A Short And Sweet Chat With Hatchie Before She Conquers The World

Harriet Pillbeam was supposed to have a quiet year in Brisbane. Then Hatchie happened.


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Harriet Pillbeam was expecting to have a quiet year. Then Hatchie happened.

Her band, Babaganouj, was going to take a bit of a breather in 2017 — several members had degrees to finish, plus they were all working full time. After a little prodding from friends, the then 23-year-old Brisbane native took the downtime to return to some songs which were a little too introspective to fit the DIY rock band.

Last May, Pillbeam uploaded ‘Try’ to triple j unearthed, her first release as Hatchie. The next day, it found itself on the station’s high rotation list. An infectious dream-pop anthem about ambivalent lovers caught between giving it their all or giving up, ‘Try’ inspires angst-driven daydreams about being in a John Hughes film.

And with each subsequent single, Pillbeam established her knack for cinematic ear-worms. Ticks of approval soon streamed in from the likes of Pitchfork and Stereogum, as did comparisons to Pillbeam’s musical heroes Beach House and Cocteau Twins, whose guitarist Robin Gunthrie would later provide Hatchie’s first remix. Over the year, Hatchie signed to labels in Australia, the US and the UK, and geared up for headline tours in each region.

Now, Hatchie’s debut EP Sugar & Spice is out. Written over three years, it captures the dual waves of anxiety and support that come from your first love becoming a long-term relationship. Ahead of its release, we caught up with Pillbeam to talk about her massive year, taking her time, and why dream-pop is best suited to those happy-sad feels.

The past year has been a real whirlwind for you. You’ve gone from peak to peak, but what’s been your highlight?

I think probably doing shows overseas has been my favourite part so far — it’s something that I thought would take a lot longer to happen, but the fact that we’re doing America in under a year is actually pretty amazing to me.

Pitchfork posting about my music multiple times was really cool to teenage Harriet, so I’m excited about that. I wasn’t expecting any of it.

I suppose on the flip side, though, that’s also a little bit scary, potentially.

Oh, for sure. It’s very scary. I definitely get kind of pressured — it’s like good things are happening that means something bad’s going to happen soon, which I’m freaking out about. I’m really trying to make myself just let the good things happen.

Well, we’ve heard most of the EP by now through the single releases. So, you kind of know that people are gonna like it.

Yeah [Laughs]. That’s a good way of putting it.

Speaking of Sugar and Spice, you began writing a lot of the songs in 2015 — what happened in the three years between then and now?

I guess I kind of figured out what I wanted everything to sound like. Because I started writing lyrics in early 2015, but they didn’t become proper songs until last year. I wasn’t really in any rush, I was just trying to do things as they naturally happen, rather than forcing something out then undercooking it.

Listening to Sugar & Spice, the songs focus on love, but there’s also that little sense of anxiety or trepidation as well, like in ‘Try’ — it’s never just a pure love song, which comes with the genre. 

Yeah, I think there’s often melancholy undertones to even most dream-poppy songs about love. There’s anxious undertones, or negative undertones – you can feel it in there. That’s not something I did intentionally, but looking back I’m really happy with that, because I think that’s all more true to my experience as a young adult. It’s not all positive and it’s not all easy, but that’s normal.

Having said that, shoe-gaze and dream-pop aren’t your only influences — you recently told Tidal that Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion was one of the five albums that changed your life.

I really love everything about that album, I think it’s really intelligent pop writing — unlike a lot of the pop music that was coming out at the time of that album – I don’t know, she worked with cool people on that album [Sia, Blood Orange, Rostam Batmangli] and it really showed.

I suppose it also feels like a pop album for people who don’t really like pop music that much. Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with–

–No, not at all, I completely agree with you. I think it got a lot of people who would say that they’re not pop fans into pop music, who now understand that there’s not just this one corner in the industry that’s, like – “pop”. The word “pop” is almost meaningless now.

Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

Hatchie’s Sugar & Spice is out now, and touring Australia this June and July. Details and tickets are available here.

Feature image by Alex Wall.