From Wellington to Melbourne to Sydney to London to Los Angeles. Pip Brown, aka Ladyhawke, settles down for just about long enough to talk through some of the things that have shaped her along the way
“I’ve always connected colours with music, it’s always been a big thing for me. I feel like colours are a driving force in my life. I have this really vivid memory, I would say I was about three or four years old, and I remember we had this basket that I kept my toys in. It was one of the woven ones and it must have been quite small because I was hiding under it, looking at the light coming through the holes. I remember seeing all these oranges and yellows, and that’s one of my earliest memories of colour affecting me.
“My family used to have a little brown radio and I would often sit on our kitchen table with my ear up to it, listening to music. On this occasion, I think the radio was playing Billy Joel – I can’t remember what the song was – and I was hearing that song and seeing all the oranges and yellows, and I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is so cool’.
“I still see colours when I listen to music and when I make music. I never really thought that was a thing, but looking back on my life I realise that I associate colours with time as well. So when I think about the days of the week, I think of colours, and it’s usually oranges or burnt oranges, reds and yellows. Whenever I think about my second album, I see greens and dark blues and black, which isn’t really a good thing. For my new record, I knew I had to stop if I started seeing those colours.”
FILMS AND VIDEO GAMES
“I’ve been into movies as far back as I can recall. I used to tape movies off the TV and I’d write my own labels for them and put them in a box I’d made. I had a massive video collection because I used to tape everything. I was obsessed. I’d even edit out all the commercials. I’m still influenced more by watching movies than I am by listening to music. I get so inspired by watching a movie and I’m pretty good at immersing myself into fake worlds. I think that’s why video gaming suits me so well.
“When I was young, you were either a Sega kid or a Nintendo kid. I was a Sega kid and I rented a Sega Master System from the video store because we couldn’t afford to buy one. Games have stories now, but those early games were really all about light and colours and sound. I was physically controlling what happened to the character and I loved all of it. It was great to feel like you were part of an adventure.
“I still play video games to a sickening degree. I used to take lots of games on tour with me. In 2012, when I was touring my ‘Anxiety’ album, I took a PlayStation 3 with me. It fucking weighed a ton. It was so heavy. I carried it in its own suitcase and I had a monitor for it as well, because you can’t access the right panel on the TV in a lot of hotel rooms, you can’t unplug anything, so I needed my own monitor. So nerdy. I didn’t bring it on my latest tour, though. That’s probably a good thing.”
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER
“My first memory of being obsessively driven to make music was when I was 11. I was in school and my teacher said, ‘We have a special guest coming to class today and he’s going to show you the drums’. This man walked into the room and I can’t even describe it. It’s like I knew him or something. He sat down at the drums, played for a while, and then he said, ‘Does anyone want to come up and have a go?’.
“All the kids raised their hands and I slowly raised mine. My hand was shaking. I was a complete wallflower at school, no one ever spoke to me and I was ridiculously shy, I had very few friends, but I was one he picked. After the class, I said to the man, ‘Thank you so much, I think that’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life!’.
“A local church used to let this guy use their back room for drum lessons and I begged my mum to take me. My mum used to get all the lead roles in the town musicals and it turned out that the drummer played in the band. A little while later, he came to our house on the weekend with a bunch of flowers. He’d heard that my dad had moved on and my mum was single. That was the start of a little chain reaction. My mum and him have been together ever since. So that was my earliest memory of feeling ridiculously obsessed with doing music and it was quite a pivotal moment for me.”
“Moving to Melbourne changed my life. I was in a band in Wellington and we started doing really well, we signed a publishing deal and were offered a record deal in America. So we ended up going out to America and doing showcases, and then we came back to New Zealand and got offered a spot at South By Southwest and a support slot doing a big tour. But right before we were supposed to get on the plane, my singer left the band, and then the rest of the band were like, ‘Fuck this’. So my best friend and I hopped on the plane anyway. The first stop was Melbourne. I got off the plane and never looked back.
“Within a month of me moving to Melbourne, I got a phone call from Nick Littlemore from Empire Of The Sun. He had heard I’d moved over and he wanted to start a band with me. So we started a band called Teenager and that was the first step to me becoming Ladyhawke. If that sequence of events hadn’t happened, I don’t think I would be Ladyhawke. I really don’t think I would. I think it took for my band to break up, for me to move to Melbourne, for Nick to get in touch, and then for my confidence to build up working with him. Nick always pushed me to a microphone. Before that, I never sung. Not ever. Nick just sort of pushed me to do it.”
Ladyhawke’s ‘Wild Things’ is out on Polyvinyl