First published in Renegade Collective March 2015
Stardom isn’t without its occupational hazards. For Georgia Nott, one half of brother-sister indie pop duo Broods, these are less about staying afloat in an industry known for spitting out its next big things than they are about keeping your composure when you’re ambushed by your own emotions.
“In September we were playing a show at a sit-down theatre in Vancouver as support for Sam Smith and we played a song called ‘Four Walls’,” says Georgia, toying with a piece of toast. “The crowd was applauding for a solid three minutes and it blew me away to the point where I almost cried on stage. I never expected people to love it so much.”
Sitting at Universal Music’s Sydney headquarters, a concrete-and-glass space dotted with egg-shaped couches and flickering flat screens, it’s impossible not to worry that this charming earnestness is destined to become a casualty of the high corridors of hit making. But in the last 18 months, 20-year-old Georgia’s crystalline voice, which ducks and weaves between multi-instrumentalist brother Caleb’s lush synths, has already helped catapult the pair beyond their wildest dreams.
“It hit home in December 2013 when we were sitting on a plane together realising that we were actually off to LA to sign a record deal and that’s it, this is going to be our career,” says Georgia who, minus her hypnotic onstage persona, could pass for the best friend at uni who convinced you to skip class and sneak out to a gig. “And although we’ve been working our arses off all year, winning Breakthrough Artist [at the New Zealand Music Awards] and gaining the respect of other musicians, it’s just nuts. I feel really old, but I’m only 20. I don’t think we’ll ever be prepared for an acceptance speech in our lives.”
Nelson, an idyllic town on the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is miles away from the world of acceptance speeches and record deals. But for Georgia and Caleb, living in a family that saw music as religion and growing up blissfully unaware of industry influences would shape who they were to become as artists.
“We’ve always played music because our parents are musical and we grew up with instruments around the house,” says Georgia. “When we were younger, we were listening to The Eagles and a lot of classic rock, then as we grew we kind of found different kinds of music – indie rock and indie pop and electronic. Growing up somewhere so beautiful and calm keeps you grounded and our family is like Nelson in a way, really chilled out. But music has always been the focal point of our lives. We’ve always had ambitions of being musicians full-time.”
The Notts’ ambition also sparked a chain reaction. In 2011, Georgia caught the eye of Joel Little, the fabled music producer responsible for Lorde’s album “Pure Heroine”, when she won national competition Rockquest with her high-school band. Their working relationship was born two years later when he polished Broods’ ‘Bridges’ demo into a sublime piece of electro pop and produced the self-titled EP that skated into the world’s music press – and the boardroom of Capitol Records.
“We kind of had no idea what we were doing when we started,” confesses Caleb, who’s fighting a combination of jetlag and exhaustion for our interview (the legacy of sold-out shows in Sydney and flights to the US where they supported the likes of Haim and played a headline tour to promote their chart-topping 2014 debut album, “Evergreen”). “We worked with Joel all through 2013, whenever we could get away with uni and work but it wasn’t until the time we actually wrote ‘Bridges’ that we thought that a track might be good enough to put out.”
Since then the single has been streamed on Soundcloud more than 2.7 million times. The pair is quick to credit Joel, whose brand of shimmering electronica has made him one of the world’s most sought-after producers, with helping them realise their vision. And they’re equally grateful that Lorde, who ranks among their biggest supporters, has helped blaze trails for New Zealand artists on a world stage.
“Joel Little has been a massive influence for both of us,” says Georgia. “We’ve known him for a while now and seen him blow up and grow as a producer and to have him give so much to us is amazing. He’s not just a great producer, he’s a great person. And Lorde is awesome. She may be biased because she works with Joel and is Kiwi but she’s been such a massive support for us. She’s so mature and she’s only just turned 18. She deserves everything she gets.”
But chemistry is as much a catalyst in Broods’ success as a knack for attracting high-profile collaborators. Channelling long-suffering siblings everywhere, the Notts, who share an Auckland apartment, go from playful teasing to finishing each other’s sentences in the space of a minute and say this closeness is the heart of their creative process.
“When I came up with the lyrics for Bridges in a really crappy demo, Caleb called me straight away and told me that it was the best song I’d ever written,” says Georgia, who grew up idolising New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser and would give a limb to see magnetic British musician Bat for Lashes live. “When I write by myself, I don’t know if it works but Caleb is so good at musical arrangements that I find it easier to be super open in a studio situation. We take different approaches to music, but there’s just as much passion in what we’re doing. That’s why we work so well together.”
“Georgia is a completely emotional musician,” adds Caleb, with an affectionate laugh. “For me, music is more of an intellectual activity and I really admire artists like Thom Yorke and Danger Mouse. In the next year we’re looking forward to working on fresh material, more touring, writing, collaborating and experimenting with new stuff. We’re not very serious and we don’t have a brand image or anything that we’re trying to stick to. All we think about is writing the music and performing it well.”