“It sounds like I’m lying but, for the last couple of years, I’ve always wanted to come back here,” says Brisbane native Harriette Pilbeam, aka Hatchie.
We’re sat in the park across the road from Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club, where she’s due to play her first ever UK gig as part of Live at Leeds, the day after her 25th birthday.
“I’ve always wanted to play shows in the UK. I came to Live at Leeds four years ago with my boyfriend because his band was playing, and we saw Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles. It was awesome.”
This is the first stop on Hatchie’s brief UK tour since her debut single ‘Try’ became something of a sensation in spring of last year. Record labels, agencies and managers were clambering to sign her after the tune was released by the Australian equivalent of BBC Introducing, Triple J Unearthed.
“It was shocking, exciting and overwhelming. We’re lucky to have Triple J Unearthed in Australia; it’s such a good starting point for a lot of artists starting out. If I just put it out anywhere, it probably would’ve got a bit lost. It got to the right people early on.”
Pilbeam had been in other Brisbane-based bands, such as Go Violets and Babaganouj, but now she’s enjoying “being able to do whatever I want without to make any compromises.” That experience has given her the freedom to find her own voice. The success of ‘Try’ is no fluke.
Such a confident and self-assured debut, ‘Try’ is a twinkling, dream pop treat, full of gorgeous harmonies led by a voice that, when the chorus hits, brings to mind Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser. It’s a song that, funnily enough, grabbed the ear of another Cocteau Twin, Robin Guthrie.
“It was another shock,” Pilbeam explains. “I’ve been a huge fan of Cocteau Twins for years. It was really casual as well. We just had a couple of phone conversations where we talked about my music, and he talked a lot about his experiences with recording and a little about his ideas of the industry.”
Guthrie went on to remix Hatchie’s second single, ‘Sure’, which veers more towards her love of shoegaze. “He wasn’t even really a dream collaborator because I would never even dream that that was possible. It wasn’t even an option in my mind!” she recalls.
While shoegaze is a big part of the Hatchie sound, citing Slowdive, The Sundays and of course Cocteau Twins as influences, a lot of her songs, ‘Sugar & Spice’ and ‘Sleep’ in particular, have gigantic pop hooks front and centre.
“I like pop as well as cooler alternative shoegazey music, so I like mixing those kind of elements. I wanted it to be a bit brighter and a bit glossier as opposed to just being reverbed out,” she says.
The end result is a sound that blends the melancholy of breakups and one-sided loves with bright, dazzling melodies; very much sticking to the ethos that sugar and spice makes all things nice.
But, even though her EP ‘Sugar & Spice’ is full of these glittering jewels, this isn’t so much indicative of the Hatchie of today, more an insight into where she’s come from.
“I thought it was good to start off with pop and then work my way out from that and refine it in that way. ‘Try’, ‘Sugar & Spice’ and ‘Sleep’ are all about two years old; I’d had them recorded and ready to go, and it just made sense to release those songs.
“I’ve set this point to start with. People know me as that kind of sound now, but I’m ready to grow. I’m still figuring it out with the demos and that, but I’ve already evolved a lot as a person and as an artist, so I’m very open to my sound evolving to match that. It’s not gonna be anything crazy though,” she continues. “I’m just doing whatever comes naturally and not thinking too hard about it.”
This new, evolved Hatchie is a far cry from the self-confessed “worrier” who “put things off because I’m worried about it not being the best it can possibly be.”
And as she takes to the stage at Brudenell’s Community Room, she has no need to worry. With the early afternoon sun shining outside, her shimmering, dreamy hooks sound magical. It’s the soundtrack to a teen romance, of daydreams, heartbreaks and anxieties, all with a hopeful twist and spectacular pop hooks.
Whatever this evolved Hatchie is going to sound like, it’s sure to have even more people clambering to work with her.