A vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Brown has finely honed her own style over the last decade, from being lead guitarist and backing vocalist in Wellington band Two Lane Blacktop, to a reticent, but compelling, solo artist in her own right who has gained rave reviews both at home, and on the world stage. Dividing her time between NZ and the UK, Ladyhawke is a global phenomenon.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing for Pip Brown. At the age of 10 she was diagnosed with Erysipeloid, a disease common in seagulls, but rare in humans. Allergic reactions to medication meant the condition was life threatening, and she fell into a coma. She recovered, and continued to absorb herself in music – unsurprising, as her mother sang and played the guitar, and her stepfather was a jazz drummer. Fast forward a few years, and Brown began performing in bands at Chanel High School in Masterton.
Instead of staying in her hometown after finishing school, Brown moved to the bright lights of Wellington, and formed the hard rock Two Lane Blacktop with friends Matthew Harrop (guitars, vocals), Ben Fraser (bass) and Phil Smiley (drums), playing lead guitar and singing backing vocals.
After releasing three EPs – Live (2001), Mechanic Demos (2001) and The Mechanic (2002), they put out ‘The Rat’/‘Hellhound’ (Infidelity, 2003) which gained airplay in Australasia, and was on English DJ John Peel’s playlist. Later that year, the band toured the USA, playing in LA and New York (including a gig at CBGB’s nightclub), before returning to record their unreleased album The Girl (2003). By the end of 2003, Two Lane Blacktop were no more, calling it quits on the eve of an Australian tour.
Not one to stay still, Brown headed to Melbourne, where she met Nick Littlemore, vocalist with Australian band Pnau. They were soon collaborating, calling themselves Teenager. Their style was an amalgam of art rock and punk, with Brown on guitars and vocals, and Littlemore on keyboards and vocals. After two singles, ‘Pony’ (Timberyard, 2006), and ‘Bound and Gagged’ (Timberyard, 2006), the duo released Thirteen, which was recorded in Paris, London, Sydney, New York and LA, and featured musicians such as Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth, and Roland S. Howard. To promote Thirteen, they toured with an extended band line-up, but afterwards Littlemore returned to Pnau. There were no hard feelings, and Brown provided vocals for one of their most well known songs, ‘Embrace’ (etcetc, 2007), before finding her solo voice as Ladyhawke.
The name "Ladyhawke" came from the Michelle Pfeiffer film, giving Brown a cool one-word moniker, and implying a supernatural ability. For this new incarnation of her career, she took inspiration from 80s superstar musicians and songwriters Stevie Nicks, Kim Wilde, Pat Benatar and Cyndi Lauper – women who valued style as much as substance. To temper these influences, she made her image more androgynous, though still feminine: Jeans, T-shirts and boots – her stylistic nod to the 80s being eyeliner, and layered blonde hair. After demoing material at home, Brown (as Ladyhawke) released ‘Back of the Van’ in 2008. The song became an online hit, and soon she found herself with a major record deal, moving to the UK later that year, building her fan base through sold-out gigs in hip venues. This was only the start. Singles ‘Paris is Burning’ (Modular, 2008), ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ (Modular, 2008), and especially ‘My Delirium’ (Modular, 2008), gained her an ever increasing audience, and she could count Kylie Minogue and Courtney Love as fans. The striking artwork on the singles was by close friend Sarah Larnach, who Brown met while living in Melbourne. Larnach also illustrated and helped design both Ladyhawke album covers.
Ladyhawke went platinum, and straight to No.1 in NZ, and charted at No.16 in the UK and Australia, going gold in both countries.
Her debut album, Ladyhawke (Modular, 2008), was co-written with producer Pascal Gabriel among others, and was a synth-filled, hook-heavy record. The album was a success, and reaped the rewards for her hard work, giving Brown critical acclaim, and making her the Next Big Thing – something she wasn’t comfortable with. Ladyhawke went platinum, and straight to No.1 in NZ, and charted at No.16 in the UK and Australia, going gold in both countries. 2009 was definitely the year of Ladyhawke, and was capped off by Brown’s success in winning six NZ Music Awards, including Album Of The Year. She also won two ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) awards – Breakthrough Artist of the Year in both single and album categories. Along with these wins were nominations for Brit, NME and MTV Australia awards. After these successes, Brown toured the USA in 2010 with Norwegian musician Ida Maria, a tour sponsored by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton.
Brown has come under scrutiny for her social difficulties, and reticent manner – one of the effects of her mild form of Asperger’s syndrome. She is open about the condition, and the accompanying difficulties, telling Paul Lester from The Guardian, “It was the reason I was so solitary. I'd say completely inappropriate things. The other kids thought I was a weirdo."
After a significant hiatus to recover from exhaustion, Brown collaborated with Junica (Nick Brinkman) on his single ‘Living in My House’ (Warner, 2011). She also worked with Tim Burgess from The Charlatans on the unreleased ‘Just One Kiss’ – though remixes of this track have appeared online.
A formal announcement came in 2011 that she was recording her second album, again co-written with Pascal Gabriel. Anxiety was released in May 2012, four years after Ladyhawke. A darker, rockier album, it tackled her Asperger’s head-on in the very personal title track, and dealt with issues of her personal anxiety and nervousness. The influences were different too, Brown telling the NME “I listened to a lot of guitar rock when I was writing it, stuff like Pixies, Blur, Nirvana and I've always wanted to make a guitar record. There's no synth, but there's some organ.” She considered the album an amalgam of everything she had listened to over the years. Unlike its predecessor, Anxiety’s three singles did not chart locally, though the first ‘Black And White And Blue’ (Modular, 2012), had a stylish video inspired by the film Eyes of Laura Mars, and received high rotation on music television. Anxiety wasn’t a runaway success like Ladyhawke, though it debuted at No.12 locally, and went Top 20 in Australia and Top 40 in the UK. To promote the album, she toured internationally, and her London show at Shepherd's Bush Empire sold out in five minutes.
In 2013, Brown announced she was back in the recording studio and in June 2016 she released the third Ladyhawke album, Wild Things.
Pip Brown is a big gaming fan, and the Teenager single Pony (Timberyard, 2006) was used in Grand Theft Auto IV.
Brown is a former member of Wellington rock band Two Lane Blacktop.