From the moment Harriette Pilbeam uploaded the swelling heart-rush of her debut single Try to triple j Unearthed in May 2017, we knew she was special. A year on from the Sugar & Spice EP, she’s just about to gift us her first album as Hatchie, the astonishing dream-pop collection Keepsake.
You’ve said: “I’m the one dictating what my sound is; what I put on my album is up to me.” Was there a particular event that prompted that moment of realisation for you?
There was definitely a moment when this really clicked for me. It sounds obvious and like any artist should feel this way from the beginning, but I have had some doubtful moments over the last year where I’ve felt stuck between making music for myself and making music for other people. This particular quote was in reference to the day Joe and I wrote Stay With Me. I was helping him finish it and we didn’t even discuss it being a contender for my own project until after we’d completed the first demo. We’d been working on it for fun, joking that it was a song for a big pop star.
When Joe suggested it could go on my own record I rejected the idea at first, thinking it was way too dancey and poppy for Hatchie, even though it was one of my favourite songs I’d ever worked on. Then after some thought I came to that realisation quoted; if I love a song I’ve worked on, there’s no reason I don’t deserve to have it for myself. This process helped me break down some parameters I’d unintentionally and unconsciously set for myself during the writing process for my album.
There’s a lot of paradox within the lyrics of Stay With Me. Do you find writing things out is a way to untangle feelings?
I definitely do. It forces me to reflect and open up to myself. Sometimes I feel like if I’ve put all my feelings addressing something I’m upset about into a song, I can officially move on from it.
When writing songs, do you purposely experiment on each of the instruments you play? Do you think, for example, songs written on bass tend to share a personality which is distinct from those written on piano?
I definitely experiment and move parts from instrument to instrument when I’m writing. I like to approach songs with different methods each time so I’m not repeating the same processes and getting bored. I don’t think just because a song is written primarily on one instrument it will automatically have a different personality from a song written on another instrument, but I guess when I start writing songs with bass they seem to have more interesting bass lines.
You’ve said that “in a way, the whole album is a keepsake.” What is it primarily a record of?
Really it’s a record of my transition from teenager into young adulthood and everything that comes with that: friendships ending and beginning, discovering love, adjusting to new roles and responsibilities, letting go of angst, embracing vulnerability, revisiting old memories and looking forward with fear and hope.
What kinds of physical keepsakes have you collected?
In my drawers I often find old train tickets, keyrings, festival passes, items of clothing I never wear anymore but still can’t bear to throw away, tapes that stopped working, stickers still on their original sheets because I feared sticking them to anything would inevitably lead to their deterioration.
Secret is particularly beautiful – it is the culmination of many little sparkling ideas. Which of those ideas came first?
The instrumental gems came first with this one! I sat on the basic chord structure and the lead lines (i.e., the synth melody in the intro; the synth melody behind the whole outro; the melody I sing in ‘haaa’s in the outro) for months. Joe suggested the vocal line be something really sparse and disjointed and then I added the “Baby can you keep a secret?” line a while later after many different iterations of the song, but I had no idea of how to structure everything and what style it should be.
I showed it to my producer John when we had almost finished recording all the other tracks. He helped decide on the structure and suggested some subtle chord changes that really opened the second half of the track up. I finished the lyrics last, as I usually do.
Keepsake by Hatchie is out June 21 via Ivy League.
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