Photo by: Roman Sobus
Review by: Lejla Subašić
Broods, the synthpop headliner of the evening at Metro, from New Zealand, consists of the lead-vocalist sister Georgia Nott and multi-instrumentalist brother Caleb Nott. They have performed together since childhood, but formed as a unit in 2013, when they signed with Capitol Records under the new pseudonym. After feeling that they were being pigeon-holed as just another “huge pop act” from Capitol Records, the duo started to assert their freedom in creative decision, and in effect, got dropped by the label. But in 2018, New York-based label Neon Gold came to welcome them into their family, and now are starting to solidify their synthetic soundscape bit by bit.
The brother and sister, dramatically enter the stage with their high fashion. Caleb with his gold-foiled overalls, knee pads, red-orange beanie, and Georgia, with her two-pieced shimmering suit embellished with a purple-yellow paisley and flowered halter top underneath her open blazer. But that’s not important, until later. Confidently, Georgia starts to slide into body-rippling Samba moves to “Sucker”, the first track on their newest album “Don’t Feed the Pop Monster”.
The stage is a holy place and should be treated as such. So far the set is tight in transition, bright with keys, jangly with syncopated drum playing, and the pre-recorded harmonic vocals regurgitate around Georgia’s saccharine Gaga singing. The star takes a sip of her spirits and fills us in with her grace and self-possession, into “Superstar”. She represents a good-natured playfulness you’d see at a happy-go-lucky girl’s night out, or even in a teen’s bedroom with a hairbrush in hand and undulated figure placed within the mirror, blaring lyrics to no one. However, the duo, in their sensual slowness, or quick kaleidoscopic synth snowballing, are lacking some spark and came across as robotic, heading underneath a watery grave with glitches on account. They played by the rules for the average pop consumer, modulating to the listener’s standard tuned minds, which seemed to please the spectator’s ears and eyes, but I couldn’t help but be enervated by the little risk they put into the execution of their set.
The acoustic guitar playing that lingered around the synth junk was a strong suit for the group, bringing more substance to their party music. The group is at their most sound, sincere, and authentic when detracting from their artificial electronic state. Once Georgia had ditched her occasional razor edged/poppy synth playing and laid her hands on an acoustic guitar, she sang with her eyes effortlessly with strings. In that simple switch, her guitar playing made the music all so much more grown up with the absence of the gimmicky dance moves and vocally drowning, yet flourishing synthesizers.
Another moment in which I saw Broods’ strengths, is when they switched their dynamics up a bit, to synthpop’s roots, post-punk. Georgia’s high pitched shriek, separate from the usual sweet vocals, added some punch in the song “Old Dog”, that has a more alternative and favorable stamp (very similar to Garbage). Caleb’s intricate slap bassline in “Hospitalized” stirred up some energy for the time being also. Georgia and Caleb, departing from a two-dimensional state, finally situated some apathy and sentiment, making their live performance more well-rounded and grounded.
A hot mess occurred before the deadening end. The dreadful wardrobe malfunction. Gasp! And woo! Georgia had to commit to a climax by taking off her blazer, getting the masses excited, but later that action came back to bite her, as her halter top got undone. Caleb came to the rescue. He unsecured his overalls, taking off his gray t-shirt underneath the foliage, securing his overalls back over to his bare chest, as Georgia rapidly put on his t-shirt, all oversized on herself. It’s not always best to choose swag over comfort.
The night started to feel like it got stuck in a Groundhog Day time loop. As the evening moved along, the music became easy to talk over. The energy started to sap away from the audience, leaving individuals to abandon Broods’ with gaps in the crowd. Every song seemed to be too formulaic, predictable, repetitive and forced with their oversaturation of earworm hooks. It was clear Georgia’s moves were based off of a lot of thrusting, galloping, meandering with Latin moves, arm-raising, and hops, which got stodgy to watch. For the encore, Georgia ordered the crowd to put their hands up becoming her own hype-woman, shortly after breaking her tambourine, and the drummer started to get off-beat.
That goes to say, Broods’ tunes, are nothing to think to, but to move to in hopes to numb oneself into having fun to tween-esque bopping bangers.
2. To Belong
3. Eyes a Mess
4. Everytime You Go
6. Why Do You Believe Me?
7. Hold the Line
8. Are You Home
11. Too Proud
12. Falling Apart
16. Old Dog
17. Everything Goes (Wow)
18. Life After
20. Couldn’t Believe
The title to BROODS’ new album may sound like a warning, but it’s really a self-reminder. After years of attempting to artfully navigate the pop landscape, the New Zealand-bred duo decided to drop all pretense and get back to embracing their purest and strangest instincts—a process that’s joyfully documented on Don’t Feed the Pop Monster.
“Our goal was to make songs that are true to us, without hiding behind any kind of façade,” says Georgia Nott, who co-founded BROODS with her brother Caleb in 2013. “Instead of overthinking everything like, Is that too weird? or Does this make enough sense?, we made a point of just completely trusting in ourselves and trusting in each other.”
The follow-up to their sophomore album Conscious—a 2016 release featuring collaborations with Lorde and Tove Lo—Don’t Feed the Pop Monster brings a new and more kinetic vitality to BROODS’ beautifully nuanced synth-pop. In creating the album, the L.A.-based duo reunited with their longtime producer Joel Little (best known for his work on Lorde’s Pure Heroine) and also enlisted producers like Tommy English (BØRNS, K.Flay, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness). At turns ethereal and frantic, moody and euphoric, the result is an album that’s elegantly sculpted yet defies all pop convention.
With its looser energy and warmer textures, Don’t Feed the Pop Monster was also deeply informed by BROODS’ adopted hometown. Along with shaping the album’s groove-driven sound (an element Georgia describes as a byproduct of “living in this super-sunny, stoner-y city”), L.A. had a huge impact on the endlessly shifting tone of the songs. “It’s a love-hate relationship, where you can feel so loved one day and so lonely the next,” says Caleb. “The city kind of eats you alive,” Georgia adds, “but at the same time we’re all willingly walking into its mouth.”
That sense of volatility infuses songs like lead single “Peach,” a track whose kaleidoscopic sonic palette encompasses buzzing guitar tones and choir-like harmonies, woozy rhythms and intricate piano work. Written on a toy keyboard and recorded with English in Nashville, “Peach” brilliantly mimics the mercurial spirit of its lyrics. “As artists, you feel things at a much more extreme level than people who probably don’t spend most of their time inside their own heads,” says Georgia. “‘Peach’ is about feeling all over the place all the time, and then celebrating those moments when everything feels awesome.”
Throughout Don’t Feed the Pop Monster, BROODS instill their songwriting with an intense vulnerability and emotional specificity. On the delicately soulful “Too Proud”—the first-ever BROODS song to feature Caleb as the lead vocalist—the duo explores the shame of depression, gracefully turning the track into an unlikely anthem. “It’s about a really hard time I went through, where I didn’t realize how down I’d been until I came out of it,” says Caleb, who wrote “Too Proud” while BROODS were on a writing trip in the Nicaraguan jungle. (“I remember sitting behind him as he was recording the chorus, and being in tears but trying not to make any noise,” Georgia recalls.) Another moment of dreamy melancholy, “Every Time You Go I Cry” was penned at a time when Georgia’s husband was overseas for five months, the song’s fragile melody sweetly contrasting with its galloping beat and bouncy groove. And on “Hospitalized,” with its fantastically skittering vocal flow, BROODS deliver a bright and shimmering track about longing for a break from emotional accountability. “In Nicaragua, we were all talking about who had broken a bone, and I was saying how I’d never broken anything but kind of wanted to, just to see how it feels,” says Georgia. “That turned into this idea of wanting to get hurt so you can have something to blame your self-pity on. Like, ‘I’m sad—but I’ve got a reason, I promise!’”
Born into an exceptionally musical family, Georgia and Caleb had their breakthrough as BROODS with the 2014 single “Bridges.” That track appeared on their Little-produced full-length debut Evergreen, an album that debuted at #1 on the New Zealand Albums Chart and #5 on the Australian Albums Chart. With Evergreen winning four prizes at the 2015 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards (including Album of the Year), BROODS released Conscious in June 2016 and soon saw lead single “Free” hit the top #10 on Spotify’s US Viral Chart. In addition to supporting Sam Smith on a sold-out US tour, BROODS have also played leading festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands and shared stages with artists like Ellie Goulding, Haim, and CHVRCHES over the past few years.
Despite all those achievements, BROODS feel that they’re “only now just getting started,” according to Caleb. Having recently endured some major label shake-ups, the duo brought Don’t Feed the Pop Monster to life with very limited resources but ultimately created their most fully realized album to date. “We worked really hard and went through a thousand different emotions,” says Georgia. “For a moment, we thought everything was falling apart, and maybe we’d have to move back home and never make music again, but somehow we just kept going. The fact that we can feel that way and still make something that’s so true to us—to me that’s the most important part of this whole experience.”
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