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Interview: Brooke Fraser

8 min read

3 years on from the release of Flags, her most successful studio album to date, New Zealand singer-songwriter Brooke Fraser is preparing for the release of a brand new studio album of new material. Brutal Romance sees Fraser incorporate much moodier, darker elements and styles into her music as we have heard already with the albums first single Kings & Queens and also in teaser track Psychosocial.

With a new tour on the horizon and plenty more surprises to come from the hit-maker over the next year, we caught up with Brooke in L.A this week to find out all about the new album and where she finds herself with her new material. He is what she had to say…

Brendon Veevers: How are you Brooke and where in the world is our interview finding you?

Brooke Fraser: Hi! You are finding me beanie headed with a belly full of Vietnamese in my house in Los Angeles.

BV: You are busy right now with plans to release your next studio album – talk us through an average ‘day in the life’ of Brooke Fraser these days?

BF: Muso life isn’t nearly as glamorous as most people would assume! My husband Scotty (who’s also our creative director) and I usually have intense work from about 7pm til 3am, when it’s the end of the day in Australia/NZ and the morning in the UK. Our team are split between those places and we’re in L.A., so late night tends to be when the conference calls happen and we’re making decisions and doing design work on everything from merch to stage plots to remix artwork to iTunes banners.

During the day I’m fiddling with synths and arrangement ideas for the live show, doing phone interviews, reading legal contracts, answering email interviews and making playlists for blogs. I also try and get a workout in and do healthy human things like eat and read and do laundry and see our friends! But yeah, it’s kind of mental at the moment.

Brooke Fraser Brutal RomanticBV: It’s been 3 years since the release of your last studio album Flags. What have you been up to in between studio albums?

BF: Flags was the most successful of my albums to date, so I toured that for a long time, especially in Europe where it did very well. So I spent a lot of time in Europe throughout 2011-2012, which was horrible, obviously haha.

At the end of that I went back to Sydney, took a couple of months off to recover and then started writing for the new album in September 2012. Then we (Scotty and I) moved to Sweden where I wrote a lot of the album, then to New York where I finished writing It and then started commuting to London at the end of 2013 to record it. Basically I’ve been racking up airpoints and song wrestling. It’s been pretty great.

BV: The last time we spoke with you was back in early 2011 ahead of the UK release of Flags. How has the transition been for you going from a rising New Zealand singer-songwriter to an international recording artist and have you found these other music markets tough nuts to crack?

BF: I think good music finds a way. I’ve been fortunate enough to have songs on each record that have opened doors for me into new territories and new audiences. So hopefully the songs do a lot of the work for me and then my part at that stage is to tour my butt off and give people an amazing experience of the songs live, make memories with them with that music as the soundtrack and “imprint” on them in a way… like a wolf… or a wild turkey… haha

BV: Let’s talk new music! You have so far teased us with new songs from the upcoming record with Psychosocial proving a hit with fans however, despite most people believing it is the first single from the upcoming record, it’s not. Can you tell to us about the track and the story about the tracks success and release?

BF: Well, David (Kosten) and I have made a pretty weird, bold album. I’m really proud of it. I wanted to give people a taste of some of those extreme moments on the record that they might not get to experience if they only ever hear the singles. Psychosocial is a song about social media and so I thought it was the perfect choice to put out first via the very platform I’m taking a stab at in the song. The irony was irresistible. I couldn’t not do it.

BV: You describe the track as your “take on modern society’s faux connectivity”. Do you think that society has succumbed to life behind a screen, iPhone and tablet?

BF: If we’re going to generalise… then yes, generally.

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BV: Kings and Queens is the first official single from the new album. Can you talk us through the message and story of the song and the general the inspiration behind the track?

BF: Kings and Queens is a feel good song, definitely. It’s that whole thing of… “well, you might not be where you want to be in life yet, but at least you’re not where you were”. It’s a “yay, look how far we’ve come!” vibe.

BV: When can we expect the new album to land and what can you tell us in terms of what we might be able to expect on the new record? Any collaborations or duets perhaps?

BF: The key collaborator was David Kosten, who moonlights as electronica artist Faultline, Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, he’s a genius and this record wouldn’t have happened without him. Jason Cooper from The Cure played drums. Remix collaborators are FTSE, Heavy Gents (also known as Godwolf) and some really sick ones yet to be released so I won’t tell you that yet to keep them a surprise.

Writing wise the collaboration artillery was pretty heavy – Kid Harpoon (Haim, Florence & The Machine, Foxes), Dan Wilson (Adele, Taylor Swift), Matt Hales (Aqualung), Joel Pott (Athlete) each wrote a track with me. It’s quite Brit heavy, now I think about it! Though the Swedish influence is pretty heavy given I wrote a lot of the key material whilst living in Sweden and the people, culture and place had such an effect on me.

BV: Would you say that Psychosocial and Kings and Queens are indicative of the general sound and style of the new record or is the new material a little bit of the old and new Brooke Fraser style?

BF: I would say there are plenty of surprises left In store on this record that Psychosocial and Kings and Queens don’t even begin to hint at. David and I took some calculated but huge risks. There are some ideas on this album that I thought at the time were either absolutely brilliant or completely insane, and months later I’m still not sure which they are! All I know is that I’ve always loved making records but this is the most fun I’ve ever had.

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BV: The style of your new material is a lot darker, melodically, to your previous work which was rooted in contemporary pop music. Was this a conscious decision to steer your music in this direction or did your music evolve into this style naturally during the recording and writing process.

BF: Before I’d even finished making Flags (my third album), I’d already decided what I wanted this one to be. I wanted to put my voice, which I’d always surrounded with lush, warm textures, against some metallic, cold ones. I wanted to stretch myself even further lyrically. I wanted synths and French horns. And four albums in, I wanted to be a beginner again. I wanted to learn new things and be a rookie. So I didn’t let myself pick up an acoustic guitar. I bought studio software, a portable MIDI keyboard and a great pair of headphones and started making beats (kinda hilarious!). And I just went for it. And the result is what you’ll hear on this album.

BV: Having written and recorded several albums over the past few years, what song from your catalogue are the most proud of and for what reasons?

BF: I am really sentimental about the songs that I feel broke me through into the next phase of my songwriting journey. These all have an ‘otherness’ about them… I felt like I wasn’t behind the steering wheel when I was writing them, but that I was being taken on the journey and shown all these new things as they were emerging. Those kind of moments are great, great gifts.

Arithmetic from my first album, Crows and Locusts from Flags and a song called Brutal Romance from the new album.

BV: What are the most rewarding and fun parts of releasing a new record?

BF: Seeing people take what you’ve created almost as a personal favour to them is just so, so fun. It’s kinda like giving people spiritual or emotional candy. You hope they’ll eat the beans and peas and kale that you made them too, but it’s also a bit fun seeing their delight at the musical lollies.

BV: When it comes to writing new material, where would you say you draw the most inspiration from at this stage of your career?

BF: Scotty, literature and a deep-seated fear of settling for what’s easy. And The West Wing.

BV: Aside from working toward the release of the new record and promoting your latest two tracks, what else is on the calendar for the remainder of 2014 and 2015 that you can tell us about and that fans can look forward to?

BF: I will be releasing the album (yes, this year!) and then touring through the majority of the planet through 2015-2016. I believe we’ll cover about 25 countries over the next 18 months.

BV: Thanks so much for your time Brooke.

BF: Thank you!

Brooke Fraser’s new album Brutal Romance is available in Australia on November 14th.

Brooke will also be on tour throughout Australia in March 2015. The Brutal Romantic 2015 tour dates are:

Friday 13 March Perth Astor Theatre
Saturday 14 March Adelaide The Gov
Sunday 15 March Melbourne Forum Theatre
Tuesday 17 March Brisbane The Hi-Fi
Wednesday 18 March Sydney Enmore Theatre