Interview and article by Clara Copps
As the first few notes of Lights On reverberate into the air, the opening track of Hatchie’s sophomore
album Giving the World Away takes the listener’s hand and leads them into a world of dreamy, 90’s pop-
inspired synths. Her voice pairs perfectly with the atmosphere and conveys messages of self-confidence blossoming out of anxiety and doubt. With this record, Hatchie establishes herself as an international pop star with augmented production and collaboration with industry names such as Dan Nigro, Jorge Elbrecht, and Beach House drummer James Barone.
I had the pleasure of talking with Harriette Pilbeam, the Australian singer/songwriter behind
Hatchie. Even after dealing with a few complications such as time zone differences and zoom issues, we
were able to have a great conversation about her latest release Giving the World Away, navigating time
split between Brisbane and LA, and her relationship with her fans.
To start off, I wanted to ask about your songwriting process and what that looks like, and if it has
changed at all over the course of your career as Hatchie, like through your EP (Sugar & Spice) and
Keepsake and then Giving the World Away.
Yeah, sure. It’s definitely changed a lot; I think I’ve opened up to a lot of different ways to write songs
and now I do it kind of every way. In the beginning for the first EP, it was a lot more of either starting
with lyrics or starting with an acoustic guitar or just me and a piano, then fleshing it our later, whereas
with the albums it was a lot more of sitting down to demo as I wrote, so I was recording as I wrote. I
found that it was better for me to keep a record of the work as it was progressing, so if I wanted to go
back to something I did a few days ago I’d be like “Oh I’ve got that recording here”, and I could kind of
do demo 1, demo 2, demo 3 in case I preferred an earlier demo.
I think I rarely start songs with lyrics anymore, I usually start the song first and then add in the lyrics as I’m going or add in the lyrics at the end. Now I also start, particularly with Giving the World Away, maybe I would start with the melody or maybe I would start with the chord structure, or maybe I would start with a concept for a song, or, like, now what kind of sounding song I wanted to make, and decide on that first rather than just letting the creative juice come to me and flow. Or I might start by playing around with a random pedal I’ve got for guitar or play around with a guitar riff, so yeah, it definitely varies a lot more now.
I know that with Giving the World Away you put a lot of effort into the lyrics and they were a lot
more personal, so I was wondering if you had any major takeaways from that process of
introspection and digging deeper into yourself.
Um, I guess the main thing is it helped me realize how many things I hadn’t been addressing within
myself and [helped acknowledge] how I was feeling about certain things, and particularly things that I
had been feeling when I was younger or few years ago that had been floating around in the back of my
mind. I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t really addressed them properly or worked through them, and writing
the songs really helped me move on with some things in some ways. Putting them into a song can
sometimes feel really cathartic because then you can really close the door on it, and I think also listening
back to how dramatic everything sounds, I’m realizing how melodramatic and emotional I really am, and I don’t think I used to realize that’s not how everyone felt, so I think it definitely helped me realize
how far I still have to go in terms of simmering down and, I guess, just relaxing a bit. I think I get really
worked up about stuff and writing the songs and listening back to them made me realize how worked up I get about things and how I still need to work on some stuff.
Yeah, that makes sense. I feel a similar way with journaling, like once I write everything down, I
realize, okay, [this sounds a little bit dramatic].
Yeah, I think I found some of my old journals from like six years ago and I read a few pages and I was
like “woah, I didn’t realize how unhappy I was at that time”, like at the time I thought I was just getting
the feelings out but now I’m like “oh my god, I was really roughing it for a while there”, like it made me
realize how much better I’m feeling now.
Well, I’m glad to hear that! So, how much did the pandemic influence the course of this album, like in terms of, did you have a vision for this album number two that may have gotten derailed by the pandemic and is the final product different than how you may have originally envisioned it?
Yeah, totally. So, I guess the record started with a few demos that I had from late 2019 and early 2020
and then in February 2020 my husband Joe and I (he plays in the band with me and writes with me), we
went over to LA and did a writing trip, and a couple of those songs ended up on the album. Two of those
songs we started writing were This Enchanted and Lights On which we started writing with Jorge
Elbrecht who ended up producing the whole album, and we went home to Australia after that trip thinking that we were going to continue the album in person with Jorge. We were really hoping to go back over to America and do the rest of the album with him, but obviously we got stuck at home and he got stuck in Denver, where he’s from. So, we ended up doing the rest of it over email, made up of demos that we had done on that trip and demos that we had started before, and also Joe and I started some demos at home, so it was a lot more of a patchwork of songs that were written over different continents at different times, whereas I was hoping to kind of do it all in one big session over a few weeks together in person.
So yeah, It definitely affected it and it was a struggle at times with the time difference, and not being able to explain things in person or play things in person with Jorge, but the silver lining is that it meant we had a lot more time to work on it and we weren’t like, in an expensive studio for three weeks and had to get it all done in [that time]. We had like six months to do it, so we really recorded it from, like, June until November, we were writing and recording that whole time so we got to improve everything as it went along, which is good because we’re perfectionists, so we always listen to songs and we’re like “oh we should change that, we should fix that”, so yeah, it allowed us time to really work through the details.
Yeah, I can imagine that’s like, another whole layer of challenge, having to do the whole thing
remotely. Could you describe the vibe or aesthetic you’re going for with this album, cause I know
you’ve talked about how the visuals are important to you, and we are living in a time now where a
lot of visuals are thrust at us all the time, but also that can actually be kind of cool and beneficial
for artists because it allows them to pair visuals with their music easily. So, in your own words,
what is the visual atmosphere of this album? I guess, with this one I wanted to really flip the project on its head when you compare it to the earlier
stuff. I feel like my first EP was really DIY, and it really represented an indie singer songwriter, and I
wanted this one to be a lot more hi-fi, a lot more defined and refined, more mature and dark and glossy
because I felt like that was a good representation of how the album sounded. That went from everything
from the fonts we used to the color scheme to me dying my hair, the fashion, everything like that. I’m
lucky that Joe does all the visuals for me, so we were able to work on it all together.
I love the attention to detail, I think it really comes through. Could you talk a little bit about the
wings that you’re wearing in the album cover and in the This Enchanted music video? I think that’s a really beautiful symbol and the wings themselves are beautiful as well.
That was honestly a last-minute addition from Joe when we were talking about the This Enchanted music video, we shot it in Brisbane and he had the idea to add on the angel wings, to just make it a bit more interesting and I guess to create a little more mystery around what I was doing walking around the city, like where I had come from and where I was going or to give more depth to the character. We just
happened to be taking a shot of me on the bridge, kind of looking out and we were looking at the shot a
few days later, I think we needed artwork for something, or we were just looking through the shots, and
we just realized that it was a really beautiful moment and we kind of knew instantly that we wanted it to
be the cover. I had been trying to figure out what I wanted for the cover, and I wasn’t sure, and we kind of just stumbled upon that and it felt perfect because it was the right color scheme that we were looking for and it’s a bit mysterious, it’s a bit hopeful and also a bit sad, and yeah it leaves things open to
That’s really cool, I really love the album cover too. So, I know you recently moved to LA, and I
wanted to ask how that’s going so far, and is there any adjustment that’s happening?
It’s been really nice, we were here for three months at the end of last year and then we went home for
shows and were there for a few months again and we’re kind of living in between Brisbane and LA,
which can definitely be a little hard (living out of a suitcase), for sure, we don’t have our own spot here,
we’re just subletting off people so that’s definitely been an adjustment with having to get used to just
having certain items. But I think it’s also been good for me to get out of my comfort zone for sure. LA
was kind of just convenient, like I knew I wanted to move somewhere because I’d never lived anywhere
other than Brisbane, and LA just makes the most sense right now, and we have some friends here so that’s definitely helped with the adjustment. It’s really nice that LA is really similar to Brisbane in some ways in that it’s really suburban and really warm, but it’s definitely harder, I think, making friends at our age in our late twenties rather than in our early twenties which is when most people move. But I’m really
enjoying it so far.
That’s great, but yeah, I can imagine it can be tricky moving back and forth, and it’s such a huge
Totally, yeah. It’s like a fourteen-hour flight and the time difference is the complete opposite, like, it’s
2AM in Brisbane right now so talking to people can be hard, like catching up with family.
Have you been able to experience the LA music scene at all? I know there’s a lot of creative people that live in LA, a lot of musicians.
Yeah! We’ve been a few gigs, I think there were more gigs while we were on tour that we missed, but we
saw Harvey last week, we went to see Chris Cohen right before we went on tour, I think there’s a lot more gigs coming up so I’m excited to see them. We saw Tame Impala at Hollywood Bowl last time, which was really cool since it’s such a cool venue.
Is there anyone that you’re interested in collaborating with in the future? It can be realistic or
I don’t know! I mean, one of my big ones has been to work with Kylie Minogue or New Order, they’re
like my favorite artists ever. There’s definitely plenty of artists that are more realistic around here that
I’ve been talking about collaborating with, some that are maybe in the works, but I’m not sure so I don’t
really want to say, but at this point I’m really open to everything and trying everything.
I know that during the pandemic you interacted a lot with your fans, with the Patreon and
everything, so I was wondering how much those interactions with your fans impact you as an artist or your outlook as a musician.
It definitely helped so much; I didn’t realize how much it would help me mentally get through [the
pandemic]. Having that communication with the fans and now getting to meet them at the meet and greets at the shows has been really lovely, and it’s just a really good reminder, I guess, of why I make music. I partly make music for myself, but I partly do it for that connection with people, and yeah, it’s been beautiful. I don’t know if I am going to be able to keep it up really long term when we get touring a lot more, but I love it. I don’t think it’s changed how I create music, really, I can’t tell right now because I
haven’t done much full recording since the I started [the Patreon], but it’s made me feel really understood and supported.
Yeah, that’s also great to hear as a person that is a fan of many artists, that it [makes a difference]. Looking forward, do you have any aspirations or goals that you are kind of hoping to achieve with your career as Hatchie?
Ooh I don’t know, I mean I would just love to be able to keep making music for the rest of my life and for
it to be a really long career with a lot of evolving. I want to keep my listeners on my toes and to develop
my artistry and explore new genres and new sounds, new visuals while still feeling true to myself and true to the Hatchie project. I think people can be really quick to hate on or judge artists for changing, but I think it’s important to change, for the artist and for the listener, so I just hope that I can continue to do that and to travel and tour to as many different continents and countries as possible because that’s always been a really big goal of mine.
Finally, like I said earlier, I write for college radio, so I’m around a lot of young people who are
trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, exploring a bunch of different things so I was wondering if you have any advice that you’d like to give to people that are just beginning to
write music or just beginning to get into a band. I think one of the biggest ones is being patient. I’ve played in band for ten years now, so I was doing it for about six years before I released the first Hatchie song, and I was just playing gigs mainly around my
hometown and other cities nearby around Australia. It felt like nothing was happening and then it
suddenly felt like everything was happening, so I think being patient is a really big one and just
remembering why you’re doing it and doing it for the love of it.
I think also do what you really want to do, spend your time how you really want to spend it, and don’t feel like you have to rush to find exactly what it is you’re going to do for the rest of your life, because I think doing one thing for your whole life isn’t realistic. I think especially for this generation, like I think our parents’ generation being more “you need to find one job and do that forever” and that was it, and then you retired forty years later. I think the world is really changing so that you can really pick what you and to do and figure out how to make it work so that you can enjoy your time on earth, and not rush or give into other pressures.
I really like that message because it can be expanded to other fields as well, and it’s good to hear as someone who is still trying to figure out, like, what’s going on and what to do.
Exactly, you don’t have to have it all figured out at 22, it feels like you [have to have it figured out] but
you really don’t.
Well, that’s all I have for today, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me!
You can hear Giving the World Away on Spotify and Apple Music and see her live opening for Alex G