Anyone who’s been to more than a handful of gigs in Brisbane will be familiar with Harriette Pilbeam. As bassist, sometimes singer and songwriter for indie-rockers Babaganoüj since 2011, and previously as a member of sugary pop outfit Go Violets, she is an established figure on the local scene.
Now, barely three months since Pilbeam introduced her solo project Hatchie to the world via Triple J Unearthed, she has signed management and PR deals, seen her music charting on the Spotify Viral charts, been added to the Bigsound Live line-up, and gained the kind of attention many other young artists would sell their mother for.
The reason is debut single ‘Try’ – a shimmering pop gem unlike anything the 24 year old has been involved in so far. Pilbeam explains how Try came about and what the future holds for the burgeoning project.
Why is now the right time for a solo project?
I started writing these songs that didn’t suit Babaganoüj any more – they were a lot more pop and not as grunge or ’90s-sounding as Babaganoüj. They required much different production and I wanted to play around with more ’80s UK references more than [those of] ’90s US bands. I thought it was a good time to pursue that, and I really wanted to experiment with that kind of stuff by myself, rather than in a band. I recorded ‘Try’ 18 months ago and decided to put it out on my birthday in May to make myself do it.
Your bio mentions Cocteau Twins, Sky Ferreira and Wolf Alice as influences. What is it about those artists that works for you?
With the Cocteau Twins, it’s a lot about the vocals, and the ambience with the guitars. I really like the production of some Sky Ferreira songs because they’re pop songs but the production is more alternative, with the drums especially. She’s not just a straight pop singer. I wanted to do an amalgamation of all those things, and play around with vocals and harmonies, but with more pop writing.
Is ‘Try’ indicative of how the project will sound overall?
I think it’s maybe too early to tell. I have a lot of demos I haven’t produced yet, so they can go in any direction. I think that ‘Try’ sits in the middle of the kind of music I’ll probably be making. There are a few songs I’ve already got done which are a bit on the poppy side of ‘Try’, and a few songs which are a bit darker, ambient and shoegaze-y.
You’ve had so much attention in a short amount of time.
I’m very excited and it’s pretty overwhelming. I did not expect half of the things that have happened to happen so quickly. I thought I would be self-managed for at least six months or something, and I got a manager within a day of releasing Try. So many things have happened so quickly and it’s shocking to me. I’m very grateful that it’s even got this far.
BS: How did the deal with Jacob Snell of Monster Management come about?
He just contacted me when ‘Try’ got played on Triple J. I put it up on Unearthed and he contacted me within a few hours of its release. We spoke on the phone two days later, got on really well, and it just made sense. I thought I’d maybe want to keep my options open a bit longer, but as soon as I had the phone call with him I wanted to just do it, and didn’t care about who else comes along. I don’t think I’ll regret it.
Brisbanites will recognise landmarks in the clip. Is where you’re from important to you as an artist?
Brisbane has a unique music scene in that it’s quite small and everybody knows each other. I don’t think I needed to incorporate my home town because of what it means to me, but it probably affects me without me realising.
What does being on the Bigsound Live line-up mean to you?
I’m excited to see a lot of the other people who are playing, but it’s also exciting for me as an artist to meet people I wouldn’t meet outside of Bigsound. It’s really cool because they get so many international people coming in. I’m really excited to meet people, not even in a business-y way, but just to talk to people about what it’s like to work in the music industry. I am really interested in that as I studied it at uni. I’m excited about all aspects of it, not just playing.
What makes up a Hatchie live set?
I’ve got about a set’s worth ready to go now, and I’m still in the process of teaching the other members the songs now. It’ll probably be about seven songs – mainly poppy and upbeat. I’ve got my friend Ritchie [Daniell] on drums – he’s in the Grates. I’ve got the two guitarists from the Creases and me on guitar and samples. It’s pretty fluid at the moment and depends on the touring schedule that is worked out for the next six months, which is all being decided at the moment.
How do you build on what you’ve already done?
I suspect a support tour with another Australian band, and then hopefully lots of shows overseas in the next six months to a year. There are a lot of things about to be locked in. I would love to go to the UK and play the Great Escape Festival next year. The UK would be my number-one priority.