HATTIE O’DONNELL gets the lowdown on zombie apocalypse soundtracks, amorous appliances, and why Thom Yorke is probably an alien from comedian GENEVIEVE FRICKER.
If you were in an apocalypse movie, what songs would you choose to feature on the soundtrack?
I’d start with ‘a, because whenever I listen to that song I think of a dystopian future, and latex catsuits and low hanging fog, which is apocalyptic, I guess.’Got To Give It Up‘ by Marvin Gaye for a big fight scene, only because when this song comes on in my headphones while I’m walking down the street, I instantly start strutting, and it’s not much more of a leap to beating up zombies while I’m doing that. And then maybe the final scene, as the sun rises over some smoking city and I’m all bloodied and my clothes are torn but I’m still alive (!!!), ‘To Build A Home‘ by Cinematic Orchestra. It’s such an epic song, another one of those ones that comes on while I’m walking around, and instantly, I feel like I’m a lead character in a film.
What sort of music do you make?
I make comedy songs, usually with a guitar but I’ve been experimenting of late with synths, keyboards and programming.
My favourite song at the moment is a song I’ve been working on for the new show. None of my songs have names really, but this song is basically about falling in love with technology and making out with microwaves, etc. I’ve been listening to a lot of 80s electronica of late, so it’s synthy and has an uptempo beat, and I can kind of bounce around while I play it, which is fun. You don’t generally get to dance to your own music at a comedy show, so it’s a nice change. It’s probably incredibly narcissistic to say you like dancing to your own music, but Kanye would, so I will too.
Where is your favourite place to make write/make music?
I’ve been touring recently, and during the day, I have a lot of down time in rural areas, so I’ll just sit in my motel room and write. When you go away for a while on tour, your life gets a really nice rhythm to it, so it becomes a habit; I get antsy if I don’t get alone time in my room to just play and sing. It’s also a good way to warm up and focus for the show that night, and there’s always Wi-Fi in these motels so I’ll email song ideas to friends and get their feedback, which a) is good for the songs and b) keeps me from feeling lonely.
What/who inspires you to create?
My friend said the other day that really great art or terrible art inspires her to create, and I’ve definitely found that’s true. I saw St. Vincent earlier this year, and I was really impressed technically proficient she was, and how she took what could’ve just been a run-of-the-mill music show and turned it into something theatrical and unique. It really inspired me to be more ambitious with my own instrumentation and staging, I think I was keeping it simple out of laziness. Also, a lot of bits or songs come from mucking around with friends. It’s easy when you’re surrounded by creative people, they really push you to take ideas and make them into concrete things.
What song reminds you of home?
My parents are huge Prince fans, and Diamonds and Pearls used to get a lot of play in our household. I remember how I was really into the song ‘Cream’, which was probably super inappropriate, but as a 10-year-old I liked the rhymes. All day, I’d walk around singing “cream/get on top/cream/don’t you stop” and no-one batted an eyelid.
What is the most otherworldly song or album you’ve ever heard?
‘The Pyramid Song‘ by Radiohead feels to me like it was written by aliens. Maybe because of the weird compound time signature and because I’m not convinced Thom Yorke is born of this earth.
What’s the weirdest/most otherworldly video clip you have ever seen?
I feel like it’s an obvious answer but Michel Gondry’s video clip for Bjork‘s ‘Hyperballad’. How could anything by those two not be incredibly whimsical and otherworldly and beautiful?
What is you most favourite song/album of all time?
This is such a mean question! I honestly don’t know, so I’m just going to go with an album I go back to a lot – Pinkerton by Weezer. I didn’t really know anything about Weezer until I read Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by Craig Schuftan. Some of the lyrics are so earnest it’s embarrassing, but I love it; some of it is so desperate and raw and dark.
When did you first start getting into music, and what made you want to pursue your career in comedy/writing/music?
My dad used to play bass in bands in the 80s, and my mum is naturally very musical, so they started me young, sending me to singing and violin lessons when I was 6. I never thought of pursuing it as a career though – even when I was studying music at the Conservatorium of Music, I never thought it could be something I’d do professionally. Even now, it’s not the centre of the stuff I write but just one of the ways I like to write.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?
Nothing specific happened, but my last show, The Pineapple, seemed to attract a lot of 15-year-old boys and their dads, which made me feel weird.
What sort of music did you listen to as a kid, or what sort of music did your parents listen to? Do you think that had an impact on the material you create and are into now?
My dad had a huge impact on the music I listen to. I remember listening to his copy of Disreali Gears by Cream on vinyl and trying to play along on the guitar. He’d always tape music documentaries for me to watch, and he listened to a lot of New Wave and Punk, having been a musician in the scene around then, so I have a very deep love of The Cure, New Order, Devo, The Slits, and The Dead Kennedys. I think I’m listening to more of what my mum listens to now – Prince, Marvin Gaye, Jeff Buckley.
Which artists and musicians or other creative folk inspire you to create? Why do you like their sounds/ideas/expressions of art?
I’m currently obsessed with The State, which is this old sketch comedy show that used to be on MTV. It’s the same guys behind Stella and Wet Hot American Summer, which is one of my favourite films. It’s completely absurd and risky and dumb and fun.
In general though, it’s mostly the people around me. My brother is an amazing musician, and I’m always impressed by what he’s doing and his technical knowledge. My writing partner Cameron James is a silly talented man. My best friend AH Cayley is a powerful woman and inspiring writer. My mum. My cat. Instagram.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My teacher at UCB really encouraged me to go with my gut feeling in terms of performing. I often over analyse things before I do them, and he really pushed me to just try new things and figure out afterwards how I feel about it. It’s pretty basic advice I guess, but it’s really helped me loosen up with my work.
What are 5 tracks you’re really digging at the moment?
‘Two Weeks’ – FKA Twigs: This is an incredibly sexy song from an incredibly sexy album, and the video clip is wonderfully surreal.
‘Anaconda’ – Nicki Minaj: How many rappers talking about getting their salads tossed? Nicki Minaj is so audacious and I love it.
‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ – Future Islands
I saw Future Islands at Splendour and it was one of the best live festival sets I’ve ever seen.
‘Range Life’ – Pavement
My friend just got me Quarantine The Past and I always find myself putting this song on repeat.
‘Don’t Marry The One You Love’ – Laura Jean
This is the only song about the agony of love that leaves me hopeful at the end.