Having cut her teeth playing in Wellington band Two Lane Blacktop, and Sydney act Teenager, Pip Brown’s incredible knack for a catchy pop hook coupled with an 80s rock chic ambiance was quickly noticed when she began releasing tracks online as Ladyhawke in 2008. She was signed to a major label, moved to the UK, and her eponymous solo debut album made her hot property across the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
She toured relentlessly, and picked up multiple NZ Music Awards, ARIAs, and nominations for Brit Awards, MTV Awards, and NME Awards. Pip’s songwriting connected because it managed to be both aspirational and relatable. She seemed effortlessly cool and distinctive but also just like a best mate, and while her music and art beautifully conjure a bold and fantastical world, they also capture her genuine, personable nature.
The darker, more guitar-based record ‘Anxiety’ followed in 2012, before the bright and breezy pop of ‘Wild Things’ arrived in 2016 – each album a kind of reaction to the one that came before.
“I always felt like I was overthinking it, and there was too much pressure, and I wasn’t in a good headspace, and thinking about what other people wanted too much, and then rebelling against that. Like with ‘Anxiety’ I didn’t want to make another pop record, I felt burned by the industry and was angry, and hated the pop world. And then with ‘Wild Things’, I was on this ridiculous kind of ‘I’ve stopped drinking and gotten sober and think I’m invincible’ thing, so I wanted to make this California-sounding, overly happy album. ”
The ten-year anniversary of her debut album, which lead to a vinyl re-release in 2019, fed into the sense of nostalgia and reflection which Pip was exploring while working on the new album
“In the process of doing that anniversary release, I got out a bunch of old hard drives from that time, because my partner at the time had documented everything – filming, photos everything. And I went through all of it and thought, ‘Woah, what a wild ride that was’. I went round the world multiple times, and just didn’t stop for two years and had all these crazy experiences. So remembering it all really was a massive nostalgia trip, and also reflecting on how I was this anxiety-riddled party girl who just didn’t really take it in and appreciate it at the time.”
Co-incidentally, the past year has also felt like a rebirth to Pip. After several years of challenging health issues (including post-natal depression and being diagnosed and treated for skin cancer), when she embarked on writing songs for this new record in 2019, there was a sense of freedom in the work. “I was feeling pretty grateful to be alive and making music, so I felt like I didn’t ‘care’ anymore – not in a bad way, I just stopped over thinking it.”
She also started regular therapy towards the end of 2019 and continued to see her therapist via Zoom throughout the pandemic, and also began taking medication for the first time, all of which contributed to her positive outlook.
“I’ve had depression and anxiety for a long time and always been really open about it. I started therapy in Nov 2019 regularly. I had reached the bottom, I realised I needed help, and I was recommended someone through a friend, who was used to talking to artists and creative people.”
“It felt like last year I changed my whole life. I decided to try medication for the first time, and it turned everything around and made me feel like a haven’t in a long time. My mum said she hasn’t seen me like this since I was 17.”
Another element that has been present throughout Pip’s career is the wonderful creative friendships she has cultivated. Early on she formed strong bonds with fellow Sydney artists like Nick Littlemore (Teenager, PNAU, Empire of the Sun), Jono Sloane (also PNAU, Empire of the Sun), as well as London based punk musician Pascal Gabriel (who’s worked with Dido, Kylie Minogue, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor among others).
And then later she began working with LA songwriter and producer Tommy English (Carly Rae Jepsen, Kacey Musgraves, Adam Lambert, Broods etc), as well as more recently with fellow Kiwis like Jeremy Toy (Leonard Charles, She’s So Rad), and just last year she began working with Josh Fountain (Leisure, Benee). The pandemic may have made it more challenging to collaborate, but Pip enjoyed the new ways of working via Zoom.
The lockdown also encouraged her to join Twitch – a platform for keen gamers (which Pip has always been) to connect and find new friends and a sense of community – as well as remind her of the inspiration to be found in the virtual world – particularly in ‘The Last of Us II’, which was omnipresent in 2020.
“The soundtrack is this amazing eerie acoustic guitar music, the lead character is a lesbian, and another character is trans. I’m very inspired by that and the creativity of the games in the way they’re always developing.”