects, “and that it applies to the whole album, which is all about being vulnerable. So the lyric ‘stop giving the world away’ is about being careful what you do with your heart whilst opening up to others but not giving away the entirety of yourself. Because then you’d have nothing left.”

Hatchie also got to co-write with Olivia Rodrigo collaborator Dan Nigro, on single “Quicksand.” “It was really good timing, we got him before he’d worked with Olivia which was lucky because I doubt we could get him now. I think he might be a bit busy these days,” laughs Pilbeam. “But I’d been a huge fan of a lot of the songs he’d worked on with Caroline Polachek and Sky Ferreira and the way these artists blurred the lines between pop and alternative sounds. “

Giving the World Away is an album that sees Hatchie retaining all that made her such a great songwriter in the first instance but also sees her pushing her sound into new and interesting directions. When I suggest the album cover—which shows Pilbeam wearing angel wings—could perhaps symbolize the artistic spreading of her own wings, she laughs. “Wow, I wish I’d have thought that deeply about it! I’ll use that one in my next interview! The truth is we were shooting the video for ‘This Enchanted’ and we took some snaps. I loved the colors, the blacks and blues and greens and the cityscapes, which I was really into. The angel wings just added a confusing surreal element. So it could be like an angel who’d fallen to earth, or something else… It was a kind of a happy accident really!”

As Pilbeam had said of this album, “I feel like I’m rebooting from scratch,” we broach the subject of whether she felt dissatisfied with her previous releases. With hindsight is there anything would she have done differently? She pauses and then responds. “Well, I think looking back, I probably would have spent more time on the lyrical side of things. But it was all so exciting and I guess maybe because I was just so happy to be doing it at the time, perhaps I was too easily pleased. I think now I have higher expectations of myself and I do rework a lot of stuff. But it’s a snapshot of the person I was in my early 20s and I’m still very proud of it.”


Read our 2018 interview with Hatchie on her EP Sugar & Spice.

Read our My Favorite Album interview with Hatchie on Carole King’s Tapestry.

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