Ahead of the release of her sophomore album, Small Mercies, South Londoner Hannah Rodgers reflects on Catholic school and Cat Power.
“Disgrace,” the first single from Pixx’s sophomore album, Small Mercies, shows South Londoner Hannah Rodgers at her darkest and dreamiest. It’s at once a scathing rebuke of her oppressive Catholic upbringing and a futuristic dance track, centering Rodger’s crystalline vocals against a backdrop of wiry synths and radioactive guitar. She intones the opening verse with a trancelike pout: “‘You’re going to live and be good’ / They said to us as if we understood.” It’s the next line that really gets me: “But I did not want a new name.”
Rodgers began working on the record, Small Mercies, roughly two years ago, around the time she released her lush, melodramatic debut, The Age of Anxiety. After recording Small Mercies last summer, Rodgers is getting ready to embark on a European tour, followed by her first U.S. tour this summer. She’ll be joined by live band members Dylan Jones (guitar), Sam Catchpole (drums), and Patrick Fitzroy (bass).
We recently spoke to Hannah and Dylan about their favorite London digs, drawing inspiration from Neil Young and Blondie, and Hannah’s homemade Pixx merch.
AdHoc: Where’s home, originally?
Dylan Jones: South London. She lives in a town called Chipstead.
Hannah Rodgers: It’s a very small place, though—probably not worth mentioning.
How close to London?
Dylan and Hannah: Half hour by train.
Hannah: We’re kind of like the last little part of London.
Dylan: The last place with red buses, basically.
How did you guys meet?
Hannah: We’ve lived really close to each other our entire lives, but we only met a few years ago, at Glastonbury.
Dylan: Then, about two years later, we met at a bar in Brixton called the Windmill, which is quite a popular venue.
Hannah: [It’s a] little, independent venue. Dingy.
Were either of you performing there?
Hannah: I watched Dylan’s band. And then we recognized each other from before.
Dylan: It was a band called meyou. Hannah came and saw me, and then we became best friends that night, didn’t we?
Hannah, you went to the BRIT School [for Performing Arts and Technology], right?
Did you also?
Dylan: No, I tried and didn’t get in.
Tell us about that. What was that like?
Hannah: You can go there from the age of fourteen or fifteen—I didn’t do that. I got in for the last two years. You go there for normal school for the first three years, then there’s different strands, [such as] music or musical theater. I loved it, because I was coming out of a really strict girls’ Catholic school, so it was a nice change for me.
Most of the people I was studying with in the music strand varied from grade-A, crazy-talented instrumentalists who’d had lessons all their lives [to] really amazing, belting singers. I didn’t really [fit] in there particularly well. I got in last-minute, like three weeks before it started, because someone else dropped out. But it was great for me.
Are you still connected to folks you met there?
Hannah: The drummer who plays in the live band now—who plays with me, Dylan, and Patrick—is called Sam, and I met him there.
Has that always been your live crew?
Hannah: No. I’ve played with so many different people. Me and Dylan and Patrick have been playing for a year now. They came in toward the latter part of recording the album.
How’d you get connected to [Patrick]?
Hannah: Just being out at gigs [around] London. Familiar faces.
So are you based there right now?
Hannah: Yeah, I live in Stratham, which is around the corner from Brixton, which is where we first met. And Patrick lives in Peckham.
So you’re all part of the local scene?
Hannah: Yeah. The independent venues—I suppose the same kinds of people go.
Dylan: You go and see the same faces.
Any favorites venues in London?
Hannah: MOTH Club is nice.
Dylan: Ehhh, yeah. It’s alright.
Hannah: Windmill’s the one we [play most.]
Any other acts that you follow from that scene?
Hannah: PVA—they’re okay.
Dylan: They’re tolerable.
Hannah: PVA are good friends. They’re playing loads of shows at the moment. They haven’t got much stuff online, but I think they’re going to release something in the next year, probably. They’re really fun [and] crazy to watch. Josh has a very beautiful, low, sexy voice.
What about New York? Have you been here before?
Dylan: It’s my first time.
Hannah: It’s my fourth time.
What have been some highlights so far?
Dylan: Dunkin Donuts! That was good.
Hannah: The first day we got here, we went to Beacon’s Closet. Dylan got some new shoes and some new jeans.
A few weeks ago, you posted a picture of a hand-made Pixx shirt to your Instagram. Did you make it yourself?
Hannah: Yeah! About two years ago, I started hand-making merch, so I made, like, sixty handmade Pixx T-shirts. I have too many clothes—I never throw stuff away, so I started cutting up my old jeans.
Just T-shirts, or other things too?
Hannah: Just T-shirts. Actually, I made about 200 bookmarks. I basically gave them away when I was on tour, [because] they were so [shitty]. That was all the way back [when I released] my first EP. I think I’m going to do more handmade merch for this album. It’s so fun to do, [and] it’s recycling clothes, which is important to me and us.
Do either of you make clothes other than merch?
Dylan: Yeah, I’ve made a few T-shirts.
Hannah: I quite often buy stuff that’s clearly ten sizes too big for me, [so I make] alterations.
Dylan: Everything [she wears] is safety-pinned up.
How would you describe your sense of style?
Dylan: Cheap. Charity shop stuff. Real cheap.
Hannah: We’re suited and booted—that’s what we are. All the stuff we wear is so cheap. [In] South London, there are so many charity shops. Lots of long coats. Lots of pocketless coats as well—that’s why we always lose stuff.
You just released “Disgrace,” and you’ve already alluded to your Catholic past. Can you say more about that? Did you grow up in a Catholic family?
Hannah: Yeah, my parents are both Catholic. My brother went to the [local] boys’ Catholic school, and I went to the [local] girls’ Catholic school. [I remember] being taken out of class to go to confession—going to sit with some old man and being like, “I’m sorry that I ate too much yesterday.” I got to a point recently where I started looking back at that experience and [thinking] it’s actually really fucked, because quite a lot of girls [I knew there] have come out as lesbians since then.
And the Catholic school wouldn’t be okay with that?
Hannah: Oh my god, no! [Another] reason I find Catholic school so weird is that they don’t educate girls about sex, which is so wrong.
When did you write the songs on the new album?
Hannah: Since the last record, which was [about] two years ago now. I started recording last Summer. Some [songs] I [wrote] at home and then would take to the band, and some of them I’d write in the studio, with just one other person.
I’ve always liked [having] different environments for writing, because the songs I write when I’m on my own are always really personal—they’re the ones where I’m like, “I’m sad and heartbroken.” [But] if I’m in [the studio] with someone else, and they’re getting all wizard-y with the synths, it puts me in a mood and spins me out, and then I start writing about stuff that I didn’t necessarily know I had in me.
Are there any overarching stories or messages in the album?
Hannah: Yeah. I would like to think that people would listen to it and feel like if they were being judged or fearing something, it could help them to overcome that.
There’s a story behind the name of your last album, Age of Anxiety. Is there a story behind this album name too?
Hannah: I was getting out of the car with my mum. I can’t remember what I said, and my mum said to me, “Oh, thank God for the small mercies.” It just really stuck in my head.
So it was a quote from your mom?
Hannah: Yeah! I know, really rock & roll. I love mums. Mums are the best. That kind of stuck in my head, and that went on to be the reason I wrote the song “Small Mercies,” because that song is about small mercies in love.
That song was inspired by Blondie as well, cause I love the fact that loads of Blondie’s songs are [about] crazy, obsessive love. I wanted to write a song like that, cause I’ve loved Blondie since I was young.
Dylan: We’ve been listening [to Blondie] in New York. I’ve had “Rapture” in my head this whole time.
What else have you guys been listening to?
Hannah: We’ve been loving what they play in the bars here.
Dylan: I heard eight of my favorite songs in the bar last night. Like, “Oh, there’s another one! And another one!”
Hannah: Dyl couldn’t believe it!
Dylan: Tommy Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane.”
Hannah: That’s the best Tom Petty song.
Dylan: They play a lot of Beatles out here, which is cool.
You must be going to bars with good taste.
Hannah: Honestly, in London, even if you’re in a bar that you think is cool, they still play shit music. We were so surprised just walking around the shops the first day we got here. It was quite weird, actually; we went to three shops in a row, and two of them were playing “Hide Your Love” by the Beatles, and then the third was [playing] a cover of “Hide Your Love.” I was like, “Woah, they love the Beatles, here. It’s not a lie!”
It’s true, we really do.
Hannah: Me and Dyl have recently got really into Cat Power as well. That’s where a lot of the grungier elements of the record, I reckon, are coming from—that sort of dirty sound.
So Blondie and Cat Power are recent influences. What else comes to mind?
Dylan: Neil Young.
Hannah: Neil Young always. Classic.
Dylan: All the old-folks stuff. We’re both really into Karen Dalton. The Velvet Underground, I’ve been listening to a lot out here.
Hannah: I’ve been listening to The Vaselines.
Dylan: The Pastels.
Hannah: Yeah, The Pastels. We’re trying to reel in those summer vibes.
What’s next for you guys?
Hannah: We’re going to be back in America in July. We’re going to be playing in New York at Rough Trade, supporting our friend Nilüfer Yanya, who’s also a London-based lady.
Dylan: We’ve got [a European tour] before that.
Hannah: And some UK stuff as well.
Any spots you’re most excited to visit?
Hannah: I’m so excited to tour America.
Dylan: All of America, really, is exciting for us. Can’t wait to [get on] the road.
Hannah: It will be nice being here in the summer as well.
Anything else coming up?
Hannah: No—just make sure you get out to the live shows! I think this is going to be a really fun record to play live. I’m buzzing about it!