Ladyhawke: Asperger's and the anxious pop sensation

The synth pop songstress tells Elisa Bray that her new album reflects a struggle to reconcile success and syndrome

Pip Brown, better known as Ladyhawke, is still buzzing from her gig four nights ago. It was the culmination of a comeback tour which saw the New Zealander's first UK performances in two years, and the London show had sold out in five minutes. "It was mind-blowing," she enthuses over a pint at an east London pub near where she lives, producing a picture of the ecstatic crowd, arms aloft, on her iPhone. "I had to take a picture on stage because I couldn't believe it."

Perhaps the four-year lull between her debut album and this comeback has made her forget the hype that greeted her arrival. When Brown, now 32, first appeared with her catchy synth-pop songs that recalled Kim Wilde, she was showered with attention, as well as endorsements from Courtney Love and Kylie. But Brown had, deep down, always been a rock chick. The first bands she played in, as a drummer and guitarist, were rock-oriented, before she moved to Sydney and joined the band Teenager.

"People were saying things that weren't me at all, like 'girl electro synth-pop'," she recalls. "They called me 'the Cyndi Lauper of the American Apparel generation' and I've always been the rock girl." With its focus on electric guitar, her new album Anxiety reveals an inkling of those rock roots.

"I didn't want to make my first album all over again," she explains. "I wanted to do something a bit rockier, still pop because I love pop music, and experiment with different guitar, bass and drum sounds." After the success of her exhilarating debut album, which took her from an unknown to a pop star, more than a modicum of pressure came with the making of the album, which was initially set for release in March.

"With the debut, I had no label, no management, no one telling me what to do, I was just on my own. There was no pressure. The success of the first one came as a surprise for me so I was dealing with that, and knowing that people who bought the first album and became fans might be expecting the same sort of thing, when I knew that I was never going to deliver that album again..." She needn't have worried: Anxiety is bursting with pop hooks and melodies.

When Brown quietly set up a MySpace for her solo project under the name of Ladyhawke, she wasn't expecting it to be heard by anyone, let alone make her famous. It took her bandmate in Teenager, Nick Littlemore, to persuade the shy musician to step into the role of frontwoman. She recalls singing one of her songs and Littlemore running in to ask what it was before rushing her off to record in a studio. "That was the big stepping stone for me, him telling me I was good enough – I think that's all I needed to hear. When I was first doing Ladyhawke I was half expecting to get someone else to front it. I kept thinking, 'I'm not brave enough to do this'. But here I am, the face of it," she laughs. "It's taken me this long to get confident."

Brown was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome a few years ago, a condition which hardly made the transition to frontwoman easy. The title-track of Anxiety begins: "I take a pill to help me through the day/ I stay inside until I feel okay." It's her most autobiographical song to date.

"I remember writing that line thinking, 'people are going to ask me about this for sure'. And I thought, 'I have to do it' – it was like therapy. I was completely dependent on taking an anti-anxiety pill to even be able to walk out of the house or sit in the car. I just couldn't do it. I'd feel sick and freak out and I'd just hate it. I can't go on the Tube, not even now. I'll always think of what could happen," she says, her sunny demeanour momentarily vanishing as she drops her eyes downwards.

"But I'm much better now. A lot of people say, 'why do you do this if you're so anxious and it's so hard for you?' Because I love it so much, making the music. The other stuff that comes with it is a small hurdle in the grand scheme of things. If I was a different person I wouldn't be Ladyhawke."

Drawing attention to herself is the last thing she wants – even her tall 5 ft 10in frame she has self-consciously tried to mask by hunching over in an effort to make herself less noticeable. But with her striking appearance – a thick mane of blonde hair, and a hip rock-chick combo of skinny trousers, T-shirt and leather jacket – being noticed can't be avoided.

You wonder what made her leave both Sydney and the peaceful, under-populated, surroundings of New Zealand for one of the world's busiest cities. "I've always thrust myself into situations that go completely against what everyone thinks I'll do, but I like a challenge and I'm really quite ambitious and don't like being defeated, so I wanted to not be scared of London. It's still a scary place, but I love it."

Brown's anxiety can only diminish – her comeback is here to stay.

 

The album 'Anxiety' is released on 4 June

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003