Concrete Playground Meets Broods
The duo talk to Concrete Playground about fame, family and songwriting.
If there's one style of music that's boomed both commercially and critically in the last few years, it's been that of pared-back, introspective, female-fronted electro-pop. Acts such as The xx, CHRVCHES, London Grammar, MNDR, Purity Ring and, of course, Lorde, have been darlings of the blogopshere, charts and awards scene since 2009. So when a brand new act - sharing the same producer, approximate sound and precocious talent of the latter - dropped an EP four and a half months ago, it comes as no surprise that the entire world tuned in.
Originally from Nelson, Broods are Auckland-based duo Georgia Nott (lead vocalist) and older brother Caleb Nott (production and backing vocalist). Their single "Bridges", the third track on self-titled EP Broods, earned them Soundcloud fame, high praise from on- and offline influencers and a record deal with Universal Music (Capitol Records in the US and Polydor Records in the UK).
Showcasing Georgia's sweetly expressive voice with minimal piano and synth, "Bridges" was certified Gold in New Zealand and took both international commercial radio and alt music charts by storm. EP opener "Never Gonna Change" and more recent single "Four Walls" (featuring on the full-length album due later this year) share the masterful arrangement and layering of the debut single; the slow, sparse opening and catchy chorus.
Broods treated an intimate crowd of music media, including Concrete Playground, to a rare gig on home soil on Friday night. The showcase was presented by Telecom and Spotify and included the first public performance of their brand new single, which will be kept under wraps until June 16. Despite their claims that they still get "super nervous" pre-gig and "make it up as we go along", the hour-long performance was both powerful yet understated, polished yet never too slick. Georgia's voice stilled the room, and multi-instrumentalist Caleb held his own on call and response.
We caught up with the pair on the night to chat about the upcoming album and what's on the cards for the next wee while.
Your debut album is slated for a release later this year. How's it coming along?
Georgia: It's good! We were in the studio just before, adding the finishing touches - backing vocals and stuff. We're super proud because the writing and recording process was hectic and we did it in such a short space of time.
Caleb: Yeah, it took us about five weeks from start to finish. Usually we just had a day or two per song.
G: It was so much fun though. It was cool having that pressure to keep it going really fast. If we had any bad ideas, we just scrapped them on the spot and didn't dwell on it. It was pretty instinctive.
C: You progress with the songs that work right away - I think that's the best way to make music. The best songs are the quickest songs.
Tonight's the first time you'll be performing your new single 'Mother and Father' from the album. What can you tell us about it?
G: Just like every other track on the new album, it came together quite organically - we were just in the studio one day and decided to write a song together and just built it up from scratch; from a bunch of ideas into a structured song.
What's the division of labour like behind the scenes? Do you both work collaboratively or stick to your own area of expertise?
G: Most of the album was written together, bouncing off one another.
C: With the EP, we worked in a much more silo fashion - Georgia was lyrics and vocals and I did the production and stuff. With the new single and album, we collaborated a lot more. We were both on the same page and worked on the songwriting and arrangement together.
G: It was about always challenging ourselves and keeping things new and fresh. I think different processes breed different results. It's important to us to change how we do stuff, keep changing the formula, so we don't end up with something too samey-samey.
So can we expect the album to be quite different from the EP?
C: Yes and no. The overall sound will be pretty similar, but the album is a lot heavier, a lot thicker. There are more layers of production.
G: It will be more upbeat - some songs on the EP were pretty bleak! It was very experimental.
C: Bleak is Georgia's forte. With the album, we found our niche - it's a good representation of where we are now, and it's definitely a bit more cheerful and a lot more refined.
G: If there's an overriding theme to both, though, it would be one of documenting personal experiences and relationships and feelings. That's the best way to keep our music honest and authentic.
You've been on a bunch of international tours recently. What was your favourite gig or on-the-road story?
G: We got back this morning from a ten day tour of Australia with Ellie Goulding, which we loved. She's so talented and super lovely. I remember seeing her in concert in Melbourne once and being totally starstruck - so getting to open for her was awesome.
C: The US was full on. The music culture and people vary heaps by state, so the crowds at each show were really different. Americans are always a fun audience though - they get super into it.
G: This one guy in New York, he was nearly in tears seeing us perform and he'd waited in the rain for two hours to get right up by the stage. That was a really humbling moment. It's cool but still kind of weird to have fans that care so much about our music. It surprises us every time, and we don't want that to change. We don't want to stop appreciating the people that make us successful.
Do you both have similar taste in music?
C: I think we appreciate the same kind of music but listen to different things.
G: And we pay attention to different aspects of what we listen to. I'm into themes, and the emotion in the song, whereas Caleb is interested in the way it's put together. I'm all about the story - I'm more of a writer than an arranger.
C: I like to listen to music in silence, so I can fully concentrate and pick it apart. Having said that, I kind of ignore lyrics. I never have any idea what a song is about.
How do you separate being band mates from being siblings? Do you relate to each other differently when making music?
C: We treat each other in the same way all the time. We've been so close for so long - we know each other inside out and back to front. It'd probably be impossible to switch from personal to professional mode, even if we wanted to.
G: Yeah, there's no conflict of interest or anything like that. It's good working with family - you've got someone around to support you when the wheels come off and you fall to pieces.
C: And if we disagree or argue, it's always constructive.
You come from a very musical family. What are your best music-related memories growing up?
C: Probably the big jam sessions at our extended family gatherings.
G: A couple of Christmases ago we all went camping, and even after the little kids had gone to bed, we sat around the fire and sang kids' songs. Our uncle actually writes songs for children. You might have sang them at school assemblies!
A lot has changed since you released 'Bridges' last year. What's the one change that's really blindsided you?
C: Being busy all the time. How busy the musician's lifestyle is takes some getting used to.
G: It's amazing how fast things can change; how fickle and hard to predict success or fame can be. We've been really lucky, but that's definitely one change we're aware of - that we're on show now and it's getting serious.
C: I think something else that's taken us by surprise is how unglamorous it all is. We don't go to parties! We go to bed at eight or nine o'clock.
G: Yeah, being a nana is necessary if you want longevity though. Paying attention to sleep and diet and stuff is new to me, hah.
What's the one thing you'd want to achieve before calling it a night?
C: Playing at Glastonbury or Red Rocks in Colorado would be amazing. I'd say recording at Abbey Road Studios, but we've already done that.
G: Hah, sorry about it! Shit. I used to watch the Abbey Road sessions all the time. It was very cool being part of the history of that building.
What's coming up for you in the next couple of months?
G: We're supporting Ellie in New Zealand then heading to London to play a one-off club night.
C: We'll also be at Splendour in the Grass and the Latitude Festival, then hopefully spend some time at home before the album drops.
Published on June 09, 2014 by Skye Pathare