When DIY phones Hatchie, it’s two days before the singer – Australian-born Harriette Pilbeam – releases her second studio album, and first for Secretly Canadian, ‘Giving The World Away’. Just a few days before our chat, Hatchie packed up her life and left her native Brisbane for Los Angeles. When we speak, you get the sense that everything is changing at once for the singer.
Being back in Los Angeles in the week her new album comes out is a full circle moment for Hatchie, who was in the Californian city in February 2020, starting work on what would become her second full-length, before having to travel home to Australia before lockdown came in.
“We went back to Australia at the end of February, thinking that we’d just gather our thoughts and then head back over to America to hopefully record everything else,” she remembers. Instead, she recorded the album in a house in Brisbane with longtime collaborator Joe Agius, with production done remotely in Denver, Colorado by the Grammy-nominated Jorge Elbrecht. Drums were then put down by Beach House’s James Barone, while additional work came from Dan Nigro, co-writer and producer of Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘SOUR’.
From the outset, Hatchie knew that she wanted ‘Giving The World Away’ to push her sound forwards to glossier, darker places. Emerging in 2018 with debut EP ‘Sugar & Spice’, the Aussie was heralded as a new queen of shoegaze, with every note of the five-track debut effort coated in blissful waves of reverb, feeling like a spiritual successor to the influential ‘Drive’ soundtrack.
This sound was pushed forwards on her debut album ‘Keepsake’, a record which Hatchie refers to now as a “natural” but “random” record with a lack of coherence. “I didn’t really think through the first record much at all and I kind of regretted that,” she says. “I kind of just wrote songs as I went along and didn’t really plan any of it. With this one, I was like, ‘No, I really want to think about all the things and kind of expand the world.’”
As a result of this, she says ‘Giving The World Away’ “ended up being a lot more melodramatic and emotional and personal than I had initially expected.” A cathartic process, she notes, “I feel like I’ve addressed a lot of things that I hadn’t spoken about personally before in such a public space. It was really very good to kind of let that out.”
On ‘Take My Hand’, a track inspired by a letter Nick Cave wrote to a young female fan struggling with body issues on his Red Hand Files website, Hatchie sings: “Trust what you fear, use it to your advantage,” and the lyric can be seen as a representation of the entire album’s mission statement: to go out of your comfort zone and learn more about yourself and others.
Musically, ‘Giving The World Away’ reflects the boldness of its lyrical themes and choices, with the bombastic music cutting through the dream-pop haze and reaching somewhere approaching pure pop. First single ‘Quicksand’ sings of being stuck but its music is simply joyous, with synths rising skyward, while ‘Lights On’ is another highlight, channelling the dark, edgy pop of Robyn as well as unashamedly ‘80s bangers from Madonna. As we wrote in our review of the album, the record “transcends past dream-pop into more adventurous territories,” and these new horizons suit Hatchie well.
Despite this move away from past sounds, Pilbeam says she never considered ditching the Hatchie name, and believes forward motion and evolution within a musical project are vital. “I think it would be silly for me to just fully start again, because I’ve already done that,” she says. “I’ve been in other bands before, so working from the ground up again would be a bad idea. I think I don’t think I could do that.
“I think it’s fine for artists to make changes to the sound otherwise it would get repetitive and boring,” she adds. “It’s important for personal growth, both for the artist and the listener, and I think audiences should be more open to exploring new sounds and new themes as records go on. It just made sense to me, especially because some of the songs on the record are similar to the old stuff – it’s not completely earth-shatteringly, groundbreakingly different.”
With musical sounds, lyrical themes and philosophies continuing to mutate with every next project, Hatchie admits she’s “still in the middle of trying to figure myself out”.
“I did a lot of personal work on myself,” she explains. “I was being more honest with my feelings and with my thoughts with myself and with other people. I was trying to get over a lot of the barriers that I built myself. In some ways it worked, but in some ways I’m still working through all that stuff.”
‘Giving The World Away’ is out 22nd April via Secretly Canadian.