Built around Farfisa organ, Nigerian-influenced rhythms, glinting field recordings, siren-esque harmonies and one very personal life event, Space Island presents NZ duo Broods in flawless form. We spoke to vocalist Georgia Nott.
If you want to create an arresting piece of visual art you can source a sack of images, digitally dice ’em up, and then cobble ’em together. Or, you can go the much more time-consuming, frustrating, but rewarding route of physically creating the scene in real space with real objects. For example, you could hit up a plastics manufacturer and get them to build you a perspex casket, then balance it on some wobbly rocks in a stream in the Kiwi countryside, then put on a full-body spacesuit, lie in that coffin, and sweat your tush off for hours while somebody tries to snap the golden cover shot for your new album.
“I only just fit in [the coffin], thank God,” laughs Georgia Nott. “And that suit is neoprene – it was like scuba wear. That suit has a lot of sweat in it.”
Nott and her brother Caleb – the other half of celebrated New Zealand duo Broods – were determined to physically create this image because its metaphors are so central to their excellent fourth record, Space Island. “I think a lot of the time when you’re struggling with mental health, it doesn’t matter how beautiful the world around you is,” says Georgia. “You can see that it’s beautiful, but you can’t go out and experience it because you are trapped in this dark place. Or you’re not able to give yourself permission to go out and touch it, for whatever reason – anxiety, depression – whatever it is that you’re going through acts like this clear coffin, that keeps you feeling claustrophobic and alone. And then you’ve got to just break out. But you can’t do that by yourself sometimes.”
The album’s themes orbit around a very personal event for Georgia – the dissolution of her marriage – and she wanted to consciously process all the feelings that rushed in with that event. “I am definitely the kind of person that struggles to just ‘be’ in a bad place,” she says. “I go, ‘Rah! I’m fine! Actually, I’m better than fine. I’m fine and great.’ That was how I felt after the initial break-up, but as I got more space from it, I was like, ‘This is going to be way harder than I thought.’ I looked back on all the times I had gone through something that was really hard, and how I would constantly run away from it. I’m like a professional flee-er! I flee far. So I wanted to challenge myself not to run away from the things I was feeling… [I needed to] turn around and face it, instead of letting it follow me for the rest of my life into other relationships.”
So, is this an album of sniffling, stone-kicking dirges? Absolutely not. You’d need Vishnu arms to point to every moment of unveiled joy, or transcendence, or playful curiosity across the album.
But it’s best to begin at the start, with the cheeping birds, human chatter and cosmic flourishes of instrumental opener Goodbye World, Hello Space Island. “Caleb really loves putting birds in songs,” Georgia grins. “New Zealand has crazy birds, and they have crazy birdsongs. Everywhere you go you can get pretty insane field recordings. The [human] chatting is something we appreciate on other people’s recordings – you listen to The Beatles rehearsals and The Beach Boys rehearsals, and they feel like the reality of making music together, as a group. In the first track I’m actually chatting about how I went to a dance class after a session where I got quite drunk and stoned, and then found out that it was salsa night. And I’m really bad at salsa.”
Speaking of rhythms, the dreamily yammered chorus for stand-out The Distance and the Drugs is an intriguing listen; the way the words slot together, where the emphasis lands, and how phrases curl around one another has a hypnotic effect. “I was going to attempt a [melodic] top line over [the instrumental], but then I’d had a ton of coffee, and I was in an Uber on the way to the studio, and I’d just gotten a really weird and annoying, triggering text from my ex,” Georgia says, “and I was just like, ‘I can’t reply to you, so I’m going to reply in this song.”
If we leap to album closer If You Fall In Love, you can discern a distinctly Latin flair to its rhythm. “We joke that Caleb’s ‘DJ Can’t Find The One’, because he’s always trying to make beats that catch people off guard,” Georgia laughs. “That’s just what he likes to hear.” The cabasa-flecked, oddly dubstep-touched Days Are Passing, meanwhile, is an ode to Nigerian drummer and Fela Kuti’s late bandleader, Tony Allen. “He’s one of Caleb’s favourite drummers; he was just a legend,” Georgia explains. “That particular beat holds a nice little space in my heart. It got us through the initial stages of the pandemic; we were trying to make something that reflected how weird we were feeling.”
The entirety of the project afforded Georgia a way to work towards showing herself patience, kindness, and other merciful behaviours that we might usually only show towards others. “It’s really daunting to just let yourself fall apart and sit in your own sh-t,” she says. “It’s really uncomfortable. But the more you do it – the more you look back at yourself, and see yourself going through this hard thing, and you empathise with yourself? It helps you take care of yourself a little bit more.”
Space Island by Broods is out Feb 18, including on JB-exclusive transparent vinyl (pictured above), via Island/Universal.Buy now at JB Hi-Fi
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