Hatchie on “Sugar & Spice”

Patience and Love

Nov 20, 2018 Photography by James Loveday Issue #64 -  Kamasi Washington
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"Even he would make fun of himself for being a grumpy old guy!" Hariette Pilbeam, the 25-year-old Brisbane-based dream pop songwriter known as Hatchie, is recalling how surprisingly down to earth and welcomingly ordinary she found Robin Guthrie, whose band Cocteau Twinsperhaps the foremost act in the extensive dream pop canonis a blatant influence. The two spoke on the phone a few times after she released her breakout 2017 debut single, "Try," on which the meeting of Pilbeam's gentle, soaring voice and her reverb-and-phaser-infused, diamond-clear guitars replicate the joy of Heaven or Las Vegas more excitingly, with a stronger pop bent, than many who have tried in the nearly three decades since.

Pilbeam's stunning talent for effortlessly blending the prime of dream pop with the unrelenting catchiness and familiarity of straight-up radio pop defines Hatchie. "Sure," the single with which she followed "Try," might just be the, well, surest example of her spark; no wonder, then, that Guthrie released his own "Sure" remix, which blurs the original's accessibility with even messier, more submersive, Cocteau-esque phaser and reverb. One might expect Pilbeam to flaunt a boosted ego, perhaps even a flair of arrogance, after these fortunes, but she remains down to earth, wise, humble, even a touch self-deprecating. "At the time when it was all happening, it definitely affected me," she recalls of her work and conversations with Guthrie, "[but] I don't think I made any different decisions consciously."

Probably not. Sugar and Spice, Hatchie's debut EP for the well-liked Brooklyn label Double Double Whammy, exudes a singular vision, the mind of an artist steadfast in her commitment to stunning dream pop productions and wistful, irresistible melodies that slither into one's head and get stuck there for days. Though the EP's genesis began only a year ago, when "Try" exploded onto gigantic Australian radio station triple j within hours of its release, Pilbeam has been entrenched in Brisbane's music scene for the past seven years. When she was 18, she joined a band called Babaganoüjwhich she's still in, despite her current focus on Hatchie—in which she played bass and occasionally sang and wrote. "That introduced me to the scene and all of my friends now," she says. "[Without them], I'd be on a completely different path."

It's these same friends, whom she describes as "really, really supportive," who urged her to finish "Try" and upload it to triple j's Unearthed website, which aims to discover and expose the newest Australian musical talent. She wrote it with the intent of bringing it to Babaganoüj, but something didn't quite feel right. "I couldn't really imagine 'Try' going with Babaganoüj, but I didn't want it to stay a demo," she recalls. "I had already been kind of thinking about [going solo], but it was when I wrote 'Try' that I was like, 'Okay, I have to do this.'" So she showed it to her friends in 2015, and their enthusiasm convinced her to at least begin finalizing it; a full year passed before its completion. It wouldn't be until 2017 that she uploaded it to Unearthed.

The gradual completion of "Try" reflects her preferred pace. After her friends heard its demo, they introduced her to John Castle, who would go on to produce the entirety of Sugar and Spice. Her boyfriend and Hatchie bandmate, Joe Agius, became her visual partner, overseeing the process behind all her videos, press photos, and artwork. More and more people were investing in her creations, yet she still hesitated. "I'm such an indecisive person," she says. "I'm really scared of not doing well. I thought, 'Once I put it out, if it doesn't do that well, then that's it.'" Of course, "Try" exploded"Unearthed did what you can only hope it will do for you," she saysand not long after, she flipped the script and wrote "Sure" in just one day. Naturally, though, it didn't see the light of day for quite some time. "I'm still not in any rush to release music. I'm really liking just writing and doing it as it comes," she says.

Pilbeam's enviable patience has begun to manifest in another key Hatchie trait: her thoughts on relationships. Whereas on "Sure," she imagined a frustrating, inexperienced couple that routinely breaks up and gets back together ("I have no experience with that myself," she adds before revealing that she's dated Agius, her first boyfriend, for half a decade), on newer songs, she explores a more complex understanding of relationships. On Sugar and Spice, her romance-bound lyrics manage to toe a careful, cunning line between cliché and cleverness (a prime example is how the pre-chorus of "Sure" pivots on two meanings of the word "over"), a difficult achievement when writing about relationships. On upcoming songs, she's looking forward to writing about other topics too: "I'm writing songs about friendship, which is really important to me," she reveals. "That takes up just as much of my life and my thoughts as my relationship does."

What's especially interesting about her fixation on relationships is that her closest collaborator is her longtime boyfriend. Might her lyrics have the potential to negatively impact their relationship? "We're both really good about it, especially because he's a musician as well," she says. "He knows that [with] a lot of my songs...one passage is my original thought process from when I was really upset, but then I'll write...this new fake character, world, and situation that I've made up." Relationships have long been excellent source material for pop; Pilbeam has found them easiest to write about because they make her "the most emotional." But she's already looking past pop: "It's more interesting to do stuff that isn't just pop," she says. "I don't wanna be pigeonholed as one certain type of sound. I wanna really broaden my horizons in the next year."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 64 (August/September/October 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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Cynthia
November 22nd 2018
2:09pm

Hatchie is good musician and songwriter. I like listen her songs.