Five years ago, in an unlikely conversational topic, Georgia Nott and I found ourselves discussing manners and some old-fashioned values. The younger of the New Zealand siblings in the band Broods was then 19, two years younger than her brother George. While not what you would call an old soul, she was hardly on an ego fuelling trip, despite the early success of their moody electro-pop.
But now, having relocated to Los Angeles, a town not noted for humility or any hankering for values any more old-fashioned than, oh, what’s the time now?, and with their song Peach landing just inside the top 20 of this year’s triple j’s Hottest 100, do manners still matter?
“I think the whole meaning has evolved a little bit for me,” Nott says. “What it’s like to be young woman in this industry and how you have to assert yourself, manners mean something a little bit different now.”
“At the beginning of our career we were just so stoked to be here, ‘whatever you need, we just want to be part of it’,” she goes on. “It took a little while to realise that we are the ones that have to live with our decisions, and that manners have a time and a place but also being assertive and standing up for what you want and who you are and how you want to be who you are, is extremely important, daily.”
Remember though, that we’re talking New Zealanders so for the Notts, being assertive does not mean being aggressive or rude; it just means knowing what you want.
“And what you want changes, and that’s okay. And who you are changes, so you go through all these different stages. And just because we don’t want to be those people anymore, and move into this next phase … it’s okay to change your mind.”
The most obvious example of that change of mind is the new album, amusingly called Don’t Feed The Pop Monster, which happily - and I use that word intentionally - casts aside the remnants of their original persona as makers of “dark pop”, a term which is at best loosely connected to the 2019 version of Broods. Not convinced? The new single is called Everything Goes (Wow), for goodness sakes.
“We still write from the same place: an emotional place,” Nott says of the lighter coloured, sometimes even exuberant songs on the record. “I think we went through that phase of wanting everything to be super moody, but as you get older the less convinced you are about this whole bored/unfazed trend of not caring, not giving a fuck.”
As Nott explains it, they’re “not afraid of being happy and letting people see our vulnerable side”, of letting people see all of those sides. After all, while the pair may sound sunnier here, they definitely don’t sound settled and if the tone of the record might be summed up by one line, it could be “are you trying to find a way to reach me?”.
“We have asked ourselves a lot of questions,” Nott says. “I feel like the whole album is filled with questions, but that’s just where we are right now: in no way are we settled. But it’s through being open about being unsettled that you can relax into that chaos a little bit more.”
All this while being based in a country, and a city especially, where projecting positivity and confidence and certainty is the baseline for any social or professional interaction. That’s not a natural way to be for many people, not least these two from the small South Island town of Nelson.
“[Los Angeles] is one of the cities where everybody seems to be killing it all the time and have 100 projects going at once. But that can be really inspiring because it makes you feel like you should be up there with those people, pushing yourself,” Nott says. “But I think being honest about being unsettled and having a lot of questions is liberating because the minute you think you know everything, have convinced people that you have it all sorted, you block yourself from learning more.”
Speaking of learning, speaking of people who have convinced us that they have it all sorted, Broods – who will tour Australia in May and June - went on the road with Taylor Swift recently. Did they come away with any useful pointers from this up-close experience?
Interestingly, while Nott was impressed with “an impressively well-oiled machine”, it was less logistics and more something basic that was the biggest lesson.
“Everybody was there to make it as good as possible, making sure they did their jobs properly because they cared about the show so much,” she says. “And that extended on to us, and people looking after us, because they wanted our set to be great because they wanted the whole thing to be amazing.
“That was something that really made the whole intimidating experience more doable when you felt like you’ve got so much support behind you. And thank God because some of the stadiums, they are scary, and I’m really grateful that we had that kind of welcoming [from the Swift organisation].”
That may not be a universal behaviour in a headline act, but it’s welcome. You might call it good manners.
Don’t Feed The Pop Monster is out today.
The Forum, Melbourne, May 21
Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, May 22
Enmore Theatre, Sydney, May 28
Eaton Hill Hotel, Brisbane, May 30
Metropolis, Fremantle, June 1