Fame comes slowly, if ever, for most, but a special few are lucky enough to cut through to the quick, even before they realise it. Such is the story of Broods, the sister and brother duo from Nelson who have seemingly magicked their way to international record deals, repeated northern hemisphere tours and one and a half million views of their very first-released video. Matthew deKimble talked with the successful siblings Georgia and Caleb Nott, and co-writer/producer Joel Little about the road to their first album, ‘Evergreen’.
Broods don’t mess around. In less than a year they have released a debut EP; seen their first single Bridges blow up faster than Lorde’s Royals; been signed to major international labels off the bat; been shortlisted for the Silver Scroll Award and now released a critically acclaimed, chart-topping debut album. They have also toured Europe, North America, Australia and finally NZ’s big cities, playing sold out festivals and concert gigs. They show no signs for slowing down.
From a Nelson family of five, Caleb and Georgia Nott are a formidable sibling duo who have been plugging away at the local music scene since they were kids.
“Our parents are both musicians,” Georgia explains. “It was always the focal point in our household. Whenever our extended family got together our aunties and uncles would sing together and us and our cousins would sing too. It was what brought us together.”
It was Georgia who first rose to prominence as singer (and percussionist) in the Garin College band, The Peasants, who won the 2011 Smokefreerockquest. It was at that Rockquest final that another local musician-turned-producer, Joel Little, was first captivated by Georgia’s voice.
“The first time I saw Georgia was from a distance, she was on stage and she was just way better than everyone else that night,” Joel recalls. “It was pretty obvious that vocally she had something really unique.
The Peasant’s prize single, Letting Go, was subsequently produced by Joel and his ex-Goodnight Nurse bandmate Jaden Parks. Although it was well received The Peasants split at the end of 2012.
Ashley Page, Joel’s manager and business partner in independent record label Dryden Street, kept in touch with Georgia. He suggested she spend some time at Joel’s Golden Age Studios in Morningside after she had moved to Auckland to study pop music. Her brother Caleb had been in Auckland, studying industrial design, since 2011 and Georgia invited him to join them in the studio.
“I thought it was going to be just Georgia initially,” Joel recalls of the first session that happened not long after those historic Lorde recordings. “I was honestly a little sceptical when I heard she wanted to do it with her brother, but once I met Caleb and started working with them as a pair, it all made sense.”
Study quite quickly gave way to passion.
“Being professional musicians has always been something we’ve wanted to do,” admits Georgia. “I’d moved back home after three weeks because I hated studying, but came back because we got the opportunity to do this.”
Caleb grins at the memory and their trajectory since.
“I finished a year, then this took over.”
They needed a name for their new project and opted for BROODS. A clear play on words, it incorporates their family connection, their “energetic downbeat sound” and unreservedly personal lyrics, but why the capitals?
“When we did the logo it’s just what looked coolest,” Caleb shrugs.
Their eponymous EP took eight months to complete and was initially going to be released on Soundcloud independently, à la Lorde’s ‘Love Club’ EP. Everything changed when Bridges, the first track they uploaded, shot to over 200,000 plays within a week. Before they even had a chance to finish the EP Broods were signed by Capitol and Polydor Records.
“We’d just written [our second single] Never Gonna Change and it was getting mixed while we were away signing the deal, Georgia explains. “We had no idea how to express how we were feeling. We’d walk around the house screaming Wooo! WOOOOO!”
The U.S. and U.K. labels clearly knew they had something but in the rush of the pop industry, momentum is everything. I ask; if an EP takes eight months, how long does it take to make an album?
“Five weeks,” answers Caleb flatly, before Georgia expands.
“We had a few demos but we wrote and recorded most of it in those five weeks. The last four songs we wrote in five days.”
Joel says he had by then become accustomed to tight deadlines.
“It definitely helps you make calls more quickly, you have to decide pretty fast whether you think an idea is worth pursuing or not. Generally I just really need deadlines.”
“We had more of a vision,” Georgia agrees. “In the EP we were working out what we wanted to do with our sound. We experimented with different things and got a mixture of songs, but with the album we thought more about what we wanted to write.”
The album ‘Evergreen’ proves not to be a complete departure from the EP. Their first two singles, Bridges and Never Gonna Change, have even been included as first released.
“I think we captured what we were after with those first versions,” says Joel.
“Those two songs are a strong representation of where we wanted to go with the album,” Caleb agrees.
Indeed those singles are, in every sense, the seeds from which ‘Evergreen’ has grown. There is a welcome cohesion between the 11 album tracks, but upon successive listens they can start to blend.
Both the EP and ‘Evergreen’ were recorded at Joel Little’s Golden Age Studios and carry his now signature synthetic sound – though comparisons with Lorde’s more hip hop-centred music don’t work. He says the songwriting has mostly been pretty collaborative.
“Sometimes Georgia will come in with a song pretty close to fully formed and we’ll put the finishing touches on it, but generally we work on everything together as a team.”
Joel co-wrote each track, as well as producing and mixing the album. Olivia Nott, younger sister of Caleb (22) and 20-year old Georgia provided backing vocals on Medicine. She and Grammy winner Vlado Meller, who mastered the album at his Charleston, South Carolina studio, were the only others involved.
“I think we’ll always be the kind of people that work with one producer at a time,” Caleb nods. “It’s a really personal thing for us.”
Given their family folk roots, Joel Little may seem like a strange choice, but the Nott siblings wanted to try something new. Caleb says he wanted to write electronic music because he likes listening to it.
“I run a lot of MIDI keyboards and MIDI samplers through Ableton. I had no idea how to do any of it before this project. I learnt through trial and error and mates helping me out.”
Broods were still recording their EP when Lorde’s Royals bomb dropped and while they insist there was no preconception they would be next, Joel’s limelight suddenly shone bright.
“It did help because people started looking to NZ for new music,” Caleb concedes.
Even Joel was taken by surprise by the instant high level interest that Bridges gained though.
“I thought people might be curious about what I’d been up to, but definitely didn’t think it would blow up the way it did,” he admits.
Usually described as ‘electro-pop’, ‘synth-pop’ or ‘alt-pop’, Caleb thinks they could be described as “energetic downbeat”, at which Georgia laughs.
“We change it everytime we say what it sounds like. All our music is written with the purpose of creating a huge vibe. We put a lot of ourselves into the music and a lot of emotional honesty into what we write about.”
It’s a broody lyrical rawness that is the defining aspect of her writing.
“Georgia’s always been a fluid, emotive writer, so as soon as the feeling hits her the songs come out pretty fast,” Joel observes. “Caleb’s more of an aesthetic writer, so he’s thinking about the overall picture before diving into the specifics.”
For the EP they wrote together, Georgia focusing on lyrics and Caleb on composition. This had already changed with each wanting to contribute more to the other.
“The more comfortable we become making music together, the more it will be collaborative from start to finish.”
The siblings expect they’ll continue making more music, both in the studio and on stage, for the foreseeable future, saying (in unison) that they don’t have any long term goals.
“We’ve already passed what we thought we were capable of, so anything past this is a bonus,” admits Caleb, a little self-consciously.
That said, they have no intention of being just a flash in the pan.
“When we started this project the thing we wanted to go for was longevity. We’re here for good… hopefully,” he laughs.
Their instant fame is of course welcome, but it seems to be little more than a means to an end, as Georgia candidly confesses.
“If we weren’t doing this there would be a huge void in our lives, but when we’re on stage… there is no emptiness.