BROODS Talk Self-doubt, Authenticity & Honesty Around New Album

17 February 2022 | 11:22 am | Cyclone Wehner

"It takes quite a lot of work to stop second-guessing yourself."

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New Zealand synth-pop combo BROODS have resurfaced with their most imaginative yet personal album in Space Island, frontwoman Georgia Nott reflecting on the reverberations of a broken marriage. But, with retro-future lounge grooves like lead single Piece Of My Mind, Space Island might be BROODS' pandemic recovery album, promising release and optimism.

Both BROODS members, Georgia and Caleb Nott, originally from Nelson on the South Island, are Zooming in Aotearoa. Georgia – striking with her on-trend flame mullet, notes that it's "a rare day that we're in the same place". The siblings relocated to Los Angeles in 2016, only Caleb – sporting a baseball cap and snappy monochrome jacket – has since returned home. "After we'd finished the album, I was ready to move back here and spend some time in NZ," he explains. "I was spending a bit of time trying to get out of LA. Then I was like, 'Well, maybe I shouldn't just do this twice a year; maybe I should just live there and do all that.' So I moved to the beach." Once shy interviewees, the pair have an easy relationship, often completing each other's sentences.

The Notts were raised in a musical family. BROODS lore is that their parents were in an ABBA tribute act. Alas, no. "Mum dressed up as ABBA once," Caleb quips. In fact, BROODS' folks performed various covers in pubs – standards by Paul Simon, America and The Doobie Brothers. "But we did listen to a lot of ABBA growing up," Georgia says. "It was very in the centre of every family wedding – you know, a lot of ABBA songs."

Initially, Georgia was focused on a music career. She fronted the indie band The Peasants, which in 2011 won a youth comp judged by industry veteran Joel Little. Georgia subsequently worked with Little on solo material before Caleb, a multi-instrumentalist, joined her to launch the emo-electro BROODS in Auckland. Meanwhile, Little linked with another prodigy, Lorde, whose Royals blew up globally. 

In 2013 BROODS generated blog buzz with the quasi-trip-hop single Bridges – and were touted major label deals. The duo enjoyed a hit debut, Evergreen, the next year. In 2016, BROODS followed with Conscious – Lorde co-penning the anthem Heartlines. Nevertheless, the Kiwis were reluctant to trade on any ties to Lorde. And, despite establishing themselves as TV show sync faves, BROODS were consecutively dropped by trans-Atlantic majors – although Island Records demonstrated unwavering support locally. Ironically, this liberated BROODS to boldly switch music direction.

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BROODS expanded sonically on 2019's Don't Feed The Pop Monster (DFTPM) – an art-pop opus comparable to Kimbra's The Golden Echo. Caleb sang lead on Too Proud. "I think Pop Monster definitely gave us a lot of confidence to keep going the way that we wanna go, because we got so much assurance from friends and our fans after touring that album," he says. Georgia adds, "When we released the Peach music video, people were like, 'It's you – like actually you!'" Caleb concurs, "Even our fans could tell that we were finally doing things that were like us." Georgia picks up, "That kept us propelling towards this more authentic version of ourselves. It takes quite a lot of work to stop second-guessing yourself. But we had a lot of practice with Pop Monster doing that."

Earlier, during a post-Conscious lull, BROODS pursued solo ventures, preparing them for that transgressive phase. Georgia presented an alt-rock foray as The Venus Project with all-female creatives. "I think it came at a really important time because [when] we started, we were, like, 19 and 21 – you're still kind of searching for your identity and searching for what you feel is most you," she reasons. "Then we were jumping in the deep end of the music industry – and that comes with a lot of crazy shit that it's hard to filter through at times."

In the same period, Caleb assumed the handle Fizzy Milk, issuing the one-off single Make Me Feel with Jarryd James. The musician developed his production nous, even if he occasionally felt aimless. "I didn't really start producing music myself or getting into the actual technical engineering side and stuff like that until a few years in."

In 2022, BROODS feel sufficiently confident to open up their world on Space Island. The music is candid, emotive and purgative, Georgia ruminating on the demise of her marriage. She journals her cycles of grief – from denial to fury to futile escapism, eventually arriving at a place of lucidity, resolution and self-knowledge with the discofied finale If You Fall In Love. Georgia transforms the acutely personal into music that is poetic and universal. The "space island" of the album title is figurative, evoking an interior Avalon; the surreal sleeve depicting Georgia in a glass case floating on water. 

Georgia has acquired perspective on her divorce. "It was rough, but it definitely could have been rougher," she laughs painfully. "I had so much support. I had just really, really emotionally intelligent friends and really, really supportive, solid time with my parents around the time that I was going through this divorce. I met somebody that has really, really helped me process a lot of that stuff. I think, because of how much support I've had through the whole experience, that's why I've been able to be pretty raw.

"I think I would have just made a really angry punk album and just screamed over it. But, because I had a community around me that made it really easy to talk about what I was going through and have lots of breakdowns and [I] found a really amazing therapist – who is Australian, my gal – it made singing about things that were hard really cathartic and really, like, releasing them especially; every time we release something, I just cry all day. But it's good – like I think it's not going to come out unless I let it come out so…

"I really wanted to make people feel the way that I felt when I listened to important albums around that time for me. I really lean on music whenever I'm struggling. So I wanted to make something that would be comforting for people. That's why we built Space Island – like 'space island' is the place to go that gives you time alone and gives you resources to metabolise your grief."

It turns out that Georgia learnt about "metabolising grief" digesting Francis Weller's tome The Wild Edge Of Sorrow (Rituals Of Renewal And The Sacred Work Of Grief), borrowed from her new partner. "I've read heaps of really good books about grief and about mindfulness and about the importance of staying present – and that really keeps me with my head above water, like food and stuff, for shitty times."

In approaching Space Island, Caleb fully realised his role as producer, intuiting that "the most important thing" for him was to allow Georgia room to process her feelings as a songwriter. Still, he was able to "bring my own vibe and expression in", having himself endured depression. Caleb valued being granted "freedom" – and patience. Ideally, he works without temporal constraints. "I'm a very much trial-and-error kind of creative person," Caleb says ruefully. "Most of my best ideas – well, not all of them, but a lot of them – are usually accidents, but it's recognising when you do the right accident, I guess." The guitar on Like A Woman was serendipitous. 

BROODS are inevitably branded "electro-pop." "Genres are such a lazy thing," Caleb sighs. However, on Space Island, they revel in a "love for R&B". Amid her divorce, Georgia was "clinging to" soul classics like The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, which materialised in 1998 when she was too young to appreciate it. "We were Sister Act 2 fans before we were proper Lauryn Hill fans," Caleb jokes. "It was our mum's favourite film."

As such, for the first time, BROODS didn't reconnect with Little on Space Island. Instead they recorded with Canadian R&B-type Ajay "Stint" Bhattacharyya, who counts among his past credits Gallant and NAO. He helmed Piece Of My Mind and Heartbreak – the album's "shiniest tracks", according to Caleb. BROODS encountered Bhattacharyya while sessioning in LA, discovering an instant rapport. "He's not like someone that is making music to get it on your album," Caleb observes. "He's making music to make music." "He is so chill," Georgia agrees. "I think, when you're trying to pour your heart out, you need a really safe space – and he just gave that."

For the Space Island song I Keep, about mental loops, BROODS reunited with Swedish star Tove Lo, who previously sang on the Conscious tune Freak Of Nature. Mind, the Notts have consistently moonlit as collaborators – teaming with Troye Sivan circa Blue Neighbourhood

Recently, Georgia duetted with Ladyhawke (aka Pip Brown) on the latter's single Guilty Love. Oddly, BROODS didn't know Brown from the NZ circuit, but were rather introduced by US producer Tommy English. "We were singing the parts on the same mic together," Georgia recalls of tracking Guilty Love. "In between takes, we would talk – and our talking voices sound spookily similar… We'd listen to the takes, and one of us would just make a comment in between takes, and I think Pip was like, 'Oh, I hate my talking voice!' and Tommy goes, 'Ah, that was actually Georgia.'"

Bigger again, BROODS were involved in two cuts on Flight Facilities' FOREVER, including the '80s-style title-track – a DFTPM outtake. The acts bonded on 2015's Groovin The Moo festival run and collaborated prior on the Flight Facilities' loosie Stranded, alongside Reggie Watts and Saro. Today the Notts laugh about how long the Sydney future bass stalwarts spent on the sequel to 2014's Down To Earth. Caleb chuckles, "I've heard so many versions of so many songs."

Last touring Australia in 2019, BROODS have announced new dates for March – though Georgia admits that, with COVID-19, planning has been "a fuck-around". "All we've been thinking about is the live show," she says. Caleb expects that BROODS will perform the entirety of Space Island. But, perhaps influenced by their being special guests on Taylor Swift's extravagant Reputation Stadium Tour, the duo also intend to recreate the LP visually, Georgia envisaging it as a "portal". Their cousin, Jonathan "Jono" Nott, will serve as music director and drummer.

As for the future? A playful Caleb fancies hustling to remix ABBA, the loyal fan having checked out their comeback album, Voyage. "We met the lady in Sweden that runs everything ABBA at Universal – there's one person in Universal Sweden [where] her one job is just to look after ABBA. Her whole office was just ABBA stuff!"

Beyond that, BROODS will continue on their trajectory – extending that already impressive discography. "We're both just at this point where we have no idea what's to come after Space Island," Georgia concludes, "But we know that we'll keep making stuff and we'll keep writing." Indeed, music has become necessarily purposeful for them. "First and foremost, the whole reason that we make music is to self-soothe, basically."


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