Shoegazey with a Dream Pop Edge: Introducing Hatchie
Somewhere between Cocteau Twins and Sky Ferreira is Hatchie, whose one and only song "Try" is, by all accounts... really doing things to people.
All photos by Alex Johnstone.
What do Lorde, Peggy March, Avril Lavigne, and Brisbane's 24-year-old Hatchie have in common? I'm gonna tell you: they all achieved widespread success with their first ever single release. Alright, so Hatchie's debut single "Try" hasn't quite gone six times platinum yet—god bless you, Avril, you beautiful son of a bitch. But after just one month living out in the world, "Try" has very casually made its way onto Top 40s and Best Of playlists, Triple J rotation, and in the meantime she signed to three agencies—who between them represent the likes of Tame Impala, The xx, FKA Twigs and Best Coast. Making the song what we here in the industry would call a Runaway Success.
We won't be putting any of it down to luck, though. Hatchie—whose real life name is Harriette Pilbeam—seems to know what she's doing. A multi-instrumentalist, Hatchie sat on a catalogue of demos for literally years before releasing "Try." She listened to Wolf Alice and Kylie Minogue and Sky Ferreira and found her space between glistening, over-produced synth pop and 80s guitar-led shoegaze and patiently waited until the time felt right.
And here we are. Sitting down to talk the Valley, bass guitar, Carly Rae Jepsen, and nicknames that stick over Skype.
So you've released one song and everyone loves it. That's pretty crazy and fun.
Yeah, it's wild, it's been a really crazy few weeks. So much happened in the first week that it was overwhelming and stressful while being really cool. I'm stoked.
You should be. It's such a great pop song. So rare that somebody comes out of the woodwork and the first thing that they put out isn't a little bit crap, or that they absolutely know what their sound is straight away. Are you the kind of person that just sits on things and takes their time putting them out?
Yeah totally, I wrote that song like two years ago. And then I recorded it March last year and it was ready to go for at least six months before I was like, "I guess I'll do something with it." I just let it stew for a while, and I was at uni last year kind of waiting for that to finish. I have a bunch of songs that I wrote ages ago, but I've just been waiting for the right time, and I'm really glad I waited. I made myself commit by saying I'd put it out on my birthday, and I told everyone that I would put it out on my birthday so I had to.
You've been in other bands before, though.
Yeah, I've also been in a couple of other bands—Babaganoüj, which I'm in now, and I used to be in a band called Go Violets—so I'm not completely new to this stuff. Doing it alone has been scary but really interesting, trying to figure out how to go about things. Even really weird dumb stuff like making a Facebook page or Instagram or something. It feels very weird when I have like, a couple hundred likes and I'm going "Hi fans, my new song's coming soon!" but it's all my family and friends and I've already told them all in person.
What were you studying at uni?
I was doing Creative Industries.
What is that?
It's like Arts at QUT in Brisbane. My major was the entertainment industry so I studied like, management and festivals stuff. And I did music studies as well.
When you started it what were you hoping to do with it?
I don't know! At first I think I wanted to get into band management or something because I was like, I'm in bands but I need some other avenue to actually make money. But I still haven't zoned in on one particular job that I'd want to do other than music. I'm just working in a cafe at the moment, so I'll probably do that for another year before I think about getting into music management. Especially because I still want to do music and be an artist so I'm not in any rush.
It would be a bit shit if you were like, "Hey, band! I'm going to manage you!" and then your own stuff takes off and you're like "Peace!"
Did you start playing instruments as a kid?
Yeah, I've sung since I was really little. Singing was always my number one thing; the one thing I've stuck with the whole time. Guitar I started playing when I was thirteen and got lessons, and then I stopped that for a bit and went with bass for a while. When I started playing in bands. I can play piano and clarinet and stuff like that but my main instrument is probably bass. I really like guitar but I'm not as good at it. I'm trying to get better at guitar but it's hard.
I feel like bass is a great choice! Like, from my very, very limited understanding of songwriting, I'd imagine it would be a really good place to start a pop song.
Totally, yeah. I think so too. I didn't realise that until later, I was kind of like "awww, bass! Not bass!" but yeah, starting with bass for songs means you can really go in any direction.
Definitely. Do people actually call you Hatchie?
Yeah, my parents do, that's where it came from. I almost hated it as my artist name because it's too cute. It reminds me of being a little kid, but it's stuck. It started off as a joke and now it's just… it just is.
I think all the best things start off as jokes and then they stick.
Yeah I think if I sat down and tried to think of a name I would come up with the stupidest thing.
I agree. Thinking of names for things is really hard and terrible. Do you produce your own stuff?
I do, I do all my own demos which have all the parts in them and then my boyfriend Joe, he's better at Ableton and stuff so he helps with that. I'm just really impatient so if I can't figure something out quickly I'll be like "fuck this, I hate this program." Joe's like "you have to sit and figure it out." So he helps me do the second demo, and he adds a lot of the synth stuff. He has a lot of really cool ideas with 80s sounds and stuff.
A very "now" sound. Haha that sounded like a joke.
Very trendy at the moment.
"The 80s, very now." So then, what is coming out next?
I have a bunch of demos that I'm ready to record, so I'll have an EP out soon. And there's a new single. I plan to play heaps of shows in the second half of this year. I'm just getting my live set together now.
Who influences you? What do you sound like?
Some of the comparisons that are coming up—probably because I put them in my bio on my Unearthed profile—are Cocteau Twins and The Sundays. I love Lush and Nic Hessler. My favourite band for the past few years has been Wolf Alice. Them, Chairlift and Kate Bush definitely changed the way I thought about writing and femininity in music, and helped me realise you don't have to be a super feminine pop singer. I have always loved and will always love Kylie, and I think artists like her and Carly Rae Jepsen deserve to be taken more seriously. When I think about what kind of world I want my music to fit into, it's like shoegazey with a dream pop edge. I was listening a lot of Sky Ferreira when I was writing "Try."
That makes sense now that you say it. "You're Not the One." A perfect song.
It's so, so good.
So did you grow up Brisbane?
Yeah, it's really not interesting. Born and raised Brisbane. My parents were from different parts of Queensland but have pretty much always lived in Brisbane.
I have never been to Brisbane. Is that fucked up?
I don't think it's that weird! When people come to Brisbane everyone's like, "Why did you come here? What are you here for?"
I think it looks good!
Yeah I think the thing is—maybe it's the best thing and the worst thing about Brisbane—that you can walk to everything basically. You never have to travel. On a night out you're just like, spending all your time in the Valley or maybe West End. For the most part you can go to multiple gigs in around the corner from each other.
I feel like that would be great, travel-wise, but what if there's people you don't wanna see? You're gonna see 'em in the the Valley, and you're not gonna have anywhere else to go!
You haven't been here but you basically know exactly what you're talking about because that is the problem. Most people are like "fucking Brisbane, typical Brisbane, I saw everyone I know last night." That's the thing people say.
Maybe you guys should start wearing Halloween masks, make it interesting.
That's a very good idea.