As Hatchie, Brisbane’s Harriette Pilbeam embraces the mood setting formlessness of ‘90s shoegaze and the sonic adventurism of post punk alongside her longstanding love of melodic pop. This confluence of unlikely influence has culminated in debut single Try. Having dropped earlier in May, the track has caught the ears at home while gaining some surprising praise from abroad.
It’s an impressive beginning for this humble Brisvegan artist, but as Pilbeam assured us when we caught up with her at BIGSOUND, it’s but a taste of her ambitious creative vision. Her energy and enthusiasm give an impression that’s she right. It leaves a feeling that Hatchie’s best is yet to come.
Performing to a hometown crowd at BIGSOUND 2017, the anticipation and buzz around breakthrough act Hatchie was indisputable.
HAPPY: The influence of Cocteau Twins and Liz Fraser, as well as the whole ’90s shoegaze and ‘80s 4AD thing, is all over the indie-pop sphere right now. Why is it that people are coming back around to these sorts of sounds?
HARIETTE: It’s kind of just a matter of time. I was just talking to someone else about that, this sort of resurgence of shoegaze at the moment. Bands like Slowdive and Ride are putting out albums after a twenty-year break at least.
HAPPY: How did you turn on to that music?
HARIETTE: I guess it’s just the power of the internet really. My boyfriend was really into shoegaze when we met a couple of years ago. That introduced me to a lot of bands which I hadn’t known before because I was really into pop music! I think what I really like about it is that so many of those songs, like ones by My Bloody Valentine, you can’t hear what they’re singing. You don’t really connect with any of the lyrics, but with the guitar alone. It makes you feel so much, they conjure these feelings of euphoria.
HAPPY: Having had the revelation of these new kinds of sounds, which of your pop influences have stayed with you?
HARIETTE: I definitely still have a lot of favourite artists that people would probably consider guilty pleasures, like Kylie Minogue, Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX.
HAPPY: I’m not sure if the idea of a guilty pop pleasure really exists in 2017. I think that era has gone, whether you like it or not these people you’ve mentioned are currently more widely respected as artists in their own right.
HARIETTE: Totally. Especially someone like Charli XCX who does all of her own writing and production. She’s fucking awesome! I really like pairing pop songwriting with shoegaze and post punk production. That’s what I’m into at the moment. I’ll always be a pop songwriter, as much as I try to write a really cool song lyrically I’m just not that kind of writer. I’m really into melodies and harmonies which is I guess where the connection with shoegaze came from. All those harmonies on songs like, yes, the Cocteau Twins.
HAPPY: : You’ve played in a few Brisbane outfits such as Babaganouj and formerly Go Violets. What sets your solo material apart?
HARIETTE: It’s a good question! I guess with those other groups part of it was that I wasn’t a chief writer. I am now. I just wanted to do something completely different, especially production-wise from anything I’d done before. I think it just felt like time that I should start something, have something that I could build from the ground up as my own that I could take in any direction, it’s still early days. I’m still really deciding what sets it apart!
HAPPY: Try had a very warm reception both in Australia and also overseas. I think it’s interesting that, in 2017, a relatively unknown songwriter from Brisbane can find that kind of success…
HARIETTE: Completely unexpected! It was always something that I had hoped for, but you never know. You never think like, (self-mockingly drops voice) “This is gonna be sick! Everyone’s gonna love this!”
HAPPY: But it’s great that an artist from Brisbane can even do that! What do you think lent to its success?
HARIETTE: I don’t know honestly! I think it’s easy to listen to and I think for a lot of people who like pop music but aren’t into shoegaze it’s kind of a bridge between the genres. I mean I’m still surprised anyone places it remotely near shoegaze, It’s more dream pop!
HAPPY: Well there’s the saying that goes “Australians love pop music masquerading as something else”.
HARIETTE: So true!
HAPPY: But to you and your music I don’t think a label like that would be a stigma.
HAPPY: What is it do you think characterises music that’s coming out of Brisbane right now? Is there Brisbane sound?
HARIETTE: I think there used to be more solid characteristics of Brisbane bands, but now, especially with like everyone being in three or four bands all of completely different genres, there’s lots of different sounds coming out of Brisbane. There isn’t like one leading genre that everyone is doing which is really cool! People aren’t copying each other or doing what’s what. That’s my perspective, but I could be completely wrong!
HAPPY: Is Try indicative of what people can expect from Hatchie in future?
HARIETTE: In terms of writing. In terms of production, I’ve got a few songs that are as poppy as that. But I’ve got others that are either more poppy or less structured and more ambient – I wouldn’t say experimental because it’s nothing crazy cool.
HAPPY: Is there an element of expectation, having started off really strongly then going, “how the hell do I follow up on this?”
HARIETTE: It’s funny trying to choose which song to release afterwards asking myself whether I go with something similar to keep on the same track or do something to surprise people so to broaden their expectations of me. I think we’re going to go with something different next.
HAPPY: You worked with recordist John Castle, who a lot of people would be familiar with for his work on Vance Joy’s Riptide and some of Cub Sport as well as Jack River’s recent material. What was it like working with John?
HARIETTE: It was really cool. I got linked in with John via Cub Sport who did maybe one EP and two albums with him. They had only the best things to say about him. He’s got the magic touch. He does this really shiny hi-fi production but still makes it sound cool. If you tell him what you want he just does it in a second, he’s so smart, experienced and on the ball – he’s awesome!
HAPPY: Being a Brisbane local are there any other BIGSOUND acts you’re excited to be sharing the bill with?
HARIETTE: There’s a few. I saw Oh Mercy last night for the first time, I’ve been so excited to see him. Body Type, Boat Show, The Harpoons – there’s heaps actually. I think it’s an awesome year for women and female identifying artists as well. I really want to see Miss Blanks as well.
HAPPY: For everyone who is getting onboard with Hatchie right now, what’s on the horizon?
HARIETTE: I’m going on my first tour as Hatchie. I’m really excited to do that and kind of get all these shows under my belt so we can straighten out any of the issues with the live set because we do have quite a complicated setup with sampling and three guitars!