Brisbane artist Hatchie’s debut single Try is the stuff record labels dream of. It’s bright, uplifting and relatable, with just enough nostalgia woven through to make it feel like it’s been on your homemade cassette compilation for years. To top it off, the song’s creator, real name Harriette Pilbeam, is young, marketable and wildly talented.
But the record company bidding war that ensued after her self-released single shot to overwhelming success on Triple J in May 2017 (it was then re-released on the Sugar & Spice EP in 2018) created an immensely pressured environment.
“I’ve only really adjusted in the last couple of months,” says 26-year-old Pilbeam. “It was really weird how quickly everything happened. I was meeting so many new people, which was really overwhelming for me, and having to talk about contracts and deals and business stuff when I’ve never really had any … I still felt like a kid up until like two years ago … I’m just feeling like an adult now.”
Pilbeam’s spent time playing in Brisbane bands, such as three-piece indie-rock group Babaganouj, but Hatchie’s sound heavily references ’80s and ’90s shoegaze and dream-pop artists, most notably pioneering Scottish band Cocteau Twins’s seminal album Heaven or Las Vegas. Her debut album Keepsake is a swirling haze of reverb. It’s a warm sonic cocoon that sounds like how it feels to crank the electric blanket in the middle of winter. It’s intimate and comforting; the kind of album that makes sense for an artist looking to escape the tumult of a recording industry whirlwind. Sometimes that whirlwind rips the blankets off, like on the song Unwanted Guest, which wallows in a murky dirge before busting out triumphant synths.
“Most of last year I’d really struggle to deal with even adjusting to going on tour and being away from home for a long time. I just felt depressed, and those kinds of things were really weighing me down a lot,” says Pilbeam. “I think only in the last six months I’ve figured out how to take control of those things and look after myself a lot better.
“I decided to not put more energy and time into people who wouldn’t put that energy and time into the relationship as much as I would.”
Like so much pop music, Keepsake’s songs have relationships at their core, but Pilbeam made a concerted effort to write songs about the highs and lows of platonic friendships, rather than romantic relationships, such as on the rhythmically driving single Obsessed.
“Obsessed is a song I wrote about a tendency I had when I was a teenager. Needing someone and becoming best friends with them and seeing each other every day almost obsessively, just finding this new best friend that you fall in love with,” says Pilbeam. “But it would happen to me to the point where I would end up sabotaging the friendship ‘cause I would compare myself too much to them and think they were way better than me.”
Now that Pilbeam is on the way to finding order in her career and relationships, there’s room to dream, and maybe believe a bit of the hype surrounding her.
“I think I’m becoming more optimistic. I used to be a very pessimistic, closed-minded person in terms of dreams and goals. If you told me two years ago that I’d be doing this today … or I would be playing shows with Kylie Minogue, I wouldn't have believed it. And now I'm like, ‘Maybe I can do crazy things I never thought would happen?’”
Keepsake is out now. Check it out here. Hatchie tours nationally in October.
Sat October 12 – Woolly Mammoth Alehouse, Fortitude Valley
Thu October 17 – Oxford Art Factory, Darlinghurst
Fri October 18 – Mojos, North Fremantle
Sat October 19 – Jive, Adelaide
Fri October 25 – Howler, Brunswick