“There’s no deeper meaning behind that song. I was just imagining that I was in the zombie apocalypse and I recognised someone I used to know who had turned into a zombie,” Pip Brown - aka Ladyhawke - is setting the record straight.
Although it has a crunchy sound, Anxiety feels somehow less organic than Ladyhawke's self-titled 2008 debut, with a lot of treated sounds and programming. While Brown says she wasn't trying to make an album that sounds electronic, when she starts to describe the process, the end result makes sense.
“The way I went about doing the drums and guitar and everything was a lot more lo-fi and gritty than it was the first time around. For the drum sound, we got the shittiest drum kit in the room and put tea towels on the toms and snare. We set up all these really old '50s and '60s mics all around it and just recorded the drums for ages. All different drumbeats and fills, and then we used all those sounds for the whole album. All the sort of bloopy kind of electronic sounds were all done with a Korg K-Oscillator. All the guitars were played through a Sovtek Russian Big Muff, which is a vintage fuzz pedal.
“I wanted to keep things interesting for myself, and the whole process that happened for the first record, I didn't want that to happen again. I was really eager and excited to mess around with different sounds and different instruments. It just sort of happened that way. I wanted to make a record that was rocky but still pop. I can't really put my finger on exactly what it was that I wanted, and I still can't really describe the sound of the album.
“The first record was literally just demoing and all done with a real home studio budget. There was nothing fancy about it; it was just me putting stuff up onto MySpace. I had no record label and no management or anything, and people just started to get interested in it and then I had all these different producers from the UK and the US who wanted to work with me. It was really quite a daunting and confusing process for me because I wasn't used to that world, and I was quite amazed and shocked that it happened and I wasn't really prepared for what was going to happen. The best thing that came out of that process was it taught me so much about writing songs. I got to meet Pascal [Gabriel – co-writer and producer] and me and Pascal became really close friends. But yeah, I think working with I think five different producers, and working around between the five personalities, was a bit too much for me. It takes me a while to get comfortable with people, and I ended up doing half of the album with Pascal anyway. I just thought, when it came to do my second album, the first person that came to mind was Pascal because we're such good friends. We've known each other for about five years and we hang out socially, so it just made sense.
“I really felt like I had to prove myself with the first record,” she admits, “and people didn't realise that I was a musician and that I can play all my instruments if I want, and I've got a good ear. I'm a songwriter as well and I can write my own melodies, and I guess a lot of the producers were people who produce pop stars and didn't realise I could do all that sort of stuff. It felt like it took me a while to establish myself as that person. Pascal could see that and just got me straight away, and it's a really creative environment when we work together. I mean, we butt heads – he's the practical organised one, I'm sort of flitting around from one thing to the next, from idea to idea really quickly. He has the foresight to have 'record' on all the time. The way we work together is really cool – he has nothing to prove and he loves that I have unique ideas.”
Despite the pop aesthetic of the album, a cursory listen to the lyrics proves there's a lot more going on in these songs than your typical pop song. She says the contradictory nature of the lyrics was entirely on purpose. “I've always loved when you almost get led into a false sense of security with the music and you don't realise what it's about until you're singing along and you realise how dark it is.”
At this point, she starts getting a little bit personal. “I've always had really bad anxiety my whole life and I've never really been so personal or opened up so much with any music I've ever done before. I was worried at first that I might have opened up myself too much and would have to deal with questions about it, but then I decided that I just didn't care. I have that anxiety and that's the way it is and you've gotta be able to poke fun at yourself. It's stupid, I hate the anxiety, and calling the album Anxiety was just my way of dealing with it.”
While we're talking about the heavy tone of the lyrics on the album, and Brown is underplaying it all thoroughly, let's discuss the almost terrifying sense of paranoia that exists at the heart of the track Quick And The Dead. Is she using that song to deal with more emotional trauma as well? Er, not quite.
“The funny thing about that song is it's literally about zombies!” she laughs. “There's no deeper meaning behind that song. I was just imagining that I was in the zombie apocalypse and I recognised someone I used to know who had turned into a zombie.”
Brown as Ladyhawke falls victim to that female artist syndrome of being compared to every other female artist who has ever come along before her. She says that she never really understands where the comparisons are coming from, but there's one that's quite obvious which she says no one has ever made.
“I really worship Joan Jett,” she says laughing. “I really wish that someone would make that comparison. She's the closest out of anyone that I think I am like. It is really amusing, I was compared to Cyndi Lauper once - someone said I was 'the Cyndi Lauper of the American Apparel generation'. I thought that was so funny – it's so not me. I mean, Cyndi Lauper is incredible, but we're polar opposites. If you've only heard my first album, and you've never met me or don't know me, I guess people picture something in their head. I've always known that I don't really fit into any of those boxes. I mean, I don't even really fit into the whole gender thing. I've always dressed in quite an androgynous way and I've always been a bit of a tomboy really.”