Hatchie is opening things up for her debut album

Things have been moving pretty quickly for Hatchie. Since releasing her debut EP Sugar & Spice in 2018, Harriette Pilbeam has toured extensively around the globe, further expanding her irresistible dream-pop sound.

Now, as she gears up to release her debut full-length Keepsake, we caught up to chat about the evolution of her music, her relationship with her home city of Brisbane, and writing songs for Kylie Minogue.

Photos: Dani Hansen

There are certain songs on the album that are still super pop, but for the most part, I just wanted to branch out and explore different sounds“: Hatchie chats her debut album.

HAPPY: Congratulations, the album’s done!

HARRIETTE: Yeah, thanks!

HAPPY: Right now you’re in a kind of in-between stage, where you haven’t yet released it. What does that feel like? I can imagine a fair bit of relief would come from releasing it…

HATCHIE: Yeah totally, it was a really good feeling when we finished recording it, and I thought “oh wow, it’s six months until this actually comes out.” So I kind of feel like I’m in limbo. Especially when you’re drip-feeding things with singles and videos… I really just want the whole thing to be out, because it’s important to me to see it as a big picture. But it’s also cool, it feels like the calm before the storm. I don’t really mind it.

HAPPY: After the success of the first EP, are you feeling any pressure with the full album coming out?

HATCHIE: Yeah, but I think it’s more pressure that I put on myself. It’s not like there are all these other people putting all these deadlines on me. I just want to be proud of what I put out, and I want to take a step up from the EP. So hopefully the album reflects that when it’s out, but if it doesn’t, I still feel like it’s a big achievement.

HAPPY: I remember reading about the EP, and you said that was the poppiest you’ll ever go. Do you think that’s still the case?

HATCHIE: Kind of. It’s funny. There are certain songs on the album that are still super pop, but for the most part, I just wanted to branch out and explore different sounds. Right now, I just don’t want to do one genre. I want to do some super pop stuff, and some stuff that’s not pop at all, and everything in between. So yeah, I guess I still stand by that comment. I don’t really know, I’m still figuring everything out.

HAPPY: So it was never a concrete decision?

HATCHIE: No, at the time I just thought that I wasn’t going to go down that path. What I’ve learned over the past year, is that I want to keep everything open.

HAPPY: Comparing this new album to the EP, were there any specific conscious efforts you made to approach things differently?

HATCHIE: Yeah, I guess playing around with new sounds, and instruments, and pedals, and production techniques. I also played around with a bunch of different writing styles. I’m not sure if it’ll sound that different, but the journey to get to this album was very different. I think I settled a bit more with the EP when I was writing it. But with this album, I sat on the songs for a lot longer, and gave them a lot more time to breathe. I worked a lot harder on them.

HAPPY: Do you feel like releasing that first EP laid the groundwork for you to be able to take these new approaches?

HATCHIE: Yeah, definitely. I almost feel like I’ve flipped it, because the album’s a lot more open than the EP. I think I started off in kind of a corner, but the album has really opened that up. That’s what I set out to do with this album.

HAPPY: When you started the Hatchie project, did you have a concrete vision of what you wanted it to be?

HATCHIE: Yeah, totally. I think I had a bit more of a strict vision for it, but now I’m a bit more relaxed. Which is good.

HAPPY: You recorded the new album at the same studio, right?

HATCHIE: Yeah, and with the same producer too. So it could have easily fallen into the same old thing. But I still think I’ve branched out a bit.

HAPPY: Talking about Brisbane now. I remember reading how you wanted to leave. What’s your relationship with Brisbane like now?

HATCHIE: Yeah, I love Brisbane. I stayed there a lot longer than I thought I would when I was younger, and I think I’ll always want to return to Brisbane, but I would like to spend a lot of time away from there too. I guess it’s kind of cliche and obvious, but it does give you a different perspective on a lot of things. And I think being out of my comfort zone being on tour has led to a lot of personal growth. So I do like to spend a lot of time away from Brisbane, not just because I want to get away from Brisbane, but because I’d like to do something harder in terms of living. Brisbane’s very comfortable.

HAPPY: You’ve been touring pretty extensively overseas as well. How has that been?

HATCHIE: Yeah, I think I’m learning how to do it well. It was definitely a big learning curve, because I got really sick on the first couple of tours. I think it was just from having a bad immune system and flying a lot. But I’ve gotten better. I know how to do things now. I’ve learned how to handle myself mentally and emotionally, and I’ve learned how to not get exhausted from drinking every night. It’s still fun, but it’s always hard being away from home for so long.

HAPPY: Whenever I talk to anyone about the struggles of touring, everyone says the hardest part is getting the rider put in front of them each night.

HATCHIE: Oh yeah, totally. But it’s really cool, if you’re in the UK, or on a really big tour, they’ll give you dinner every night. Or on The Vaccines’ tour and the Death Cab For Cutie tour, they had catering. So some tours are really great with riders.

HAPPY: That’s the dream. But back onto the new album… the title is Keepsake, and you’ve said that the album is a keepsake in itself. Did you mean that for yourself, or for the audience?

HATCHIE: I think for myself. It covers a few topics like nostalgia and seeing old friends for the first time in a long time, or making new friends as a teenager. It covers some really pivotal moments in my life. But yeah, it was weird because the word ‘keep’ kept coming up in a lot of songs, and one song says something about a keepsake, so I thought it’d be a really nice album title. And the album is a keepsake for me, both physically and emotionally.

HAPPY: Do you feel like each track signposts moments in your life?

HATCHIE: Yeah definitely. Even if some of them aren’t autobiographical, they still evoke memories of when I wrote them and what I was feeling at the time.

HAPPY: Do you feel like that’s a continuation from the writing style you developed on the EP? Or is it a new thing?

HATCHIE: Yeah, I guess so. I focused more on the sounds of the EP, and not so much the lyrics. I still have a long way to go with my lyrics writing, but I focused a lot more on lyrics with this album.

HAPPY: Of the songs you’ve released from the album so far, the track that really stuck out for me was Stay With Me.

HATCHIE: Oh, awesome.

HAPPY: It feels like a pretty big shift in direction…

HATCHIE: Yeah totally, well that song wasn’t even meant to be on the album. I’m really glad it’s there though. It’s cool to have a really fun song on there, even though it’s sad. It’s like crying on the dancefloor.

HAPPY: You say that the track wasn’t meant to be on the album… was there a reason for this? And was there a point where this changed?

HATCHIE: Yeah, I just wrote with Joe, who’s in my band, as just a fun exercise. I was in a bit of a slump about two-thirds of the way through the album, and I just wanted a few more songs done. Joe was playing it and he asked me to help him finish it. We did it as a dance song for a pop star. It was a lot easier to write the lyrics thinking it was going to be for someone else. Then we finished it, and he said: “so, you want to put it on the album?” I said, “no, that doesn’t make any sense.” But after sitting on it and listening to it more, I loved it. So yeah, it just took some time.

HAPPY: If you didn’t put it on the album, would you be open to someone else singing it?

HATCHIE: Oh, I’d have loved for someone else to sing it. It definitely belongs on my album now, but I think it could be taken to even greater heights with certain pop stars. When we wrote it I think we had Kylie in mind.

HAPPY: Going forward, do you think you’re going to jump straight back into writing new material? Or are you going to let this album sit for a while?

HATCHIE: I definitely am starting now, it’s just been hard because I haven’t been home much. I gave myself a few months off after we finished, just to give my brain a rest. I’m still writing lyrics, but I’m just now sitting down and demoing again.

Keepsake is out Friday, June 21st.