Shoegaze superstar Hatchie reflects on her launch to success, path to self-acceptance, and how a lightbulb moment of reclamation encouraged her to reboot from scratch.
Catapulting to acclaim left Aussie singer-songwriter Harriette Pilbeam, a.k.a. Hatchie, melting into the ears of dream-pop fans alike across the world. With a sound that arrived polished and fully formed, it’s not until now she cherry-picked the elements of her truest self and distilled them into a record that channels decades of compartmentalisation. Between Covid and the lockdowns in Australia, Harriette was welcomed by a wave of introspection and self-discovery that served as inspiration for a new record – ‘Giving The World Away’. One which draws on the pop sensibilities and shimmers present across her debut and EP – the record captures the same bright vitality and cranks it up tenfold.
“I’m capable of writing more than just nice dream-pop songs,” she explains. Lyrical precision sits at the core of the record; a narrative that confronts emotions of anxieties, self-confidence, and self-esteem. Tied up in a headspace that mirrored that of someone in their early 20s – she details the cycle of change and unpredictability in knowing yourself with all the emotional hurdles along the way.
Now, the future seems clearer. A journey exposed through 12 luminous moments of recollections that put you in the driver’s seat of Harriette’s dazzling chronicles. We caught up with Hatchie herself to delve into the shine behind the shimmer and why giving the world away might just be the best first step in realising your own self-confidence.
Congratulations on your album release – does it feel differently this time around?
I guess it feels different in some ways, but I always think it’s a little anticlimactic. There’s such a massive lead-up to the release of an album and then it gets to the end and you’re like ‘Oh, I kind of expected a change today,’ and it hasn’t. It’s more of a slow release, so I’m trying to just take every day as it comes and not get too, too invested. But I’m really, really, excited.
‘Giving the World Away’ – was there a particular reason for this title? Or did the track itself represent a wider theme that summarised the creative process of the record?
I wasn’t planning on that being the name of the record until all the songs were in the process of being recorded or finished. I was trying to think of a title, and it really stuck out to me because the themes discussed apply to the whole record.
The song itself is self-soothing and was written as an imaginary guidepost to remind someone that they don’t have to be so hard on themselves and give 110% of themselves to other people. It’s important to be careful with your heart and I thought that message was a beautiful way to sum up the entire record.
In comparison to your debut, how did this process differ? Were there any lessons you’d taken from your career journey so far?
I definitely invested more time into the lyrics this time around. I didn’t delve too deep when writing my debut and wasn’t too reflective, but I wish that I’d put more effort into the words. This time around, instead of trying to have everything wrapped up super quick, I took a step back and gradually chipped away at it.
This album was also a lot more collaborative. It was fun to make it from start to finish almost completely with Jorge Albrecht – who produced the record and co-wrote a couple of the songs. We were locked down during the pandemic for the record, so it was a completely different process – we did it all at home over email with Jorge who was in Denver.
It’s interesting talking about the pandemic because I know that you initially started this record with the intention of working towards a brighter direction which obviously changed as the pandemic hit. You can hear those darker undertones that appear after the first two tracks which clearly mirror the journey of life pre and throughout the pandemic. So, when was the moment you thought you had to switch directions?
It was just a natural progression. Having time alone with my thoughts during the pandemic led to a lot of the melancholic sounds and lyrics that you hear on this record. I wrote my debut when I was in my early 20s and I was falling in love for the first time, and I guess I was quite dissatisfied with my life. On the other hand, I was hopeful as someone in their early 20s usually is.
Whereas with this record, I was in my mid to late 20s and I just had this kind of disillusionment with becoming an adult and finding that it wasn’t at all what I expected. I was still dealing with a lot of things that were triggering me from when I was younger that I thought I’d dealt with already. So, the process began to reopen some old wounds and the journey was figuring out how to process them.
With your EP and debut getting the acclaim it did, was there a pressure to try and fit this mold that you were being praised for? How did you steer from that, if so?
I think there was a little bit, but it was more self-inflicted pressure. I was blessed that the first EP did so well and so quickly that I got to a really good position with the debut. After that, I didn’t know what to expect and ended up finding new ways to disappoint myself. It was this cycle of navigating that and readjusting my expectations accordingly.
How have you grown since you started making this record? I would imagine that some moments or experiences you once felt and wrote about might be slightly emotional to relive and talk about?
Totally. I was addressing things that I hadn’t addressed from when I was younger. For example, ‘Take My Hand’ is about being a teenager and how harsh I was on myself. However, the album was finished in 2020 so I already feel like I’ve changed so much since then. It can feel weird singing songs that you feel like you don’t quite relate to anymore, which is how I feel with the songs off the first EP and my debut sometimes.
I’ve just accepted that it’s a bit of a time capsule and that’s how it will always be unless I’m putting out songs the moment I write them. It’s natural to freeze and change my mind a little.
You’ve been very open about your struggle with self-esteem and throughout the record, it sounds like you’ve almost reached a place of acceptance. Would you agree?
Yes, definitely. I was reaching that for sure throughout the process. I started to form a lot of healthy habits during the lockdowns and looking back, it was a silver lining that I adopted a good sleep schedule and ate well. I wasn’t on tour, so I wasn’t travelling, and I didn’t get sick. I was healthy, I exercised a lot, and I journaled a lot. So, I really worked on myself and got to a good place.
Unfortunately, I don’t know if I can say I’m in that place right now. The pandemic has stretched on for a lot longer than we thought it would and things are changing. But I did go through that process of self-acceptance, and it was beautiful to reach that point which is what I wanted to illustrate through songs like ‘The Rhythm’.
I was actually thinking “The Rhythm” could belong on a Kevin Parker [of Tame Impala] album. What was the process behind this track in particular?
I was most excited to share this one with people as it was a lot to work on. Joe Agius started writing and was playing around with different sounds like Eastern string instruments and we finished writing it together. We wanted it to sonically represent confidence and make sure the lyrics were super exciting so that it’d be powerful on a live stage.
We envisioned this crazy light show so I’m glad that this shows through on the song alone and not just in a live space. I was listening to ’80s and 90’s artists who used massive guitars and percussion sounds like New Order and more recent artists like The Horrors. I’m a massive Tame Impala fan as well so I’m glad you said that.
Is there a moment that surprised you when making the record? Perhaps a certain track that took a while to fully bloom?
Quicksand took a while to find the right feeling production-wise because I didn’t want it to be to sound strictly pop so I struggled with the direction. It was originally going to be a standalone single separate from the album during the pandemic, but with not knowing when we were going to be able to get back on tour, I decided to let it sit for a bit longer. I’m glad I did because it sounds cohesive within the album.
As a listener, you want the overall body of work to function as its own thing and be cohesive, so I completely appreciate that craft and I think you’ve done a really great job at that.
To be honest, the record being cohesive is something I was worried about. Reviewers always seem to have issues with albums not being cohesive, so it’s hard to tell if something’s cohesive or if it all sounds the same.
Tell me more about your home life in Australia – how did you tap into your musical flair when you were younger?
I played instruments all throughout my childhood and spent my teenage years playing in other bands, but those projects didn’t belong to me, and I got to a point where I wanted my own voice and to start something from scratch. I don’t think I tapped into my own musical flair properly up until this project, which is why it was so important for me to start it.
Who would you cite as your musical influences? What type of music did you listen to throughout your childhood?
I was very easily influenced by my siblings. I had a massive emo phase as you do, as we all did. When I was entering high school in about year nine, I went to a bunch of Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco concerts. Then I spent a lot of my youth listening to the likes of The Corrs, The Cardigans, and The Cranberries. Even Shania Twain, I think those artists really influenced my songwriting in a subtle way when it comes to melodies and vocal harmonies. As I grew up, I got more into alternative music and discovered bands like Beach House and Grizzly Bear. Side note, I’ve always loved Kylie Minogue too – that’s just a no-brainer.
I know James from Beach House built out the percussion across the record and you can hear those rich touches throughout, but is there anyone else who you’d love to work with?
I would love to work with anyone from The Horrors or New Order. I think William Orbit is up there as well.
He produced Madonna’s early stuff, right?
Yeah, exactly. I’d love to work with him. To be honest, Robin Guthrie was already a big one of my collaboration goals and he remixed one of my songs, so I got to take that one off the bucket list.
On a day-to-day basis, which artists or albums are you currently obsessed with? What shows are you unashamedly binging?
I got really obsessed with Magdalena Bay’s record when it came out. I’m also a big fan of Caroline Lago, who’s supporting me on the US tour and I’m excited to see her live. In terms of TV, we’ve been watching a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm recently, but I usually just watch cartoons and stuff when I’m on flights because I just want to relax and not think of anything.
I always hear people watching all these like true crime documentaries and I can’t watch that. I just want to switch off and watch the most trashy show. Look at what’s going on in the outside world, I can’t digest any more negative stories.
I know. I’m the same. I can’t really stick with true crime stuff for too long. I always go back to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Looking ahead, what’s the plan? I think you’ve got some Aussie dates in around September, right?
We’ve got some dates in August and November in Australia so we’ll be back and forth a little bit. I’m trying to get something together for UK and Europe but it’s difficult with Brexit.
Is there a particular festival in the UK that you’d like to play at?
I mean, obviously Glastonbury. But to be honest, I’m not sure if I could handle the pre nerves!