Quick Six Interview: Robyn Hitchcock

Martina O'BoyleArtist Interview, Music, Quick SixLeave a Comment

How music cool is this – they met at an Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell concert at South by Southwest.

While you might end up standing next to an out of tune sing-alonger and behind a tall guy who hoists his stage-blocking girlfriend up on his shoulders, Robyn Hitchcock goes to a show at SXSW 2013, meets the angel-voiced Australian Emma Swift, and collaborations and new directions follow. Drawn together musically by a penchant for songs of desolation and love just out of reach, Hitchcock and Swift have been performing together for a few years, and have now put together a second EP, “Love is a Drag,” recorded by Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub, New Mendicants) and being released globally in early October on Tiny Ghost Records. This is Hitchcock’s first new music in more than two years.

Robyn Hitchcock once described his songs as “paintings you can listen to”, and with this new partnership, the paintings have a fresh emotional depth. Both “Love Is a Drag” and “Life Is Change” were written “in the middle of a desolate winter on the Isle of Wight,” says Swift. “Hitchcock planted the seed and I finessed lyrics, structure and thematic ideas. It was a depressing, grey time and the songs reflect that … Strange times.”

The Man Upstairs and Love is a Drag

This melancholy may come as a surprise to those Hitchcock fans familiar with his work with The Soft Boys, or the Egyptians, where, sure, things could get dark but the lyrical ship was quickly righted by the introduction of a goofy character or a happy non sequitur. However, Hitchcock’s last full album, 2014’s The Man Upstairs, was a step in the sad-core direction. Critically-acclaimed, it contained five original songs by Hitchcock and covers of songs by Roxy Music, The Doors and a luminous take on The Psychedelic Fur’s “The Ghost in You”, a song which, done the right way, and Hitchcock does it in a way that makes fans and Richard Butler himself happy, can be a gorgeous bummer.

I’ve been on the Hitchcock train since the late eighties, and few albums remind me more of those college radio days than Globe of Frogs, a collection of weird and wonderful jangly pop songs that may have gone over my eighteen-year old head at the time. I remember a fellow dj walking in on me listening to the album one night and, after a moment, saying, I don’t understand what he means…? And all I could say was, yeah, but I’m sure he does.

The only complaint with these Swift collaborations, which draw you into their beautiful wanting, is that with that much feeling packed into each song, you want to come up for air a little sooner than the song allows. I can’t wait to hear Hitchcock and Swift interpret them live. Tissues at the ready.

Robyn Hitchcock is currently in the US doing shows with Emma Swift at places like Largo (see complete dates below) before a quick jump to Toyko and then Europe, back to the US, and Australian dates later in the year. He took time out for our Quick Six Interview:

Q: What inspires you?

Failure. Whatever didn’t quite happen. People who never got to where they might have.

Q: Who decides on your album cover art?

Me and my partner Emma Swift worked together on the art for our new 7 inch. It was designed by James Bellesini. I enjoy bold colours and psychedelic prints. My favourite year is 1967, so I wanted to reference that.

Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t in the music industry at all?

I’d be a visual artist. My father Raymond was a painter. I like De Chirico, Paul Delvaux and Max Ernst.

Q: If you could duet, vocally or instrumentally, with anyone alive or dead, who would that be?

Kendra Smith, Brian Eno, Tanya Donnelly, Joanna Lumley, Bryan Ferry.

Q. How do you know when a song is finished? And do you ever go back and dig out unfinished or old songs?

I never quite finish anything. Sometimes I go back and work on songs from 20 years ago or more.

Q. What song do you wish you had written?

Visions Of Johanna, which Bob Dylan got to before I did.


“Love is a Drag” will be available via all the usual digital outlets as well as a limited edition 7″ vinyl via mail order. See www.robynhitchcock.com for details.


OCT 4 TUE   Fremont Abbey Arts Centre   Seattle, WA

OCT 5 WED   Fremont Abbey Art Center   Seattle, WA

OCT 8 SAT   Club Congress   Tucson, AZ

OCT 9 SUN   Largo   Los Angeles, CA

OCT 15 SAT   Club Mandala   Tokyo, Japan

OCT 19 WED   The Lantern   Bristol, United Kingdom

OCT 21 FRI   West End Centre   Aldershot, United Kingdom

OCT 22 SAT   Philharmonic Hall   Liverpool, United Kingdom

OCT 23 SUN   Brudenell Social Club   Leeds, United Kingdom

OCT 25 TUE   CECIL SHARP HOUSE LONDON   London, United Kingdom

OCT 27 THU   The Marlowe Theatre   Canterbury, United Kingdom

OCT 28 FRI   The Morris Hall   Shrewsbury, United Kingdom

OCT 29 SAT   CCA   Glasgow, United Kingdom

OCT 30 SUN   The Greystones   Sheffield, United Kingdom

NOV 10 THU   City Winery   Atlanta, GA

NOV 11 FRI   3TEN Austin City Limits Live   Austin, TX

NOV 13 SUN   The Kessler Theatre   Dallas, TX

NOV 15 TUE   The Mucky Duck   Houston, TX

NOV 17 THU   City Winery   Chicago, IL

NOV 18 FRI   Stoughton Opera House   Stoughton, WI

NOV 19 SAT   City Winery – early show   New York, NY

NOV 19 SAT   City Winery – late show   New York, NY

DEC 11 SUN   Newtown Social Club   Newtown, Australia

DEC 15 THU   Grace Emily Hotel   Adelaide, Australia

DEC 16 FRI   New Globe Theatre   Fortitude Valley, Australia

DEC 18 SUN   Northcote Social Club   Melbourne Vic, Australia

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Martina O'BoyleQuick Six Interview: Robyn Hitchcock