New Zealand-born siblings Caleb and Georgia Nott of Broods are often associated with the dark electro-pop because of their aptronym, their past material and propensity to dress in shades favored by the dark side. “Bridges” and “Mother and Father,” off their 2014 debut Evergreen, as well as Conscious’ “Free” and “Heartlines”—the latter of which was co-written with fellow Kiwi Lorde—all trade on themes of isolation, longing, doomed relationships or dystopian realities.
Their latest single “Peach,” however, is a juicy blast of color, joie de vivre and silliness. The first single to be released of their much-anticipated third album, on new label Neon Gold, it’s a nod to uplifting familial harmonies, a generous retro dose of ABBA and wandering sonics that creep into psychedelia.
Truth is, the band have always been more than one shade of sad and their earnest fans have always understood that, but left to their own devices without a record label and the luxury of two years in the studio, they have branched out far beyond the shackles of imposing genre lines. “We brought all our multiple personalities this time,” Georgia Nott, said with a laugh, when we sat down for our interview just before their sold-out headlining show at The Roxy in Los Angeles. The band, who are now touring Australia, were then just about to head on tour with the queen of empowering teen pop, Taylor Swift, on the Oceania leg of her Reputation tour.
For a taste of what else is on their as yet, untitled album, we chatted about the importance of giving every song, no matter how silly, their time; changing up their well-worn roles and what it’s been like to live in their adopted city, Los Angeles.
The first single “Peach” is very different from the darker aesthetic of your previous two albums. Is Joel Little (who produced Lorde and Broods’ first two albums) still involved in this album?
Caleb: Joel Little is involved, not as heavily as before; it’s more like, all our friends are involved.
Georgia: We worked with an array of different people. There’s two sides to Joel—he’ll be here tonight—he’s like our big brother and still a huge part of our careers.
Caleb: Even if we didn’t work with him at all on the album, he’ll be here with bells on.
Georgia: He’s family.
I love “Peach,” but I also had a teaser of three other songs on your upcoming album and I feel that they all have that sort of wandering sonic quality: Individual songs start out one way and then go another. For “Peaches,” that effect on the vocal where she sings, “I’m high and I’m low, no control,” it gives the song that device to go somewhere else, somewhere unexpected. Peaches Magenta is like the party-girl alter-ego.
Caleb: Until the bridge, then it gets another vision.
Yes, there’s an added dimension to it – it’s sad again and reminds me of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with all the harmonies, it becomes epic.
Georgia: I think the whole album kind of showcases our multiple personalities. But I think that’s part of why we like to write – to express the different things we feel, sometimes we feel really happy and sometimes we don’t feel happy at all. We didn’t really tone anything down, we just took away the filter.
Caleb: We didn’t really need a filter cause there was no one telling us if we’re right or wrong. We made the record without any label being associated with us at the time, so we just made what we wanted to make.
Were you no longer with Capitol Records at that point?
Georgia: By the time we had started writing this album, we had left Capitol.
Caleb: Yeah, we made the record and then Neon Gold were like, “Fuck yeah! (laughs) Like right, we’ll jump on that.”
Georgia: It was awesome. It’s nice having someone enter this side of an album. As opposed to, we love you but let’s change these things.
Caleb: Of course, there are a bunch of songs, which are so crazy, they will never see the light of day.
Georgia: You write whatever comes to your mind and at the end of the day, you put it together like a little puzzle and call it an album.
Is this what you meant when you described songs and ideas that you ‘throw in the toilet,” you don’t rework or keep them for later?
Georgia: (laughs) Yeah, you don’t force anything. You give every idea the time of day. At the same time, you can’t be too attached to doing things a certain way or you kind of cock-block yourself from finding where you can go.
Caleb: Sometimes being immature or silly is the best way to get there.
I saw you years ago at a Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco and you just seem so dark; you were both in your only-wear-black phase. And the press painted you accordingly.
Caleb: But our music, if you really listen, is not that dark.
That’s right, there’s that singer-songwriter-y strain to it too. But it’s nice to see the growth. Some of those songs off Evergreen and Conscious blend into each other.
Caleb: Well, we wrote those in four weeks. It’s impossible to make one song not bleed into another. But this one took two years to make, so you can definitely hear the different side of the world we were writing, whether it was sunny or . . .
Georgia: I think it’s really clear that we’ve taken our time with this one because we’ve taken all the ones that have really stuck with us for the two-year period. And all the songs that we felt weren’t necessarily like, “Oh yeah, that works with that vibe,” it was more, “Oh yeah, that’s us.” And we come in many different forms, so there is many different type of songs. That’s something people everywhere feel, that they don’t feel the same way everyday, or every hour … and to have an album like this. I love albums that take me to all these different places and gives me different things.
Caleb: Even songs for different times of the day.
Georgia: Yeah. And we know our fans and we know they can relate to what we’re singing about – sonically, the range is all over the place but I think …
Caleb: I don’t think we’ve had a single bad feedback about “Peach” so far. Everyone’s been super onboard and happy about it. And we’re stoked.
Georgia: After five years, I think our fans have gotten to know us as people. And even they can see that is more “us.” And that’s special. They’ve grown up with us and finally I feel like we’ve found the confidence and stopped caring about the wrong things. We’ve found out that we can just be, whatever we are which is so liberating.
What were some of these wrong things?
Georgia: It goes as far back as high school, I remember someone told me people relate to songs about love more than songs about your internal stuff. And so I feel like for the last record we were inventing these relationships that we weren’t even in. We still love those songs but for this one, none of it is pulled out of thin air, it’s all very personal.
Caleb: Nothing is an over-exaggeration this time. It’s all real.
”Hospitalized” has that sort of Stevie Nicks-intro then takes this upbeat synthpop path. Georgia, you deliver that chorus like you’re talking about having a fun time but the lyrics are quite caustic and things aren’t going down very well.
Georgia: Yeah, the lyrics are, “I feel like I’m broken but I never have a reason so I’m going to push myself ‘til I get hospitalized.” (laughs) It’s dark.
Caleb: It can sound so much darker than we ever intended it to be. It was literally about Georgia wanting to know what it’s like to break an arm, or a bone. Because she’s never ever broken a bone before.
Georgia: I was having a conversation with a friend at breakfast and I asked, “Who’s broken a bone? I’ve never.” And one other person said, “Me neither.” And I said: “I kind of want to.” And she said, “Yes! I want to know what it feels like.” Even though I know it would be sad, I feel like I want to be someone that’s had a full experience of life; know the pain and pleasure. And when we were writing it in the studio and it opened out into like a jungle and there was a tree—this isn’t the song but we were so excited and I said, I reckon I can jump up to that tree right now. And so we wrote a whole song about wanting to jump to that tree, wanting to break a leg, wanting to have a reason to cry that’s not like—whatever, my brain’s weird. Even though we felt like we were shooting the shit the whole time, the people that we showed the song to were like, “OMG, I feel the same way!” That’s quite special to just say what you feel and have people tell you they feel the same way.
Caleb: I mean, the bridge is nonsense.
Georgia: But sometimes life is nonsense.
It might seem on the surface like nonsense, but if it’s anchored in your unconscious to something deeper and more meaningful, it will resonate I suppose.
Georgia: I think you’re right.
Who sings on “Too Proud”? Caleb?
Caleb: Me. It’s not my thing. But it was my thing that day. It’s never really my thing to sing.
Georgia: We just swapped roles that day.
Caleb: Georgia played every instrument that day.
Georgia: Caleb sang lead.
You became Caleb and he became you!
Georgia: I know. We Freaky Friday-ed. (laughter)
Caleb: We just want to chuck in one where people would go, “Huh?”
Georgia: We were like, man, we’ve got nothing to lose so let’s just try and be as out there as possible and see, if people love it…
He can sing some more?
Georgia: Yeah. And if they don’t like it, we’ll still have fun with it. I think having nothing to lose really played to our strengths.
Caleb: I’m almost scared about people liking it because I don’t want to sing that much.
My favorite song of the four is actually “Why Do You Believe Me.” I couldn’t tell you why.
Caleb: It’s the melody.
You’re probably the better judge of that. But there was so much going on—even to my ears, so many layers. How did you build that?
Caleb: The funniest thing is that it was probably the most simple song on the record, production-wise, and the only thing that makes it sound so busy is that Georgia stacked about 10 of herself on top of each other.
Georgia: It had a beat and I started singing the chorus, and I said, you don’t have to put any chords in, I‘m just going to sing over the chorus. Then I just stacked harmony upon harmony. Honestly, the harmonies were just years and years of ABBA, Fleetwood Mac and Eagles – all the soft rock that our parents drove into us.
Caleb: The harmonies of Manhattan Transfer and all that fusion jazz. (pulls a bored face)
Georgia: When something doesn’t have a thousand harmonies, it’s like, (pauses) “something’s missing.” (laughs)
When band members do side projects, they seem to come back fresh and revitalized – and you both have done that recently, Georgia working solely with women on The Venus Project and Caleb with Fizzy Milk.
Caleb: We just needed to go and grow up on our own for a wee bit. Because our whole lives we’ve almost been forced to grow together, even as kids. Doing the same shit, all the time.
Georgia: So we just needed six months to a year to clear the shit out, open the flood gates.
Caleb: And see what kind of musicians we were without each other because we’ve only known that for a long time.
Georgia: You can’t just have one creative outlet your whole life.
Caleb: That would suck.
Georgia: You need to express yourself in different ways, to show different sides of you. It was awesome for Caleb to produce. Instead of just sitting in a room with a producer, which is what we’ve always done in the past. And for me to take these songs that I’d been writing in my room when I was sad, and might cry, (laughs) and make them into these songs that I felt passionate about with new people. And when we got back together to write this album, we realized just how easy it is when it’s just “us.” How much fun it is because we just know what we’re dealing with, every single second.
Caleb: Sometimes when I’m in a writing session with someone, I think, “Man, (sighs) I just wish Georgia was here. It’d be so much easier.” Sometimes it can be so difficult and I think I just wish I was writing with Georgia today.
Georgia: (laughs) We know what to expect.
Caleb: And we just know how to navigate each other’s feelings and …
Caleb: And deal with the other’s ideas if we don’t like it. And when it’s a new person, I’m like, “I don’t know if I should tell them the fact that I don’t like that because if it’s Georgia I would just say “I hate it” and she’ll be like, “OK, sweet, let’s not do it!”
Georgia, you got married and moved here a few years ago. How do you guys stay grounded when people are constantly blowing smoke up your arse or maybe, trying to tear you down?
Georgia: It definitely took us three years to find out how to make the most of L.A. It’s such a beast of a city.
Caleb: I’ve only just figured out how to be here.
Georgia: Exist without dying.
Caleb: Exist without being like …
Caleb and Georgia: (in unison) … Constantly overwhelmed.
Caleb: It’s a good city to shave your ego down a little but then build it back up again in a more positive way.
Georgia: You kind of lose your confidence when you get here because there’s so much talent here.
Caleb: In New Zealand, you’re like a big fish in a small pond and you come here and …
Georgia: You’re gasping for air. But it’s now good because we’ve got such a supportive network of friends here now. It also helps that we came as a unit – us two (points to Caleb), and my husband. There’s also many Kiwis living here. (A loud uproar of laughter is heard as their Kiwi tour manager opens the door to tell us our time’s up.)
Caleb: (laughs) And there’s a bunch of them in the green room right now waiting for us!