Ladyhawke, real name Pip Brown, is back in New Zealand to perform at Auckland City Limits festival, the first time she has performed to a New Zealand crowd since 2012.
She chats to Kelly McAuliffe about her new album (Wild Things, due out in June), her style (and her aversion to stylists) and how her life has changed in the past four years since her last studio release, Anxiety.
FQ: Welcome home. When was the last time you were back in New Zealand?
Ladyhawke: Thanks. I get back a lot actually , probably three times a year. But I haven’t played here since 2012.
How has Ladyhawke changed in the last four years – you’ve been through quite a period of personal growth we hear?
Yeah. Well, I always had a real solid view of the way wanted to look and feel. And there were a good few years where I lost that. That became reflective in what I was doing; the music I was making was dark. I felt like I had lost my identity completely and I didn’t know what Ladyhawke meant anymore. I got to a point where I knew I was f***ing everything up. I was drinking too much, partying too much, missing appointments, depressed, anxious, a bundle of nerves… And I was making horrible music that I wasn’t happy with. That’s when I realised I needed to get healthy and change my entire life. So I did. It was almost like starting from scratch, starting with a blank canvas again.
What did you do to get yourself back on track?
The first thing I did was to cut out heaps of stuff from my diet. For a whole year I didn’t have sugar and I didn’t have carbs. I didn’t have potatoes or pasta for a year and pasta is the best thing in the world! I also cut out alcohol completely. I wanted to see if cutting those three things would balance everything out in my head too – the way I was thinking – as I’d been having quite dark thoughts.
And did you?
I definitely noticed a change. It changed my body – I lost 10kg. I could think clearer and just felt healthier. It made me realise I had been eating so badly and everything I had been doing had been contributing to my mindset also. It’s amazing what sugar does to your brain! Since that year, I’ve reintroduced everything (except alcohol) and now it’s about everything in moderation.
What food do you first treat yourself to when you’re back in NZ?
When I’m home home [Masterton] and go back to my mum’s house, the only thing I would request is a roast. That would be the dream meal – roast lamb. I haven’t had time to go home this trip though. If I did, I’d definitely have a roast.
What can we expect from the new album, Wild Things?
I’ve definitely stripped back the guitar, there’s pretty much no guitar on this album. It’s a massively rhythm and synth-driven album. I’ve always been a massive fan of percussion – the drums were my first instrument so it’s always been really important to me. I feel like there’s a massive percussive element to this record – not that I expect anyone else to be able to tell that, but I can!
What are the standout tracks that you’re most proud of and what do you hope they’re going to say?
It changes daily with me. I go through phases of liking different songs at different times and then coming back and being like “I’m really proud of this one”. I think Sweet Fascination and Let It Roll I’m really proud of… but I’m proud of the whole album. They’re like children, I can’t pick my favourite one!
What would you say has been your career highlight to date?
Probably playing Glastonbury festival. I’ve played Glastonbury a couple of times but the one that was really amazing was in 2009. I walked on stage to the biggest sea of people I’ve ever played in front of in my entire life and they were all singing along – it was deafening and I had tears in my eyes. And there were people in the audience holding up New Zealand flags and sheep. It was the most mind-blowing thing ever, really emotional.
That sounds pretty surreal. Would you say that was also your most surreal moment?
I was doing a festival somewhere in Europe, I can’t remember where it was but the Pretenders were on the bill. And Chrissie Hynde was sitting backstage and I remember walking out of my dressing room and she’s just sitting over there on the couch. I get quite starstruck so I didn’t say anything to her and I regret to this day that I didn’t. But that was surreal, someone who I grew up listening to in music and she’s sitting right there backstage with me.
Who are your biggest style icons?
Chrissie. Patti Smith, she’s had a big influence on my style. That’s a hard question! I think Dave Bowie was a huge influence on me stylistically, too.
Do you work with stylists for your stage or music video appearances or do you prefer to just keep it natural and spontaneous?
I have worked with stylists against my will in the past. For big magazine shoots, they always have stylists and they have clothes that they’ll try and force you into. So that’s come to blows many a time, where I’ve turned up and there are racks of clothes and things I wouldn’t wear in a million years. I’ve had to fight to wear my own clothes and wear what I want to wear. Though, I just shot a music video a week ago in the UK and the stylist emailed me and was like “What do you want?” And I said: “Nothing feminine – don’t get me anything that’s been cut specifically for a woman because I won’t wear it… No heels!” And she nailed it. She had options ranging from very masculine to quite feminine and it was cool to just have that option.
What influence did your Masterton upbringing play in your style?
I’m a very consistent human – I’m a creature of habit – so I’ve been dressing like this or a variation of this since I was a teenager. Although I was a lot more bogan when I lived in Masterton! It’s evolved over time. I remember at one point wanting to get my hair cut like Aladdin Sane, the Bowie cover, and having a red mullet. But it never looked quite right! What I do remember is not wanting to look like everyone else – I can remember that from a very early age. I didn’t want to look like all the other girls and I made a point of that, especially on mufti day at school where I made a point of looking as weird as possible.
Who are your favourite New Zealand designers?
Stolen Girlfriends Club have been massive supporters of mine for years and Marc Moore has become a really good friend of mine. We’ve actually collaborated on this album, we’re doing a little fashion collaboration. Stolen and Zambesi have been the two who have been massive for me throughout my whole career. Zambesi have always supported me as well, I love those guys.
You are travelling all over the world, all the time. What are your travel essentials?
Moisturiser I absolutely have to have, because you get so dehydrated when you’re flying all the time. I can’t let this sh*t go south, I’ve got to moisturise! My other tip is every time I board a plane, I always buy a bottle of water from a store or little kiosk. Obviously they bring you water on the plane but it’s never enough and you have to keep hydrated. An eye mask. And I always travel with a dry hair conditioner…. My hair always gets completely f***ed when I’m travelling and ends up huge – it looks crazy like a wild woman.
This is the first year we’ve had the City Limits festival in Auckland – who else are you keen to check out?
I’m quite keen to check out Broods. I’ve never seen them play. And Kendrick Lamar, I need to see King Kunta live.
You’ve lived all over the world – Sydney, Melbourne, London and now Los Angeles. Would you still call New Zealand home?
It’s funny because I always think I’m going to move home and then I find myself living somewhere else. It’s almost like I’m in the military and stationed at different posts all over the world. I’m a major homebody but I’m also a nomad. I feel the world is just there and I don’t want to miss out – I get major world FOMO! But I’m getting closer to home, I’m in LA now and it’s an easy flight to NZ. I think I’m going to move home in the next couple of years though, especially if Trump gets voted in… I’m outta there!
*Ladyhawke is playing at Auckland City Limits festival, Saturday 19 March, 2016. Tickets from aucklandcitylimits.com