Interview with Broads

What a splendid cover artwork. How wonderful the colours set up the mood for the summer time. Luckily the music is able to stand up the expectation and the listener is guided through a variety of warm sounds and textures. In order to get a better understanding of the project and of the intention behind it, an interview seemed to be the proper way of bringing the band into the spotlight.

Why do you make music?

Because I enjoy it, and it’s the best way I’ve found so far of accurately expressing myself. It’s also just what I’ve always done – so many of my memories are to do with writing, performing, recording, arguing about, listening to and getting lost in music that I don’t think I’d know how to stop even if I wanted to. Sometimes I’ll have a lull where I won’t write anything for a few months, but the last 2 years or so since I started Broads has been a really creative (and relatively prolific) time, so I’m really loving it.

Care & Handling EP cover, the EP was released in July this year

What is music (to you, in general … )?

I suppose music is the thing that kind of draws all the elements of my life together – it provides a context for pretty much everything that happens to me. When I’m looking back at things that have happened, I’ll always date them by thinking about what records I was listening to at the time. Music has always been a really natural way for me to communicate with people – from making mix tapes for friends as a 17-year-old right through to what I’m doing now with my own projects. I guess I’ve never been very confident verbally, and I’ve always been grateful to have other people’s records to help me say the things I want to say – hopefully someone somewhere is using a Broads track in the same way! At the moment I’m really loving introducing my little boy (Leo, almost 3) to some of my collection – this morning we were dancing in the living room to Errors and Of Montreal, and he’s also a big Jonathan Richman fan.

What has music been and what is music now?
I don’t really think that music has ever really changed in its essence – obviously there are new sounds springing up all of the time, and the way that music is consumed now is hugely different to even 10 years ago – but what makes it powerful, and what separates the good from the bad is a constant. I can listen to an old Sam Cooke record and hear the same honesty and heart that makes me love, say, Neutral Milk Hotel, or Grouper, or CloudDead. Music, good music, has the power to inspire and effect in many different ways, and that for me is what defines what music ‘is’.

How would you explain your band name to a stranger?

I really wanted to choose a name that tied me to a physical location, and that gave a nod to the influence that my surroundings have on the music I make – I’m based in Norwich which is on the edge of the Norfolk Broads, a beautiful, serene wetland area in the East of England. Most of the trailer video I made for ‘Care & Handling’ is footage from a day out boating there. I can never resist a good double meaning, and I like that ‘broads’ also has a kind of gritty, rough-edged urban sort-of connotation (NY slang for a woman of ill repute…). I’m really happy with the name, but it’s not very Google-able.

There is a certain uncertainty in your music. Each of the releases adds a new nuance, while gently pushing away another one. What are the core essences of Broads, though?

I like having a good breadth of sound – dropping in unexpected or experimental bits and pieces and keeping things unpredictable. I guess there’s a certain roughness at the heart of it all, but hopefully that allows a bit of character to shine through. Instrument-wise: layered synths, nylon-stringed guitars, field recordings and very simplistic electronics where required.

The use of a narrative in the title track on your latest output “Care & Handling” adds a nice focal point to this release, aside from it being the “track in the middle”. Where has it been taken from and do you plan to experiment more with this peculiar way of expressing texts?

I had the idea for that text on my way to work one morning, walking through Eaton Park in Norwich. I got into the office and wrote the whole thing in literally 20 minutes. I tend not to self-edit too much, and I don’t really over-think lyrics – I normally write words at the same time as the music, so it’s often more important that things fit together sound-wise rather than conveying any particular message. I’d had the idea that Justine’s voice would sound really good in a spoken word context, so again the idea for the track came from a sonic perspective rather than a narrative one. I’m pleased with the writing though. It’s a bit rough and ready but I think it carries the atmosphere of the EP quite well.
Doing more intricate things with a capella voices is something that interests me, but I doubt I’d do another straightforward spoken-word track again, not in the near future, anyway.

By the way, it reminds me on “Godspeed you Black Emperor’s The Dead Flag Blues“. Did this, by chance, have been an influence for you (band or track)?

You know, I’d never really considered that. I really like the early Godspeed stuff (the more recent album seem a bit pompous to me, but maybe that’s the point…) and I do listen to a lot of Constellation Records, Kranky Records stuff still. Those labels have been a huge influence on the way I think about music, but maybe not specifically Godspeed so much. It’s a compliment, though, and I think I can see what you mean – I guess I enjoy a good slow build, as well as bits of spoken word, found sounds and some sudden changes of direction, and Broads has that in common with GYBE. I’d think that GYBE are a bit more… um… wilfully atmospheric than Broads.

“Care & Handling” is also warmer, less disturbing and less noisy. Do you have the feeling that you have found your style already, or is this latest output just a small step to something else?

I see each release as a small step to the next one – I don’t think I could ever settle on a particular sound or style for too long. Broads is a result of so many things that are constantly evolving: my own skills as a musician/producer, my studio, my family, changes in my environment, mood etc… I’d like to think that the music I make will reflect these things and document them all as time passes. I like the idea of being able to hear an evolution over the course of a band’s lifetime – look at Sonic Youth, for example – each of their albums sounds like a midpoint between the one before and the one after it – the development of their sound is really clear and transparent, and I’d like to produce something like that with Broads – no sudden shifts, just constant progression.
A lot of the ‘Broads’ LP was made up of short-ish experiments that I roughly rounded out into songs, which is why it maybe sounds quite disjointed and ‘disturbing’ – the track ‘In The Sink Locale’ on the new EP echoes that approach but the EP overall isn’t really so experimental… I’m sure I’ll go through more phases like that, but they’re more likely to be triggered by a new piece of equipment than any deliberate decision to make something ‘challenging’ to listen to.

Why on Earth did you release music on a SD card? Does it have any advantage?

Haha, I just wanted to try something a bit different, and the SD cards look kinda cool, and gave me the space to include remixes, stem tracks and other bits and pieces along with the album. They’re still for sale on the Fuselab bandcamp site, I think we sold about 3 of them, which is a shame because the remix EP is really good, and the booklet of artwork that comes with it is amazing. You should absolutely buy one 🙂

Your releases come with an extensive and well crafted booklet. Can you write about this and why is it important to present your music in such a way? How do sound and style go together? Are you responsible for the art or is someone else in charge of this?

I’ve spent most of the last 17 years in bands, and while I’m really happy to be doing Broads on my own, I really wanted there to be a collaborative aspect to the project. The artwork for the Self-Titled album was made by Elaine Pittwood, and the photographs for ‘Care & Handling’ were by Rose Kemmy – both friends of mine and local artists who I really respect and admire. Elaine put a lot of work into reflecting the music in her artwork, whereas Rose didn’t even hear Care & Handling until everything was all printed up – I just gave her a pretty vague brief about it needing to look hazy, summery, maybe involving clouds. She pretty much nailed it from that.
Although most of the people who listen to or buy my music just download it, it’s really important to me that there are physical copies available – it’s what I grew up with and there’s nothing quite like holding a new record/CD/tape in your hands and looking through the artwork before you listen to it, imagining what’s inside.

What are your reasons for spreading your music for free and for sale?

Honestly, I’m just happy that people want to share in and spend time with my music. It’s a huge honour for me. If those people want to donate a little for a download, or pay for a CD/SD/tape copy then that’s great, but as long as the music is getting out there and being heard then I really don’t care about the financial side of things. Putting together and mailing the physical packages costs a bit of money, so I have to charge for those, but the prices are set as low as possible.

What is the advantage of a net-label and can you write a bit about the one that you have used so far?

I guess from my perspective there really isn’t much difference between a net label and a ‘real’ label – especially as Fuselab have been so supportive in helping me to produce physical versions of the two releases we’ve done together so far. I do think that the key factors in making a relationship between an artist and ANY label are communication and community, and Fuselab ticks both of those boxes – Evgeny is always just an email away, and the other artists on the label have been really supportive as well. My last band was signed to a UK-based label who were much more difficult to get hold of and the experience was really frustrating and demoralising – even though Fuselab are based in Russia i feel much better looked after by them than I ever did with that label.
Of course, it helps that I genuinely really love pretty much everything that Fuselab put out – a lot of it is very different to Broads, but I’ve become hugely influenced by the ‘Fuselab sound’ – particularly the likes of hmot, Hoavi, Feldmaus, Ishome, Nekochan… all artists making beautiful, creative sounds.

Is there a chance to see you live and on stage?

That’s something that I’ll be working on over the next few months. A lot of the Broads stuff to date is impossible to play live as it involves more instruments than I can play at one time, so it may be that the next set of songs will be deliberately stripped down with a view to playing them live. I’d considered getting a band together to play songs like ‘Be In Lines’ and ‘Sloe Foresting’ but I’m enjoying the freedom of doing things on my own too much, even if that freedom does come with limitations.


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