At last, Ladyhawke has returned. It’s been over two years since we’ve heard new music from the “My Delirium” singer, but she’s just released the first single, “Black, White & Blue,” off her sophomore album and we’re already giddy with anticipation over its May release. The New Zealand rocker’s named the album Anxiety, a fitting title given the ongoing stage fright you’d never suspect given the endless glossy magazine pages showcasing her seemingly confident rock star style: shaggy blonde bangs, smeared raccoon eyes and an affinity for over-sized flannels, concert t-shirts and jeans. Then there’s the in-your-face, dance-floor-ready tunes on which she built her reputation. This time around, she’s opted for “lo-fi drums” and “big, grunge-y guitar”-driven songs heavily influenced by revisiting the tunes of her childhood rock idols like The Smashing Pumpkins and David Bowie. It’s her “anxiety”—and adorably awkward charm—that brings out the musical magic on these new songs. Her hypnotic alto pipes soar with honest fragility juxtaposed with frenetic, insanely catchy indie rock bangers that will have Ladyhawke fans in a tizzy. We hopped on the phone with the singer, while she’s working in London, to chat about her killer anti-stylist style, why she reckons New Zealand really rocks, and how she’s coping with the anxiety of releasing her album of the same name.
ELLE: You’re from a small town in New Zealand, has that influenced your style?
Ladyhawke: I’m a very, very proud Kiwi. I love New Zealand; I think it’s the coolest country. I think coming from New Zealand helped me in a sense that being in the bottom of the planet, basically, it made me want to see the world more. I had a drive in me to go out and explore. I would say that the way I dress can be quite androgynous and the style and fashion in New Zealand is very dark—quite tough almost. Girls and guys dress very similarly. Zambesi and Nom*D, those fashion labels and that whole look is very specific to New Zealand…[but] I basically live in jeans and boots.
ELLE: Do you work with a stylist or do you do your own thing?
LH: I just do my own thing. I don’t seem to really get on with stylists. They don’t often get me. Honestly, my style is really simple and quite androgynous. I’m quite tall so I always end up wearing guy stuff because it fits me better. And sometimes girl’s jeans, because sometimes guy’s jeans have a really long crotch, which looks weird on me.
ELLE: Your “Black White & Blue” video was inspired by cult thriller Eyes of Lara Mars starring Faye Dunaway, why?
LH: In the film, Lara Mars is a photographer and she has psychic visions of murders when she looks through her camera. I sent out a brief of what I wanted and inspirations for the video, and then I got heaps of treatments from directors writing ideas for the video. Tabitha, who directed it, sent me one and it was the polar opposite of what I wanted, but her treatment stood out and I thought it was such a great idea. It was sort of a step away of something I’d normally do, but I liked the idea of playing Ladyhawke playing Faye Dunaway playing Lara Mars.
ELLE: So why such a long wait between your first and second albums?
LH: I was touring for two years for the first record. When I finished touring it was February 2010. I was literally touring for ages and then I was so exhausted. I just couldn’t write so I took six months off, moved back to New Zealand, just chilled out and saw my friends and family. Then I started work on the album. The guy I work with on the album’s studio is based in the South of France. The huge distance between New Zealand and the South of France meant I could only go there every now and then because it was just too much. I’d go over for like a month, write a couple of tracks and then go back to New Zealand and have a couple months off. I wanted to take my time, I didn’t want to rush it.
ELLE: Since you called the album Anxiety, are you worried about the “sophomore slump”?
LH: The process of making the album was quite stressful. I did put a lot of pressure on myself and got too inside my own head. Friends were coming up to me and—harmlessly—saying things to me like, “Ah, the second album curve. How are you gonna defeat that?” I’m hoping people will just see me. They’ll hear the songs and it’ll make them think of me and the reason they liked the music to begin. I know it may be different for a lot of people [who] were expecting me to go electro and more dance-y. Maybe I could do that for the third album, but that was the complete opposite of where I wanted to go for this. It did feel like a natural progression, to comfortably ease into the second album. It didn’t feel too dissimilar to the first one, but it also felt unique enough that I’m not repeating myself. I hope people like it!
ELLE: So, are the stage fright rumors true?
LH: It’s very true. It just freaks me out. Sometimes I can go on stage and be completely fine. I just had a show on Monday at Rough Trade, a record store in London. It was only a half an hour long and I swear I felt so nervous. My hands were shaking. It’s unpredictable and frustrating, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying touring.