When New Zealand synth-rocker Ladyhawke — aka Pip Brown — revisits the title track from her new sophomore CD, “Anxiety” — with its opening lines: “I take a pill to help me through the day/I stay inside until I feel OK/ I’ve always been so cautious, but I’m sick of feeling nauseous” — she is shocked by her own honesty. “Because that song is true, and I’ve never put my emotions on the line so much before,” she says. “I’ve had quite a problem for years with anxiety.”
Brown, who plays the Folsom Street Fair today, isn’t kidding.
Only a few years ago, the London-based artist could barely cope with the outside world. “I remember I was living in Melbourne then, and I hadn’t left the house for months — I felt physically paralyzed,” she says.
She decided to test herself one day by catching a local tram car into town, and — sweating and sick to her stomach — she climbed aboard. When the train stopped, she says, “two junkies jumped on, and one just throws up everywhere. And I was like ‘f— this, man!’ And I jumped off and ran all the way home!”
While “Anxiety” — with other distress calls such as “Vaccine,” “Cellophane” and “The Quick & the Dead” — may be morose lyrically, it’s also a new- wave-frothy celebration.
Brown no longer requires anxiety medication, and she relies on key pressure points to combat stress. “Now I pinch the bit of skin between my thumb and forefinger when I get anxiety,” says the guitarist-keyboardist,
who believes constant touring helps. “Being busy — as much as it can suck — is really good for your sanity, because it keeps everything moving and blows the cobwebs out.”
Brown, 33, always has turned frailties into strengths. As a child, she contracted a rare seagull-borne disease called erysipeloid, and nearly sank into a coma, thanks to allergies.
Left to her own devices, she learned to play drums, guitar and synthesizer, then taught herself songwriting by studying her favorite ELO and Fleetwood Mac records, which led to her eponymous ARIA-winning debut in 2008, under the film-inspired alias of “Ladyhawke.”
She penned “Anxiety” on bass, then played almost every instrument on it herself.
The disc is a pep talk, too. The gossamer “Black, White & Blue” was inspired by New Zealand’s panoramic night sky.
“So it’s me telling myself to buck up, stand on my own two feet and not feel sorry for myself,” Brown says. “And looking up at the stars is quite a reality check sometimes. It puts all your problems in perspective.”
If you go
Where: Main Stage, Folsom Street Fair, Tenth Street, between Howard and Folsom streets, S.F.
When: 5:10 p.m. today