Sunny Days Ahead | An Interview With Ladyhawke

Even though the sun is slowly starting to rise to start the day and is seeming emerging through the windows, you couldn’t tell that Pip Brown had just recently woken up. Sitting in a relatively spacious room in her mother’s home in New Zealand, I have been notified during our conversation via Zoom that we could be interrupted at any moment – her daughter. “She’s running around out there,” Brown says. “She often bursts in on interviews and Zoom calls (laughs).”

Going under the moniker Ladyhawke, Brown found her start in music in Wellington while performing with the band Two Lane Blacktop and Sydney ensemble Teenager. It was the mastering of creating music that included poppy hooks and paying homage to artists that were releasing music in the 80s that ultimately found audiences worldwide to discover Brown’s solo effort. What seemingly leads Ladyhawke fans to come back time and time again is the singer-songwriters work to be refreshingly honest and personable. In her latest effort, Time Flies via BMG, one could say that the album is arguably is her most robust to date.  At the helm, producers Tommy End and Josh Fountain aided Brown with her signature focus on crafting well flourished pop gems and deeply self-introspective lyrics.

When were you were growing up, did your family get you into music?

Yeah, my mom plays piano, guitar, and she’s an awesome singer. She was in bands when I was younger with friends. They used to rehearse in our living room and stuff. Then when my stepdad came along when I was about twelve, he was a trained jazz performer but he also plays everything. So he moved in with us, and our living room became a music room with drums, bass amps, bass guitar, guitars.

You had no choice but to become a musician. It was pretty much a done deal then.

Well, before he was my stepdad, he was my drum teacher. So I think it’s always my fault. I was obsessed with drums. I just wanted to learn the drums so bad. And yeah, one day my drum teacher turned up at my house or flowers or whatever. I said to myself, ‘Oh..okay (laughs)’. We had a house full of music forever after that.

What really honed you on wanting to be a musician at that point?  

My stepfather had two daughters the same age as me; they’re twins and were from a different school, but they were musicians as well. I’ve also got a sister who’s two and a half years younger than me. So we all the four girls formed a band, and we would just jam all the time. We’d go and in town and annoy everybody. We had one song, in particular, that was Latin flavored that wasn’t very good (laughs). That was my start in the whole music world.

Over the last few years of all your well-deserved nominations and awards, you still got to be back your mind say to yourself, I was just this kid wanting to learn drums, and then here I am?

Totally. It’s wild; I never expected to have any sort of success in music. I had just resigned to the fact that I was happy doing it and, you know, playing in rock bands, sleeping on couches, driving around in a crusty van. The success that I had with my first record was a real shock. And like, I was all of a sudden, like, Oh my God, what do I do? Like I am not made for this sort of thing, but here I am.

Over time, especially with Time Flies, l do you feel it’s getting easier as far as what you want to do with each album? Or do you approach each album with a blank slate?

I think that I’ve always sort of taken a lot of time between records because I want to live my life. Even though I had pressure on me to be very fast, like quick in the beginning. Now you’ve got to get this done. I was like, Nah, I’m tired. I want to travel a bit and think about what I want to do. So over the years…every time I’ve come to the point where I’m about ready to start writing a record, I’ve always gone through some stuff to write about. Sometimes I feel like when you lead straight into it, a little bit could be forced and you don’t really have any more things to write about.

Over the last few years, I saw that you’re starting to do a lot of self-care—trying to figure out things like how to battle depression, which can be a struggle for anybody. Now you’re taking those steps to take care of yourself, has that been for you?

Oh, that’s been crazy. I have had depression for as long as I can remember. It probably came on, I think around twelve or thirteen years old, which is quite common for people who suffer from depression. It would come and go, but sometimes it would be really bad. I would just slip into this hole that felt like I wouldn’t come out for ages, which was often debilitating. Then I got postnatal depression after having my daughter, and I was preparing myself for that because I knew I was already, you know, a depression sufferer. So I was like, well, I may or I may not, and I sort of didn’t even realize I was in it until I started seeing a therapist. We found the right medication for me and I was scared at first but I’m feeling good now. I’m just so glad I took I gave it a chance. I pushed through side effects because it often took me out for just take days. But I went through it until I felt like one day and I was like, this is crazy. I wish I’d done this earlier.

When did you decide that said I have to do something? I just feel like something’s wrong and I need to look into this.

It was like a year and a half ago, at least. I was just so sick of feeling like I would get up and feel like I’d been hit by a truck. I just was so so heavy and tired, depressed. I was always crying. I just remember thinking I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking I was this sad sack, you know? And I got to a point where I was just like, I’m going to change my life, this is horrible.

When you were writing Time Flies, did that come into play? As far as the change with discovering the changes and having this new outlook of things now.

Yeah, the record was half and half, really. Half of it is pre-sorting my mental health out. The other half was finished basically once I was feeling amazing, so I think I was able to finish it because I was like when the pandemic started. We got thrown into the big lockdown in New Zealand that sort of sealed our fate as far as getting rid of COVID. It worked for the most part but we were locked down for a long time with police patrolling, making sure no one was going out.

So you spent a lot of time writing during the first significant wave of the pandemic, right?

Yeah. I was faced with that whole thing of like, oh, I’m not going to be able to go back to America to finish it because I was supposed to fly back in April 2020 to finish writing with Tommy, who produced my last record. So we decided to get on Zoom and do some screen sharing. We ended up writing a full song that’s on the record, which is pretty cool. When it came time to producing the tracks that I’d done with Tommy – which was I think was maybe five on the record I did with him – screen shared his Ableton sessions with me. We went over everything piece by piece for the production part, which was cool to be still able to be there in a sense share feedback. And then, in that time, I met Josh. I realized this is something that has to be done so I’ve got to get better at being in my studio and doing this on my own—being able to send stuff back and forth at the source meaning to hone in my production skills which is cool. And so I was able to write four tracks with Josh and finish my record off in New Zealand, which was a bonus. So yeah, I sort of found a whole new way of working, and I feel like my creative side thrived in that environment.

Reading about your backstory, you have worked with an extensive collection of people. Do you find yourself working with new people to do something different with each album? Or do you over time accumulate these fantastic relationships with people you’re comfortable with and strictly work with?

With Tommy, that was an accident. I was living in LA at the time, and I think he was a mixing engineer. He was working with Kat Von D and we became friends when I lived in LA because she was a fan of my music. She asked me if I do some vocals on her album. She was like, here’s the address, just go there. I thought she’d be there, but there was this guy when I walked in. It’s Tommy just sitting there, and I had no idea who he was. He told me he’d been around for ages starting out as a producer and we just hit it off. We became friends, and I loved working with him; he was friendly and inviting. I had this gut feeling about him and said, hey, you want to maybe do something outside of this…and he was excited to do it. I have this thing with me – when I meet someone, I know instantly whether it’s going to work or not.

I saw in your bio that you’re getting into Twitch and exploring things as far as the video game realm. And I saw that you discovered The Last of Us Part Two.

Oh, I’m a massive gamer. Massive gamer!

I’m going to tell you right now The Last of Us Part Two broke me apart in ways I never dreamt of. The first one killed me. And then the second one…I’m still processing what happened when it was all said and done.

Same! I think about that game all the time. It was heartbreaking, intense, and beautiful. I’ve never ever in my life been moved by a game like that. Like it’s my favorite game. I’ve played it three times now, and I’m waiting for the update PS5. Then I’ll be ready for another play.

During the start of the pandemic, I began gaming on Twitch. I became friends with Shannon Woodward, who plays Dina on The Last of Us Part Two. She streams on Twitch and she will she did a whole playthrough. At the end, she did a Q&A. I had loads of questions and stuff, which was cool.

Have you about putting music onto platforms like Twitch to highlight your work?

I have. I’ve been using Twitch just for my gaming communities for the last ten months or so. I’ve been building up towards doing live music on Twitch…you know, writing, producing, and doing it live on stream so people can see how I do it. You know, mess around with ideas and just have some fun. I see my friends have started doing it too. My friend Liam Finn, Neil Finn (Crowded House, Fleetwood Mac)’s son. He’s an amazing musician. He’s known for his live shows, which was just this one-man set. He would use a looping pedal and he would just play his guitar. Then he goes all-in with the drums. I wonder why I don’t take that same energy and create a record live on Twitch using that same energy. So that’s what I’m doing, and it’s amazing to watch. It’s really inspiring.

You got anything else in the works right now? I noticed that you re-released your first album not too long ago.

I really pushed for that particular to be reissued on vinyl. I always would get messages from people saying they wanted to find a copy on vinyl. I’ve got so many of them, so I went to my management to inform them I wanted to reissue it and do something special. You know, do some new artwork inside and it make a special thing. It was awesome. I’m so glad I did it.

I loved reading about how you went back and we’re reminiscing with old photos and videos. I also read that you weren’t thinking about what you were doing during this time. Now you are being able to slow down and take in everything.

Yeah…I had all these hard drives full of old footage, photos, and everything that I’d done. I was going through it all, and it was so crazy for me. I couldn’t believe it. I was so full of anxiety the whole time was like how hard for me to see what I was in at the moment. And then I look back on these videos, I could see my anxious self, but I was just so proud. 

It made me really proud of everything.

Photo Courtesy: Lula Cucchiara