Hannah Rodgers is the 23-year-old creative mind behind Pixx and she’ll return with her second album Small Mercies on June 7. Pixx’s auspicious debut album, 2017’s The Age of Anxiety, examined her experience with anxiety over dissonant synth-pop beats. This second album takes a grungier turn with a mix of electronic pop and guitar but Rodgers continues to address serious issues — not only how they affect her but others close to her as well. Based on her experience growing up in what she describes as an “ultra-conservative” Catholic school, the 13-track album meditates on the power structures in religion and the different forms of love and relationships, with the first single from the LP aptly titled “Disgrace.” Early into her 2019 spring tour, Pixx took a break between shows and photo shoots to give mxdwn some insight into Small Mercies.
mxdwn: Why did you choose “Disgrace” to introduce this album?
Pixx: I think it’s a pretty good opening track to show off the album because it’s got a lot of the elements that are sort of tied throughout. Some of the songs are way more synth heavy and some are way more guitar heavy. And “Disgrace” is kind of the like the cross between that and I felt like I wanted to start with a topic that is prominent throughout the whole record, a lot of things are based around religion and control. “Disgrace” made the most sense.
mxdwn: Why was Catholic guilt and that kind of religious aspect something you wanted to talk about in this album especially?
Pixx: I think when I started writing this record I was at a time in my life where I realized that most of the music I listened to has quite a direct purpose or the songwriting is addressing something going on with people. I thought it was about time that I did that. A lot of my friends from that all-girls Catholic school were coming out as lesbians and that was years after we all left there. It just made me realize how hostile the environment was there and how negative that is to, for years of your life, to suppress who you are and feel guilty about who you are, especially from a young age.
mxdwn: Was it hard to create music that went against your [Catholic] upbringing like that?
Pixx: Yeah. I was pretty angry when I was writing that song, or passionate I suppose. It was nice though, it feels good to be passionate about something that isn’t so personal, that I knew that other people would be able to relate to and hopefully find strength in.
mxdwn: Do you feel like this album became written more like that, making that space for people to find strength?
Pixx: I think so. Some of the songs are very much character-based. I tried to step out of myself and write from perspectives. And that was quite an empowering thing to do…it’s quite highly emotional to step into someone else’s shoes and try to write the song from the perspective of the idea of God or something like that. But there’s still a handful of songs that I wrote about my own personal life and my personal heartbreaks and what not.
mxdwn: Were you worried about drawing any sort of negative or sacrilegious attention for addressing religion?
Pixx: No, I respect those who have faith. None of the songs are supposed to be anti-religion that directly. It’s more sort of institution and school really, that I was mostly angry about. I really respect people who have faith and I think everyone has their own idea of God and all that stuff. It’s more the strict format and the rules that some religions have, that are fear-based that I disagree with. The idea of being condemned and going to heaven or hell and putting that on young people in particular, children basically.
mxdwn: Do you have a favorite song you’re most excited for people to hear?
Pixx: Maybe “Funsize.” I don’t know. [laughs]
mxdwn: I’m sure it changes between every song on the album as time goes on.
Pixx: Yeah, I think me and the whole band are just pretty excited to start playing live. We’ve only really been doing little shows here and there, so it’s going to be so much fun and such a good feeling to get out and actually play on stage again. The songs I feel translate pretty well live, much more so than the last album.
mxdwn: I loved the guitar, in “Magdalene” and “Bitch” especially. What brought you towards that rock direction?
Pixx: I wrote a handful of quite grungy-based songs over the last year and it felt like it fit well with the way production was going at the time. It was the first time I took the songs I was writing on guitar to the band rather than straight to the producer. We recorded those songs live so it has a really different feel. But they’re pretty heavy as well in terms of lyric content.
mxdwn: Was there anything you drew inspiration from specifically that changed that way you went about writing?
Pixx: I mean kind of. I always start from guitar basically. The guitar songs are one of the reason that I wanted to get them in there is because I love playing guitar on stage, so I get to have a little playing. Those a whole load of songs I write on guitar that me and the live band are now starting on. We’re starting to demo some new stuff as a band for the first time which is nice because I’ve always had different people play with me, but we’ve got a solid four now.
mxdwn: Do you have anything special planned for the upcoming tour?
Pixx: We’re excited to tour in America because it will be the first time. I did a show in New York, but this will be the first time we’re actually playing [across the country]. We’re meant to be going to Los Angeles and my manager said she’s going to drive us to the desert and we’re going to make videos…I basically carry a camcorder around with me everywhere filming the band at all times. I’ve got a green screen recently and I’ve been editing most of the videos — lyric videos really — as sort of a home movie for the whole record that’ll go up on YouTube.
mxdwn: Going back to Small Mercies, how did the dollhouse cover art come about?
Pixx: I was convinced that I wanted to get references from the lyrics and visual references in the artwork. I was looking at loads of collages and collecting those images together. In the end I liked the idea of it being this small, little — I mean small mercies — so everything petite and with a weird controlling element with the giant hand and the giant eye. I got my mate from college, Mikey Burrey, who is an amazing artist to draft it up. [It’s] basically my dream house, except I probably wouldn’t have a crucifix on the mantelpiece.
mxdwn: What made you choose “Small Mercies” as the title track and title of the album?
Pixx: “Small mercies” is a positive saying, I think. I thought that it ties into the religious things in the record, but there’s also a lot of tongue in cheek references running through the record…basically, my mum said to me when I was getting out of the car once, “Thank God for small mercies!” and it just stuck in my head. Couldn’t get rid of it! [laughs]
mxdwn: Does she know she helped name the album?
Pixx: Well, she’ll know now! [laughs]