What Pixie did next
Most people know Pixie Geldof’s family history, but what they aren’t aware of is her musical chops and her remarkable ability to verbalise loss. She talks to Louise Bruton about songs as therapy, the beauty of Bieber and why she’s madea country record dis
There was a second where I wasn’t going to put Twin Thing on the record. Then I realised there had been songs that have helped me very much, and people that have made me feel connected
With a name designed for stardom, Pixie Geldof was always going to be in the limelight. Along with her older sister Peaches, she was known for being part of the Camden Scene in London, mixing with Alexa Chung and musicians from the nu-rave wave, but now, with the release of her debut solo album I’m
Yours, the 26-year-old is ready to reclaim her name as a singer.
Geldof’s voice fluctuates when she speaks, using dramatic voices when she’s being sarcastic and very definite caps locks when she’s excited. So when we discuss people not liking her album because of who her dad is, she becomes a caricature of herself. Familybusiness “I don’t want someone to dislike it because ‘Ugh. Geldof. Can’t be bothered. She’s probably shit’,” she says in a deep guffaw. “But that’s funny. It doesn’t exist in many other careers. If your dad is a policeman and you become a policeman, it’s not weird. People wouldn’t be like ‘well, he can’t be a good policeman’. You go ‘Well, of course he’s a policeman. His DAD was one’.”
“In the same way, if you don’t like a musical artist’s previous work, you’re not going to buy their next record but then you might hear it and you might really like it and you go ‘but I HATE that person’. And you have to give in and like it,” she says, using her newfound love for Justin Bieber as an example.
I’m Yours will probably go against everyone’s expectations of a Geldof. Produced by Tony Hoffer (M83, Goldfrapp, Belle & Sebastian) and recorded in LA, it’s a country record disguised as a pop record, resembling the melancholic nature of Lana Del Ray and the softness of Mazzy Star.
Even though she previously dabbled in grunge with her band Violet, I’m Yours is a tribute to Americana: hopeful melodies tinged with sorrow, each song with a story to tell, and Geldof’s story is one that we are familiar with.
“A lot has gone down,” she says, referring to the deaths of her mother Paula Yates, who died in 2000 from a heroin overdose on Geldof’s 10th birthday, and her sister Peaches, who died two years ago at the age of 25, also from a heroin overdose. Their names are never mentioned but when she talks about them, she speaks softly.
“I said about the record that it was about all of the people I’ve ever loved and in many different ways, and it’s very true,” she says. “There’s not really one song, apart from Twin Thing, I guess, maybe a couple of others, where they’re all about one person or one story.”
Twin Thing is about Peaches, and the lyrics capture the closeness of the sisters, who were born 18 months apart: “Wish I’d known you like my own skin/ So I could feel the hurt that you were in/ Wish we had that twin thing”. The day that she recorded this song, everybody involved understood its importance. Unspoken memory “It was unspoken that we knew it was quite precious and it was unspoken that we would work on it until it was perfect,” she says in a hushed matter-of-fact tone.
“There was a second where I wasn’t going to put it on the record and then I realised that there had been people who had written songs that have helped me very much, and people that have made me feel connected when I’ve felt very unconnected.”
After Peaches died, people stopped asking how Pixie was and this added to her grief, which she describes as a very lonely state. “It explains it for people, so they can understand what’s happening in their brains and understand that there is so many different, crazy things that happen in your brain and you can just start freaking out.
“And that all of those things are absolutely going to happen and that’s absolutely fine and you’re not going mad. And it won’t last forever.”
While songwriting comes naturally to her – tracks such as
Rain Comes Down and Wild Things Go were written six years ago – performing solo is new territory.
In September, she played her second-ever show in Dublin at the intimate Ruby Sessions in Doyle’s Pub. It was a subdued affair, and between the moody
Sweet Thing and seductive Poison Apple, she’s giddy but when the music kicks in, she is still.
“I’m still quite shy on stage. I’m quite reserved. I tend to giggle a lot, which is problematic when you’re trying to make people go into this other world,” she says.
“I sing very quietly and the main reason – I mean, a lot of the time, not the entire record – but one of the main reasons is I like you to have to . . . ‘what are you saying?’ I like the lean in. I think it’s important so I will always make that. It will always be quiet and subtle in that way.” Verbalising loss Our conversation is animated and it weaves between her time in LA, her love of country music and Rihanna (“I could talk about her all day!”) but we always return to one thing. Geldof’s ability to verbalise loss is remarkable and while she’s hesitant to use the word therapeutic, she knows the effect that music can have when you are in mourning.
“I didn’t listen to a lot of music afterwards. I didn’t want songs to relate specifically to that time. And I was right. The songs I did, I don’t listen to any more. At all. And it took, to the point where I will change the radio very quickly.” But when she returned to music, it was the brief comfort that she needed. “You hear completely different things in these songs that you just never thought of before at all. It was so . . . freeing for a minute.”