British-bred electro-rocker Ladyhawke (a.k.a. Pip Brown) released her second album, Anxiety, this week after taking what she admits was a much-needed break from singing her breakthrough hit, “Paris Is Burning” (all night long!). She phoned us from a hotel in London to talk about her new sound (less synth, more guitar), the evil Internet, and a supergroup with Madonna.
You’ve said “Ladyhawke” comes from the 1985 movie character played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and that you wanted to be a pop superhero making songs that made people feel good. Is that true?
That’s funny! People have repeated that quote to me and I have no recollection of saying that. It doesn’t really sound like something I’d say. I must have said it.
Well, is it true?
I still love pop music in ways. You can’t go wrong with a catchy hook. I like to think that even though my music is never going to be mainstream or anything, I still have something that can draw people in, whether it’s with a catchy hook or a nostalgic vibe running through the songs. I still felt that with this album as well. I wanted it to be darker, but still poppy and catchy, and wanted to reel people in and make people tap their feet, you know?
Would you say that Anxiety is a record about control, or the absence of it?
For me, it was a real control album: trying to regain control when you’ve lost it. You know, going through things like anxiety and depression, you do feel weak almost. You feel like you’ve lost a certain amount of control and you’re almost too weak to fight. But writing this album was quite therapeutic for me because it felt like I was getting the strength back and regaining all the control, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Does that explain why you took a break from recording for a bit, anxiety? Or were you just tired of singing “Paris Is Burning”?
[Laughs.] Sort of both. I was just so exhausted and I thought I’d be able to cope and I was just so tired, and I couldn’t even think from touring and interviews and everything else. I was touring for two years and it was a lot of hard work, a lot of promos, late nights and early mornings, and it got the better of me in the end. I did need a break.
So you have a better handle on things now?
Yeah, I’ve had enough of a break, and I was like, “Okay, I’m ready to get back into it now.”
You’re doing a lot more guitar work on this record as opposed to some of the big electro beats on the first. Why the shift?
I basically had no desire to repeat myself. I wanted to make a good album that was a step away from the first one. That was something I got out of my system, and I made a sort of electro-rocky album. When it came to this one, I thought, I’m not gonna use any synths in this … I’m desperate to get more guitars in there.
Why pay homage to Faye Dunaway in your video for “Black, White, and Blue”?
The Eyes of Laura Mars! The video was a complete homage to that film.
How did you get turned on to that movie? Had you seen it?
That decision was through the director of the music video. I had an idea for what I wanted the video to look like and [the final product] was nothing like it. She basically, almost shot-for-shot, referenced The Eyes of Laura Mars, and I just instinctively knew somehow that it would be a fantastic idea.
Are you a Faye Dunaway fan?
Oh, yeah. She’s awesome. It’s not very me, but it’s fun to try and be [someone else] — the director convinced me. She was like, “Okay, you’re not Ladyhawke. You’re Pip playing Ladyhawke, playing Faye Dunaway, playing Laura Mars.” I was just like, “Okay! I can handle that. Just this once.”
Are there things in pop culture that make you anxious?
Social networking and the whole culture of Internet opinion. People want to know everything about you straight away, and having a ridiculous, un-researched opinion on something. I hate that whole culture; it grosses me out so much. It makes me scared of going on the Internet, you know? I don’t like social networking at all. I’ve got my Facebook, and the only thing I actually do is my Twitter and I hate doing Twitter. It’s always painful. I’ve got it so far where I tweet and it comes up on my Facebook. I just don’t like the sort of instant abuse you can get. It’s just so thoughtless, and I feel like our culture has become nasty and crude.
We saw that with Lana Del Rey, of course. What do you think of that whole phenomenon?
Oh, that just made me so … I got really angry about that! God, she’s just a girl making music! Yeah, she changed her name, but who cares? So did Madonna. Everyone does it. I’m called Ladyhawke; my real name’s Pip Brown. I mean, my real name’s really boring, so I changed it. You know what I mean? I feel really sorry for her. Who cares if her daddy’s rich? It doesn’t make any difference. I really enjoyed Born to Die. I thought she got really harshly criticized and it wasn’t fair. But, that’s the Internet: It’s a beast. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cynical people who sit behind their computers and decide to pass judgment. It’s loaded.
You mentioned Madonna. Do you have a favorite Madonna phase or reinvention?
My favorite song is “Like a Prayer.” That was the first song that made me feel obsessed with a song and sad at the same time. It was the first time I noticed the happy-sad vibe. That same feeling has stayed with me to this day.
Maybe you’d want her in your dream supergroup?
Yeah, her as lead. Of course her! And I can’t forget Robyn. And Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac.