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by Silke Hartung

Ben & Brody: Open Up About Open Up

by Silke Hartung

Ben & Brody: Open Up About Open Up

With two years between them, Auckland siblings Brody Glanfield and her younger brother Ben aka Ben & Brody have been learning and making music together since their early primary school days. Both have long had a passion for singing, and over time have settled into a songwriting pattern in which Ben takes charge of the musical creativity while Brody heads up lyric writing. It’s a successful formula, the latest result of which is Open Up, a fully grown-up song/video about being teenagers, written and performed by teenagers.

NZM talked to you back in October 2019, when you were finalists in that year’s round of Rockquest – and Ben was just 14! Presumably, you entered the SFRQ comp again last year?

Yes, we entered the 2020 Smokefree Rockquest as Ben & Brody, giving it everything we had because it was actually Brody’s last eligible year. Despite lockdown and unpredicted Covid alert level changes the event was still held, and we were lucky enough place first in the Solo/Duo category and win the ZM best song award! Winning the competition was a huge achievement and has given us such a great opportunity with our latest release of Open Up

Have any of the acts you met through SFRQ, winners or not,  particularly inspired you over the last two years?

Because of Covid last year, we weren’t able to interact and meet the other acts – but inspiration-wise we were super lucky because we were still able to celebrate and support each’s music other virtually. We look up to all the other artists who took part, like Harry Mason, There’s A Tuesday (winners of 2019) and Sandtrap.  

What’s the typical dynamic between the two of you, as siblings writing songs together? 

Often Ben and I fall into roles when we write our songs. I tend to be more involved with the lyrics of the music, and Ben is always clever when it comes to chords, rhythms and riffs. Obviously, we both still work together to decide on those details, but I think that’s why we make such a good team – we both have our different strengths, and together we’re able to create something bigger than we would working alone. 

Two years down the line have you worked with any producer or engineer who’s been particularly influential on your recent sound?

Yes, we’ve been super lucky to have worked with some awesome producers over the past two years. With our newest release Open Up we worked with Simon Gooding who produced and mixed the song. He’s worked with artists like Mitch James, Dua Lipa and did such a great job with our song. He definitely influenced our recent sound, and we’re hoping to continue to make music with an acoustic pop vibe. He added some electronic backing to our originally acoustic song and everything he added created a full, radio sound which we love. 

Are there aspects of being a musician you like most, or parts you wish someone else could do for you because you don’t enjoy them so much?

This is a really cool question! There are so many positives about what we’re doing as musicians, but something we really love is how much our music is beginning to reach people, especially when people are enjoying what we’re creating. We get messages on social media from people living in Europe and America who are listening to our music! That’s pretty special to us, having grown up in New Zealand. As simple as it sounds, when our music makes other people happy, it truly keeps us happy too. 

We’ve had a big think about what we don’t like as much, but we really can’t find anything negative about making music – which we think is a good thing! 

Your new single Open Up is such a fun bop – is there a story behind it?

Ben and I wrote this song creating the narrative of two very shy people in our heads. We wanted to make something relatable but also fun, it’s about something that a lot of people don’t do today – open up to one another. It was really interesting coming up with these characters and finding ways to relate to them.

The story of the song reflects two people in a relationship who find it hard to be comfortable or confident in themselves, and therefore it holds them back from having a good time. The main message is simply about relaxing, letting go of feeling insecure and just talking to someone else, because that way everything in life becomes more enjoyable. 

You’re getting a lot of support by commercial radio stations, which is amazing for a young local band. How much of an effect do you reckon does that have on your ticket sales, social media following etc?

We’ve definitely noticed our social media following increase as we’ve continued to appear on radio stations, such as More FM, which is super exciting. It’s also a really good way to promote our events and gigs we have coming up. For example, we promoted Orewa Surf Sounds on the radio, and the number of people who knew about us performing was awesome. We think radio is still a great way to reach a large group of people, and now that our single Open Up is radio-ready – we hope it can keep growing our following!

What’s your approach to social media? What platforms do you prefer and how do you use them to engage with fans, and of course grow your fan base?

We did have the issue of Ben’s Facebook page only being under his name for a while! We finally managed to change this recently, and can officially start posting under our joint Facebook page. It’s called Ben & Brody Music, and we are so happy to have an easier way for our following to keep up with our duo stuff! We also have an Instagram page @benandbrody and Spotify too!

We’re hoping to use this year to focus on our social media approach, keep posting regularly, interact and engage with our following, in the hope that we can reach more people overall! This might include doing more live streams, uploading more songs, daily music updates etc.  

Let’s talk about the Open Up music video. How long did it take to do?

The shooting of the music video was a one-day process, and took us around 9 hours in total! It was such a fun day working with the creative team and the actors. The music video is set in an old, ’80s nostalgic bowling alley and arcade. The day consisted of trying on some really funky wardrobe outfits, doing each take about 3 or 4 times, playing the arcade machines, and enjoying a very nice burger and fries. 

The production of our music video is all thanks to Imaginary Creative, Rockquest and NZ On Air. Everybody in the team was really open to ideas and that’s what Ben and I really liked about the process, we wanted to make sure everybody was involved and had their say; because as much as it was our video, it’s their video too! 

Who had the idea, and how did you convince them to allow you to use street shoes in the lanes?

It was the director Dave Thomson who came up with the idea of shooting in a bowling alley. We initially knew we wanted to do something ’80s themed, but Dave had this idea of using the arcade lights and bowling alley to create a super retro looking video. They didn’t mind us wearing street shoes which was great! The owners of the alley were awesome and super happy with us to use their space which we were really grateful for. 

With Open Up now out now, what’s coming next for Ben and Brody?

Keep on writing! That’s the goal for this year, to really push our sound creatively and find out what direction we want to take our music in. This year we hope to write not only more music together but work with other artists and producers too, that way when we are certain with our sound – we will look at releasing an EP or some more singles. 

Currently, we are working with Rory Noble, who is a well-established producer! We’re doing development with him through the NZ On Air funding, and are really excited to be writing with him alongside some other talented artists. We’re also looking into releasing another tune shortly! So keep watching this space 🙂 

Unfortunately, a lot of our big events and festivals we were due to play recently had to be cancelled because of Covid. But we’re hopeful that most of these events will still go ahead in the future. Ben is also planning on entering Rockquest again this year as a band, and maybe even a soloist too! It’s a great opportunity to meet other young songwriters. 

 

Made with the support of NZ On Air.