Hatchie’s ‘Keepsake’ Is Genre-Defying Alt-Pop That Deserves To Be Treasured

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Hatchie‘s debut EP, Sugar & Spice, was one of the most impressive releases of 2018. On it, singer-songwriter Harriette Pilbeam was a dream-pop witch, finding the middle ground between Mazzy Star and Carly Rae Jepsen while making it all her own. Throughout the EP’s five songs, Hatchie explored doubt, hope, happiness, and everything in between, capturing each hard-to-reach feeling with soaring synths and fuzzy guitars.

The use of the past tense to describe that era of her music is purposeful, not because she doesn’t fit those descriptions anymore, but because she’s become so much more. For her full-length debut, the Brisbane singer-songwriter dares to upturn everything that made Sugar & Spice great. Keepsake defies categorization. The album is bookended by towering synth-pop anthems akin to Sugar & Spice, but the rest of the record is a dizzying, brilliant blend of industrial rock, new wave, and gritty shoegaze.

The shift in her sound is both a natural evolution and a challenge Pilbeam gave herself. Over coffee in Austin in May, she described the process of writing and assembling Keepsake. For her first album, Pilbeam was already looking ahead to what her second and third might sound like. Two pop releases would put her in a box, but a pop EP and a shoegaze/industrial/electropop album would demonstrate the full range of what a Hatchie song could be.

Pilbeam embraces all the malleability and freedom that being an artist and writer can give a person. Not just when it comes genre, but in point of view and subject matter. Hatchie dares to imagine what love, friendship, and community look like from multiple perspectives, in different tempos, in entirely new worlds. She is as thoughtful as her music is, and she didn’t even bat an eye when I took her to the dorkiest cafe on my alma mater’s campus. In Austin for her tour with Girlpool, Pilbeam spoke about everything from high school diaries to Taylor Swift’s love life over coffee. Read a condensed and edited version of our conversation below.

Keepsake to me is a really evocative title. A lot of the time, when people think of nostalgia, they think of holding onto memories, but a keepsake turns memory into something you can actually hold in your hand. How did you land on that as the title for your debut album?

I’m not a particularly nostalgic person when it comes to talking and thinking about memories, but I do definitely hold on to physical keepsakes and mementos. Especially for trips I’ve been on, things I did when I was younger. I went to my parents’ house recently, and I have a little cupboard of things I haven’t touched since I was in high school. So like, almost 10 years. I really struggled to throw out my high school diary, which, like, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever need this!’ But physical things, I definitely hold onto.