Return of the rock to the new Pip dream

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FOR those upon which the musical high-jinks of Ladyhawke has more recently landed it is maybe hard to think of this kooky Kiwi as a rock chick.

But before Pip Brown assumed her solo alter-ego she was known Down Under as a guitarist rather than a synth princess.

“For years I was known as a rock chick,” she confirms ahead of her Sheffield return next month, “because I played the Gibson Explorer guitar, and then I played a Firebird. I was always the girl playing heavy guitar and doing solos – you know, like, off to the side.”

You would never know it if you judged her by her breakthrough self-titled 2008 debut album, which earned her fame and accolades here and in the Antipodes.

But new offering, Anxiety, has called upon that past guise during its 18-month gestation.

Where her debut’s signature instrument was unquestionably the analogue synth of her ’80s heroes ELO and Fleetwood Mac, this time she has re-embraced the electric guitar.

In fact, Anxiety is awash with riffs, chord changes and lovingly distorted guitar textures, bringing added energy and twists to her catchy melodies, such that there’s a wanton whiff of glam-rock.

“I always came from a rocky background,” she says. “As a teenager I was discovering lots of guitar music; heavier stuff, like Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins. I must’ve been about 15 and it just blew my mind.

“Around the same time I got Radiohead’s The Bends and I was obsessed with Metallica’s Black Album, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana Then at 16, I discovered Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and the older stuff.”

With little else to do in smalltown New Zealand, Pip started out as a drummer aged just 11, but first played publicly as a lead guitarist. She took that further in Sydney band Teenager, with Nick Littlemore who later found fame as Luke Steele’s sidekick in Empire Of The Sun.

It’s been a fairly swift adventure ever since, with Pip moving to London to launch a successful solo career that became all-consuming.

“I was like a rabbit in the headlights – that had been run over partially – so I felt defeated by the headlights at times,” she recalls now.

Hence the second album, with all its expectation, is called Anxiety with good reason. “It was a stressful process making this album, but I staggered it across quite a long period of time so I wouldn’t go insane. I got to make the album I really wanted to make – which is the whole point, I guess.

“There’s a lot of living inside my own head going on. I sometimes get depressed. I had weeks in between writing songs. I have terrible anxiety. It’s like it feeds itself.

“Since I finished the record I’ve been a completely different person, like this weight’s been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve made an album I’m really proud of and I can’t wait to start playing with my band again, touring and having some fun.”

Ladyhawke plays The Leadmill, May 4.