Editor's Note: This story first appeared in its original format in the new issue of Variance. Click here for the full version.
Photos by Stephen Tilley
It’s no secret the music of New Zealand is in the spotlight right now. Over the past year, the Northern Hemisphere has been enthralled with the country like never before.
A lot of that is thanks to Ella Yelich-O’Connor (aka Lorde), the 17-year-old songstress who seems to have struck a chord with audiences the world over. But she’s hardly the only act making their way across the International Date Line.
While “Royals” was taking over American airwaves last year, brother-sister duo BROODS were quietly building their own arsenal of infectious music. And successfully so. Their debut self-titled EP made its way to the Billboard 200 when it arrived in January, weeks ahead of their widely-praised live debut in Los Angeles.
“We had no idea what to expect coming over here,” says 21-year-old Caleb Nott, one-half of the band alongside his younger sister and vocalist Georgia. “We would be happy if anyone showed up at all. I mean, to see these lines of people getting into a club to see us play, it’s unreal. And people singing along to our songs. You can’t really explain how cool that is.”
Of course, being an act from New Zealand in the wake of Lorde’s mainstream surge does present a slight challenge for BROODS. Fans may be unsure of what to expect. Should they be seeking another “Royals”? Or maybe the anti-“Royals”?
“We write very differently from her,” explains Nott. “But maybe it’s inevitable to face comparisons right now. With Lorde, her lyrics are very visual and interesting. She’s so talented with her lyrics. But Georgia is talented in a different way lyrically. We both write more emotionally. It’s a very emotional type of music.”
As Nott puts it, “it’s awesome to even have our names mentioned together with Lorde. And it’s amazing to know people are looking for talented musicians now from New Zealand.”
While the pair seeks to establish their own identity as musicians, their home country isn’t all they share with Lorde. Their EP and forthcoming album were co-written and produced by songwriter-producer Joel Little, the man behind Lorde’s debut album, Pure Heroine. And with equally addictive, brilliantly written sounds, BROODS seem to be on track for similar success.
“We’ve been working with [Little] for like three years and growing as a very collaborative group,” reveals Nott. “Just developing and fine-tuning what we’re doing right now. We have so much respect for him, we really do. He’s worked his ass off for the past 10 years and he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. We’re glad to be part of what he’s doing.”
The duo is also further proof of the power of Soundcloud, emerging music’s unsung hero. With a few clicks, unknowns and lesser-knowns have been able to share their music with the world. And in the case of BROODS, they recently opened for fellow sibling trio HAIM and they’ll tour with Ellie Goulding when she hits Australia and New Zealand.
“Soundcloud deserves more credit than they get,” says Nott. “It’s a great place to find music. Especially for people who do remixes, it’s a great way to get your stuff out there. They give new artists and artists like us resources that wouldn’t be available to us otherwise. For us, we just put [our music] up for our family and friends. But I guess a few more people decided to give it a listen,” he says with a chuckle.
As Spotify, Beats Music and other streaming products compete for listeners’ attention, Nott acknowledges he could be easily discouraged by the changes in music consumption, but he’s rather optimistic, having recently toured the Beats offices with a personalized demonstration of the newly launched app.
“The reality is iTunes sales and album sales just aren’t what they used to be,” he laments. “But I’m more concerned about people being able to listen to our music and for our music to get out there and be heard. That’s more important to us.” Despite embracing new technology, however, Nott still has a soft spot for a good hard copy. “For me, personally, I’ve got to say nothing beats getting a physical CD or disc. I often don’t buy music online because I just really like having the physical product and having the artwork. It’s something special and I still value that. Overall, we’re just really big fans of music.”
As BROODS continue to rise globally, they’re already looking ahead. “We’re working to get the album out in August, definitely late summer, but we always talk about things like collaborations too. Right now, both of us are huge fans of SOHN and we’d love to do a track with him at some point. Outside of the album, that’s our other goal. If we could make both happen this year, it’d be insane.”
Variance Interview with SOHN