Ladyhawke On New Album ‘Wild Things’, The Loss Of David Bowie & Loving L.A.: Interview
Wild Things (out June 3; pre-order on iTunes) isn’t the original record Ladyhawke intended as her third studio release. Previously, the synth-pop singer, whose real name is Pip Brown, created and then ultimately scrapped an album before curbing some bad habits (like alcohol and sugar), marrying actress Madeleine Sami and finding an altogether happier, healthier space in life. She was then introduced to producer Tommy English, and the pair set out to collaborate on a much brighter Ladyhawke project together.
“We worked together on and off for a bit, just messing around with ideas and feeling out each other’s writing style,” Brown, who resides in Los Angeles, explains while visiting New York. “We did heaps of stuff that went nowhere, but it was really good to get to know how each other worked. I take awhile to get comfortable in those situations, so it was good in that sense.”
The result, Wild Things, was previewed in recent months by giddy, synth-driven cuts like “Sweet Fascination” and lead single “A Love Song,” two songs that are only the tip of the feelgood iceberg that is Ladyhawe’s third album.
Below, Pip talks to us about the making of Wild Things, plus her affection for both David Bowie and, naturally, the Spice Girls.
Nostalgia plays a role in new album, Wild Things, and I love that the “A Love Song” video is set in a video store in the ’90s…because I used to work at a video store at the tail end of the ’90s. LADYHAWKE: That was the dream job! I remember when I was a kid I was like, man, if you’re working in a video store you’ve made it.
Pascal Gabriel produced your first two albums. This time around, Tommy English stepped in as producer. How did you two come to collaborate? LADYHAWKE: Quite randomly, my friend was making an album at the time and she asked if I wanted to do some vocals on her album. I said yes, thinking she’d want to come to the studio with me, but she just texted me and said, “Here’s the address. Turn up on Sunday. I’m going to San Francisco.” I said, “Fuck. Okay.” I turn up and I don’t know who this person is; all I know is his name is Tom. He’s a really sweet guy and the studio is in his guest house. Everyone in L.A. has guest houses. He starts playing this song and I’m just singing along, harmonies and stuff. He was like, “You’ve got a really good singing voice.” I don’t really hear that often from producers. The more he complimented me, the more I wanted to sing better. I realized this was a good thing, so after that I did a collaboration with Tiësto on one track, and I used Tom to record the vocals. Then I was like, “Do you think maybe you’d want to work together on my album?”
You recorded, and subsequently scrapped, an album before this one. Did Tommy work on any of those tracks? LADYHAWKE: No, that was way before Tom. But all the people I worked with on that were awesome. It was sort of like an overwhelming thing coming out of me that was affecting the writing. It was just dark. I hadn’t hit my stride and I couldn’t find any happiness, or anything nice to write about. After awhile you get sick of drawing from the dark stuff. So that’s when I quit drinking and got healthy, cut sugar out for six months. It made me feel great.
Let’s jump into some of the songs on the new album, like the title track, “Wild Things.” Upon first listen, I think it’s my favorite. LADYHAWKE: I remember Tom was like, “Let’s try something a little bit more down-tempo.” It’s funny, because the song is down-tempo but it’s still not slow. But it was down-tempo compared to everything else we were doing. I instantly knew what the song was going to be something about the heart. The line “there’s a fire in the heartland” — something that burns inside you — was what I wanted the whole album to be about.
Another great track is “Chills.” LADYHAWKE: I did that with Babydaddy from Scissor Sisters, Scott Hoffman.We worked here in New York and just did that [one] song. He sat on piano and I sat on bass and we just came up with that groove. I took the demo to Tom and we re-recorded everything. It was a fun little experience. I love Scott.
We can’t not mention the album’s lead single, “A Love Song.” How did you and Tom come up with this one? LADYHAWKE: We were both like, “Let’s do something that’s really synth-driven, upbeat.” I wanted it to be a love song, but not your traditional love song about when you first meet someone. I wanted it to be more like you’ve met someone and it’s five years down the track, you’re still writing about how great that can be, as well, if you’re still with the person — or they’re still with you, after you’ve put them through shit! I remember my stepdad giving me some advice years ago: “You know, I just wanna say to you, it’s never like it is in the first year. So you really should stick to it because it gets better. It’s different, but it’s better.” I think he was seeing me go in and out of relationships constantly. I’ve always remembered that advice. It really does turn into an awesome partnership, you know?
See, parents know what they’re talking about after all. LADYHAWKE: It’s funny how you think they don’t know anything. They know everything! They’ve lived their lives.
How is L.A. life treating you? LADYHAWKE: L.A. I find is a real comfortable place for me to live. It’s close to home, as well, for me. I lived in London for a long time, so this is even closer to New Zealand now. It’s like a giant suburb. If I want to see high-rises, I have to go downtown — which is coming up now. It’s cool!
I read about some of your favorite albums and saw that David Bowie’s Hunky Dory was one of them. LADYHAWKE: Bowie’s like one of those people, it was like I knew him. I just thought I was gonna meet him. I just had a feeling like one day I’ll meet Bowie. And then when I found out he died I was in shock. I cried for ages. I’ve never cried when a famous person has died before. He meant so much to me and so much to everyone, you know? When you feel a little bit different as a teenager, he was so important. He messed with gender and I loved that, because I’ve always hated gender binary and I hate stereotypes and I hate pink for girls, blue for boys.
Prince was very much like that too. LADYHAWKE: The night that Bowie died, my wife Madeleine — I’m a massive Bowie fan and she’s a massive Bowie fan, but she’s a huge Prince fan — my friend texted Madeleine and was like, “Oh my god, this is like MJ all over again.” [Madeleine] was like, “Don’t worry, babe — we’ve still got Prince.” So we were sitting on our couch in our living room [when she heard Prince died] and she was freaking out. I thought one of our friend’s died! I was like, “Fuck, you have to tell me what’s going on right now!” It was horrible. She cried and cried. It’s too many this year.
The Guardian that wrote with Bowie passing we’re entering the “twilight of the rock gods.” LADYHAWKE: Right. My mom called me the other day and was like, “Sorry, dear, about Prince. That’s a big one. Oh, I’ll be wrecked when Paul McCartney goes.” So will I! I think The Beatles were the first thing I got obsessed with when I was a kid. I used to draw pictures of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. I’d get out every book from the library on them. I tried to learn all their songs on the guitar. It was like I was one of those fans back in the ’60s. I really got the mania. Then it jumped from The Beatles to Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana Bowie…and the Spice Girls! Me and my best friend Paul at school would learn all the dance moves.
You could have a Spice Girls dance-off with Adele. LADYHAWKE: I think they were my era’s Beatles. I know that’s sacrilege to say, but people went crazy over Spice Girls! They were so cool. There were people like Courtney Love and Joan Jett , you know, the cool rock stars. But there’s still something about they way the Spice Girls were like, “Fuck you! Girl Power!”
Wild Things will be released this Friday, June 3.