Hatchie Channel "Trust, Understanding, Loyalty, Love" on Shoegaze-y Debut LP 'Keepsake'
Harriette Pilbeam wanted to "break things up" on her band's new album: "I was getting really bored with my own music, which probably shouldn't happen so early"
Published Jun 26, 2019"I felt like my EP was all bright and shiny, so I wanted to break things up a bit with new tones," says Hatchie mastermind Harriette Pilbeam of her new album, Keepsake — her debut full-length, out now — in an interview with Exclaim!. "I've grown a lot personally and professionally over the last two years since I released my first single ['Try']. I've learnt a lot about myself, my tools, my surroundings."
The Brisbane, Australia-born musician quickly started to make a name for herself after releasing last year's irresistible five-song EP Sugar & Spice. Her first single "Try," was a dazzling pop gem with jangly guitars and Pilbeam's effortlessly breezy vocals, and the luscious "Sure" was remixed by Robin Guthrie from ethereal pop masters Cocteau Twins. It was the perfect package of wide-eyed, heart-achingly catchy dream-pop, and it led to an invitation opening for a fellow Aussie, pop icon Kylie Minogue and North American tours with Alvvays and, most recently, with Girlpool.
In hot anticipation for a full-length with the same blissful vision, Hatchie's forthcoming album responds with a more assertive grip: thick smears of '80s new wave synths and dusty-warehouse beats, displaying a colourful range of sounds that Pilbeam was able to explore more fully this time around.
"I was getting really bored with my own music, which probably shouldn't happen so early. I was just doing so much touring and promo I felt like I was stuck in my own head, in my own corner."
Pilbeam's attempt to dirty up her sweet, romantic image is reflected her album's visuals. Where Sugar & Spice's art featured Pilbeam's face in a warm, fluffy pink heart, she's blurred in a frosty indigo tone on Keepsake's record cover, signalling the introduction of a more sour note to balance out Hatchie's candied aesthetic. While Pilbeam still returns to love as the main theme for Keepsake, she speaks to its wide spectrum of emotions here: carefree independence on the loose-knit "Her Own Heart"; self-doubt on the effusive, waxy burn of "Unwanted Guest."
On the surface, "Obsessed" seems to be about the typical tale of unrequited love, but Pilbeam insists it's more about a complicated friendship surrounding feelings of hopelessness and reluctance that is paired with the song's melancholy guitar strums driven by its propulsive, tinny beat and sparkling electronics.
In contrast, "Secret" is Hatchie at her most intimate and vulnerable; Pilbeam's faint, forlorn voice is barely above a whisper, yet she gorgeously articulates desperation with stunning grace and a few powerful pleas for help ("If you hear me can you steer me?" and "Baby, can you keep a secret?"). The delicate song, which is "about confiding in a friend about struggling with your mental health, something really important to me," unveils Pilbeam's intentions to express her deepest feelings with the people closest to her.
"I wanted to cover both (friendship and romantic relationships) with this album as they're equally as important to me and have at times taken over my life. I think they both require the same things from a person: trust, understanding, loyalty, love. At times I'm not the best friend nor am I the best girlfriend, but the most important thing to me is that I learn from my mistakes."
Helping Pilbeam along in Hatchie is her partner and Hatchie's lead guitarist, Joe Agius, who collaborates with her on the artwork and is a guiding musical force for Hatchie's recording process, where she claims that Agius can play some of the "bits and pieces" a lot better than her in the studio.
"I have a terrible memory, so often when I go back to work on something without fleshing it out a bit first, I completely lose track of the original idea and have to scrap it because I can't fill in the gaps I left. Often times during the demoing process, I sit down at home with Joe and he helps me figure out how to improve a song, finish a bridge or choose the best structure."
Despite Keepsake's highly calibrated pop earworms, which are bound to expand Hatchie's fanbase even further, Pilbeam is remarkably modest, and it's easy to forget Hatchie's journey is still in its infant stages. Pilbeam says after incessant touring over the last year or so, she is just finding her way around the reality of being a full-time musician.
"I generally feel really uneasy in the spotlight; I have had low self-esteem for as long as I can remember, and feel uncomfortable a lot of the time. I know it may seem odd that I ended up picking this 'career' path. I have done my best for this project to be perceived as a band, but it's also good to get recognition as a pretty-much-solo artist. I'm all about the balance."
While the album's title, Keepsake, usually means some sort of object or souvenir as a memento, Hatchie is taking big steps forward without looking back, and isn't letting her sudden acclaim with Sugar & Spice define her.
"I really try to focus on looking forward and not dwelling too much on the past — even the good parts."
Keepsake is out now on Double Double Whammy.