Wednesday 21 February 2018

Broods are putting Auckland on the musical map

Ed Power

Ed Power

You expect a willowy waif, all pouts and downcast glances. Already, it seems, Georgia Notts' reputation precedes her: on record the Broods frontwoman projects a dank, shuddering melancholy – as if she received devastating news just before the tape started rolling and is trying to process it in real time.

So it is a surprise to be confronted with a pleasant, mannered 19-year-old, a girl-next-door with a ready laugh and an easy manner. Stuttering, you explain you had anticipated someone a little more . . . pillow-huggingly miserable?

"I put my sad emotions into my songs," she says, chuckling. "I'm lucky in that I have an outlet. I can express the difficult feelings in my music. I don't have to carry them around. For me, singing is therapeutic."

You may not have thought you required a depressive brother-sister electro duo from New Zealand in your life. Broods do a decent job convincing you otherwise. Masterminded by the producer who helped propel Lorde (a fellow Kiwi and close friend) to mega-fame, Georgia and 21-year-old Caleb weave woozy, dislocated moodscapes that drift perpetually between euphoria and heartbreak. As formulas go – and it is surely a formula – it is quite irresistible.

"Lorde has definitely put a spotlight on New Zealand," says Georgia. "Everyone is looking to us now, especially Auckland, especially the realm of electronic pop. Everything has changed."

For the benefit of anyone locked in a bunker this past six months, Lorde, aka Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, is the pop sensation of the moment and a different mode of chart star to boot. A kind of anti-Rihanna, she is 17, suburban (a child of Auckland's endless sprawl) and assertively non-conformist. She raised a ruckus when her acne was recently photoshopped out of a picture, has proclaimed herself disappointed in Miley Cyrus' twerking adventures and appears ill-inclined to morph into the sort of Stepford moppet the record industry cherishes.

"She's supported us from the start," says Georgia. "The music community in Auckland is very tightly knit. Lorde came to our first concert and has tweeted her support."

Given Lorde's feminist credentials, it is ironic that behind her sound, a dislocated shimmer, which is slowly becoming inescapable, stands a dude. The producer of her debut album, Joel Little, has honed a distinctive template: cooed, half-spoken vocals laid atop beats so fragile and fragmented they might vanish into the ether at any moment. He repeats the feat with Broods, lathing their material with gloom and swoon. "He is a humble guy," says Georgia. "You see someone modest and hardworking come out on top and it's just the best feeling. He's winning Grammys [as producer of Lorde's LP Pure Heroine]. It's so awesome."

Despite the acclaim, thus far Little has resisted the bright lights of Los Angeles, New York, etc, and remains proudly Auckland-based (it's a lesson many in Irish music might contemplate as they rush to book their flights for London at the first whiff of international recognition).

'He aided us in finding our voice and definitely nurtured us as songwriters," says Georgia. "He brings out the best in you for sure. Joel has a way of making you feel you can do anything."

Lorde's meteoritic ascent has had a downside. She was mobbed on her return to New Zealand in January, the media scrum judged unbecoming in a country where celebrities are usually allowed their privacy. Lots of record company money is being pumped into Broods (they are signed to the same label as Lorde). Watching Lorde at the arrivals lounge, did Georgia experience a terrifying premonition?

"It would be scary [to be as famous as Lorde]. Then, you have to go where life takes you. While I've no idea why, people seem to love our music. I am aware the industry is about other elements – how you look is as important as how you sound. We are fortunate. So far the focus is on our songs. It's when the attention turns to other aspects of your life that it may become overwhelming. We'll have to wait and see."


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