BROODS Take Experimental Approach to Processing Heartbreak on Space Island LP

Georgia and Caleb Nott of Kiwi brother/sister duo BROODS have crafted their most conceptual, atmospheric album to date with Space Island. Their fourth album is chock-full of heartbreak-on-the-dancefloor beats, bass and confessional lyrics, with the compositions dipping into artsy, experimental arrangements and the epic, compelling schlock sci-fi of ‘60s cult movies.

“This album really has brought us together in a way that we just haven’t really tapped into until now. Partly [it’s] because of the time we’ve had during the pandemic, and how much we’ve grown as people outside of music,” says Georgia Nott. “Because we had all this time, we sat in the world of Space Island together and collectively dreamed it up… we let it appear around us just by talking about it, dreaming about it and listening to records that we thought were like Space Island.”

Nott is living with her brother and her partner (producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Noah Beresin) by the ocean in Piha Beach, New Zealand, pending a return to her second home of Los Angeles, aligning with BROODS’ May tour of the US. She is quick to respond when asked where she’d ultimately like to reside.

“Nowhere!” the flame-red haired singer-songwriter exclaims with a full-throated laugh. “LA has been a pretty inspiring place to live, be it difficult at times. It’s taught me a lot about what I’m capable of and what is possible. There’s so much pushing of the boundaries there, which is fun to see then test out yourself. Whenever I come back to New Zealand, I’m really inspired by nature. Piha is so beautiful and that brings out a whole other side of my songwriting and I just want to sing about the ocean all the time.”

But, she adds, she is at her most inspired and productive when unmoored. “I really have loved having a bit of time over the last couple of years that’s been this forced nesting period, but at the same time, I like to flop around and float around because of how it makes me feel. I write a lot when I’m focusing on living my life and not making my music. Travelling is what’s really inspiring to me and as long as I’ve got the guitar, then I’m good to go… Once I’ve racked up a bunch of songs that’s when I’ll sit with them and make it into a record.”

Originally from Nelson, New Zealand, the Nott siblings are not strangers to US audiences: they’ve collaborated with Tove Lo; toured with Taylor Swift and HAIM; and performed at both Coachella and Lollapalooza. Debuting in 2014 with a self-titled EP, followed by their first album Evergreen the same year and their second album Conscious two years later, ten New Zealand Music Awards had already confirmed their homeland popularity. Their 2019 album Don’t Feed the Pop Monster lead to appearances on Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Late Late Show with James Cordon. But Space Island firmly asserts them as an act that can stand alone, unshadowed by celebrity tourmates, TV hosts and festival gloss.

Notably, this is the first of their albums in which the Nott siblings haven’t worked with producer Joel Little, but they remain close friends with the Los Angeles-based producer. “We started to make different music to what we made before and he was making different music. I think it’s important to switch up collaborators; it helps you to broaden your knowledge and new people inspire new things out of you,” Georgia explains. “He was obviously a massive, massive part of our first two albums… he’s still a massive part of our lives.”

Like some of the greatest pop and rock albums, the glamorous, epic, theatrical fabulosity of sound and mood blossomed from grief. Not long after the release of Don’t Feed the Pop Monster, Georgia and her then-husband divorced. Creating music that was strange, expansive, otherwordly and transportive enabled her an escape valve from all the feelings. Inevitably though, the threads of memory and all the dreams of forever that ended with her previous relationship weaved their way through her lyrics.

“When I first experienced the breakup that this album was about, it was like an explosion, then a crash. Through that crashing period, I had really good friends and amazing support. I started dating this person that was really, really emotionally intelligent and had all these perfect soundbites to help me quickly gain perspective and stop judging myself… that made me able to write the album that we wrote,” she says. Beresin ultimately had a hand in producing Space Island, having worked on ”Gaslight,” “Alien,” “Like A Woman,” and “Days Are Passing.”

Ensconced in their home studio – complete with Caleb’s newly purchased Farfisa organ – the duo mostly worked alone bar occasional collaborations with producer friends Leroy Clampit (Ashe, FLETCHER) and Stint (Santigold, Carly Rae Jepsen). Tove Lo adds vocals to “I Keep,” a song that stemmed from Georgia’s vision of a moth flying into a porch light, burning to death, being reborn, and repeating the process every night. Whether it’s a romantic relationship, a job you despise, a toxic friend, a family relationship or an addiction, it’s a rare human who can’t relate to the sense of repeating cycles of behaviour that corrode our spirits until we’re spun off course by force or circumstance.

If that song bears witness to the darkest elements of the psyche, then “If You Fall In Love” is the first cloudless, sun-drenched spring day that emerges after a long, devastating winter. It is all summery, soft-pad synths, waves of lush dream bubbles blown into the ether. Georgia’s delicate, dusky vocals float through the interplay of synths as organically as air, water and light co-existing.

The crackle of dust on vinyl opens “Goodbye World, Hello Space Island” – a chilled out, slow-trip, downtempo house mood transitioning seamlessly into “Piece Of My Mind,” redolent with spacegun sound effects, fervent energy and restless beats. Georgia’s vocals sound like they’re being warped in from a distant planet, spectral and beautiful.

Nott candidly confesses that given free reign, she’d exist in the world of sad, grief-infused guitar pop. But make no mistake: Space Island does not wallow in any mires. Caleb’s internal radar for bass-and-beats provides ample counter to his sister’s downtempo leanings.

“Songs like ‘Distance and Drugs’ are very Caleb; they are his brain in song form. Songs like ‘Heartbreak’ [are very much about] his basslines and visceral beats. He really wants to feel it,” she says. “The one that feels most like me is ‘Gaslight.’ When I’m left to my own devices that’s the kind of music that I churn out – sad-ass guitar songs with lots of lush harmonies. That song, it still makes me feel a lot right in the pit of my stomach. When we practice it, I just want to cry. That’s how I know that it’s so important, to me, anyway.”

Nott has been immersing herself in regular sessions with her Perth-based psychological-somatic therapist. It has made a world of difference in her ability to articulate her feelings and to feel confident enough emotionally to reveal herself through this album. There has never been a point though, albums or not, where she hasn’t been documenting her observations and ideas. “I’m always writing on my own, whether or not we’re going through that whole studio album process,” she says. “For me, I like to keep writing through it because it’s my way of processing my whole life.”

The music industry, Nott admits, can be “fucked up” sometimes, tossing humans around like bits of seaweed in a tsunami. Going to therapy, doing bodywork, having a good, noisy cry and very open, honest conversations with her brother, her partner and her friends have all given her a sense of security the past few years.

“This album has been such a cathartic experience because we’ve learned to get the support that we need as individuals to carry on sharing really personal things and giving your soul up to people every time you release an album. It’s intense and it’s taxing sometimes and it’s really important when things get busy to know that there’s support there,” she says. “The pandemic has been really, really hard but it’s made a lot of things that wouldn’t otherwise come to the forefront, surface. Even though it’s been pretty full on… I feel like I haven’t lost any of my openness or my sensitivity.”

The lovely, sweet sonic pulse of “Heartbreak” revels in her sensitive, open suggestion: “Let your heart break,” she sings. “Gives an opportunity to get your feelings straight.”

The song was the sad dance music equivalent of a howling exorcism of grief. “’Heartbreak’ is about reminding myself that holding it in is really, really toxic and it does not make that feeling go away, it just makes it ferment into this poison that becomes even more painful when you have to deal with it later,” she says. “A lot of women have trauma held in their bodies. I don’t know what it’s like to be a man – maybe they do too.”

No promises then, but a visit to Space Island might be the cathartic, bass-driven, dancefloor therapy we all need right now.

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