After playing in the punk outfit Two Lane Blacktop and dance-rock duo Teenager, New Zealand musician Pip Brown turned her love of 1980s music (and a certain Michelle Pfeiffer/Matthew Broderick movie) into a solo project called Ladyhawke. Buoyed by the retro dance-pop gems "My Delirium" and "Paris is Burning," Ladyhawke's self-titled debut was one of 2008's most entertaining albums. Now she's back with the recently released Anxiety, a rockier, more playful album that I like even more than her debut.
When I spoke with Ladyhawke last week, we were both suffering from colds, but she graciously talked about everything from her Beatles-inspired album cover to why she named her second album after her own personal anxiety.
Anxiety is more a rock-oriented album. Was that a deliberate choice? Did you set out to make this album different from the first one?
I'm not the sort of artist who sticks to one genre. I come from a varied musical background, I've been in numerous bands from Two Lane Blacktop to Teenager and I love all sorts of music. I knew when it came time for my second record, I wasn't going to make my first one all over again. I wanted to try something different and keep it interesting for myself. I had in my head the distortion—I had a clear idea of what the guitars would sound like—but aside from that, I just knew I wanted to go with something that was a little more rock-ish. Still pop, but rockier I guess.
Were there any artists who were touchstones for this new album?
Not anyone really. I actually shut myself off from music completely before this album because I toured the first record for two years, and when I finished touring I was so oversaturated with music and everything. I was really exhausted so I took some time off and didn't really listen to anything. I waited until I was desperate for music again and when I got to that point, that's when I knew it was time to start working toward the album. I was basically listening to the same stuff I always have, stuff from my teenage years: A lot of Bowie, Joan Jett, Nirvana, the Zombies.
Nice! Did the songs come together fast?
The way I did the album was that I recorded quite sporadically. I ended up moving back home to New Zealand, and while I was there I'd fly over to the South of France and work with Pascal Gabriel who I did the record with. So I'd go back home [to New Zealand], listen to it and try to think of new ideas. The whole process was spread out over eight months or so.
You're right in saying that because the girl I worked with… we've been friends for 10 years and she did the art for my first record as well. When we were thinking of stuff for this record I gave her the Revolver cover, so that is what she used as inspiration for the record.
This is your second solo album. Is recording solo your future or can you ever seen joining another group?
I'd love to do another band or collaboration. I think of myself as, I don't put boundaries on what I want to do. I don't think that Ladyhawke is me forever—it's just one aspect of me. There are so many things I'd love to do, for instance, I'd love to play drums in a band.
Why did you name the album Anxiety?
I had the tunes knocking about, maybe three quarters of the tunes were done and I still hadn't come up with an album title. One of the tracks is called "Anxiety" and my manager would call and say, "Have you thought of an album title yet?" I'd jokingly say, 'I'm going to call it Anxiety, okay, so leave me alone. Just as a running joke because I'm anxious all the time—which I am—and I try to make light of it because it's funny. Although sometimes it isn't funny, but I try to make it into a joke. After some time I thought, "Oh, why not, I might as well call it Anxiety." It's quite a perfect title because it was very stressful trying to make the album the build-up, everyone saying to me, "Oh, are you worried about making a second album?" And I wasn't worried about it until people started asking me if I was worried about it.
So Ladyhawke is named after a Michelle Pfeiffer movie. I always wondered: Was your breakthrough single "Paris is Burning" named after the documentary about vogue music in New York?
It wasn't named after the documentary, but that movie is so good. It's incredibly inspiring. I love that documentary and I've always talked about trying to find some voguing guys to come out during "Paris is Burning" and dance during the song. I always thought that would be so amazing. It might happen.
My favorite tracks on the album were "Vaccine" and "Gone Gone Gone." Which ones stand out as your favorites?
Um, I find it quite hard to pick out a favorite. I guess "Anxiety" is probably the most personal song lyrically, which was kind of weird for me. "The Quick & the Dead" I like because the song is purely about zombies. But it's hard to pick a favorite because it's hard to look at it from an outsider perspective when I've been inside it so long.