Brother-sister duo Brood over success
Caleb Nott, of latest New Zealand music sensation Broods, talks to Vicki Anderson about being catapulted to international acclaim.
When Caleb and Georgia Nott arrived at the round, 13-storey high Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood to sign a major record deal, they looked at each in panic.
"When we got there, we looked at each other," Caleb says. "Why haven't we been practicing our signatures the whole plane ride? We sat there looking at the contract, wondering how to do our signatures. It was pretty nerve-racking."
The Nelson siblings who perform as Broods joined the label's roster alongside the likes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Eagles, Elton John, Katy Perry and current boy band sensation 5 Seconds of Summer.
"All I remember is that it was a massive round building and there were pictures of Katy Perry everywhere."
Later, at Capitol Studios, Georgia Nott sang into a microphone once used by Frank Sinatra and the pair tinkled the ivories of Nat King Cole's piano.
Today, the former Garin College students release their debut album, Evergreen.
Tomorrow they play two shows in Christchurch as part of their first nationwide headlining tour.
It's been a whirlwind 18 months for the pair which has also seen them sign to Polydor in Britain, tour the world and record in the same studio The Beatles once used - Abbey Road's iconic Studio Two.
Broods joined Facebook on July 2 last year, by October they'd released online for family and friends their first single Bridges, produced by Lorde's collaborator, Joel Little. With its sparse piano and Georgia's graceful vocals, the on-point minimalistic electro-pop tune quickly saw the music world take notice.
"Georgia wrote the song while lying in bed, made a rough demo of it on our family piano and sent it to me over the phone. I liked it straight away."
Lorde tweeted her approval, too: "So, so lovely"; "is there MORE please say yes".
The song has now received over 1.2 million streams on Soundcloud.
With record labels around the globe frantically searching for the next Lorde, the connection to Little saw international attention arrive quickly for Broods.
Perez Hilton, Billboard, NME, HypeMachine and BBC's Zane Lowe, himself a Kiwi, have all sung their praises.
Bridges made Spotify's Top 10 Most Viral Hits and was United States iTunes No 1 single of the week.
Georgia Nott has fronted up for the majority of Broods' interviews.
After all, she's another girl from New Zealand with an exquisite voice. Broods have often been referred to as "Lorde MkII".
"This qualifies me as a Lorde impersonator," Georgia was quoted as saying in one interview, tongue firmly in cheek.
There's a sense that brother Caleb is the quiet, brooding one who prefers to stay in the background.
Throughout our interview he answers questions slowly and thoughtfully, but when asked about the inevitable overseas media comparisons to Lorde he answers quickly and confidently.
"I think it is a huge compliment, she is an incredibly talented, strong artist. I don't know how she deals with the level of fame she has, I don't know that I could."
Georgia keeps a "tour book", a little diary. Caleb doesn't.
"She has been slack with it lately," he laughs. "We started to read everything that was written about us but we can't keep up. Our Aunty Sarah tips us off before we know about it."
Georgia, 19, was at Auckland University studying for a bachelor of music and Caleb, 21, was preparing for a career as a graphic designer when Broods began.
Less than a year later they've toured with British superstar Ellie Goulding, Haim and Chvrches.
They have played sold-out shows in Britain and across the United States, including New York, Washington DC, Denver, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and Montreal.
"Playing at festivals is crazy, with people screaming your name. I usually get nervous five to 10 minutes before we go on stage," Caleb says. "For Georgia it is 30 to 40 minutes. Once you get out there time flies."
They've learned to hone their stage show and deal with any bumps live performance brings.
Georgia recently forgot the lyrics to Bridges in the middle of a show.
"She said 'oh s..t, I've forgotten the words, it's lucky you guys know', and held the mic out into the crowd."
The down-to-earth Kiwis even have obsessed fans.
"There is one guy in New York called Doug who comes to all our shows. I guess he digs us; get it, Doug? It still amazes us that people idolise you or whatever, it's a little weird."
Broods might appear to be an overnight sensation but they've been in musical training for most of their lives.
At the sold-out Ellie Goulding concert in Christchurch in June I found myself standing beside Broods' true creators, their parents.
On stage that night, Georgia crouched, microphone in one hand, arm raised to the roof of the massive arena as she sang one of their new songs, Mother and Father, with its plaintive lament on the pain of leaving home.
"I'd like to give a shout out to Mum and Dad," she shouted exuberantly, before singing: Ever since I left my mother, it's much harder to know how to make my own life here.
Next to me, among the thousands of teen fans, her mother, Paulette, nudged her father gently. He patted her shoulder tenderly in return and they exchanged proud, emotive, glances. Their younger daughters, Olivia and Tegan, danced beside them, waving their arms above their heads.
"We've hardly seen them this year, they've been all over the world," their father told me above the noise of the crowd. "It's surreal. We were just having dinner with them and now they're on stage performing to thousands."
Paulette Nott proclaimed: "Is she away with the fairies?" as Georgia drifted around the stage in languid movements.
It's a family in-joke.
Caleb laughs at my chance meeting with his parents.
"Mum cried. Did Dad have a giant smile on his face? That smile never left his face."
Although their Broods moniker references their often dark and moody sound, the roots of their name reflects their close family bonds.
While touring in the US Caleb was struck down with the flu which made the hectic schedule difficult.
He has learnt to look after himself and take vitamins.
"It's been hard to adjust to the touring side of it, for Georgia more than me, she gets homesick," Caleb says.
"But it's much easier when you've got your brother or sister with you, someone so familiar. We have been lucky that we've had each other."
He has plans to start a family band with his younger sisters if Broods doesn't work out.
"We grew up on the Corrs, we thought we'd be the next Corrs. They had one brother and three sisters. There is still time. If this doesn't work out, we'll start a Corrs covers band."
Their mother plays piano, guitar and flute and taught music at primary school, taking Georgia's recorder class and the choir.
"We always had instruments lying around at home. It was pretty accessible to pick something up and muck around with it."
Close in age, the pair appeared on stage as a duo when Georgia was just 8 and Caleb was 10 years old, winning a primary school talent quest with their performance of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi.
Georgia was the lead singer of seven-piece band The Peasants of Eden which finished second in the Smokefreerockquest national final in 2010. As The Peasants, the band won the same competition in 2011.
Little, who would later work with Lorde, described Georgia's Rockquest performance as "mesmerising".
The Rockquest victory attracted the attention of their manager, Ashley Page. It also offered mentoring and advice from respected New Zealand musicians, including Opshop and Salmonella Dub's Andrew Penman.
Caleb says Penman was good to them and helped them a lot when they were starting out.
"When I first met Georgia and Caleb they were rehearsing with their Garin College band, The Peasants of Eden, for the national rockquest final back in 2010," Penman recalls.
"They won it in 2011 and I watched that band grow under the guidance of their music teacher, Kyle Proffit. It's great to now see Georgia and Caleb succeed in a genre that they really had mastered the feel for years ago. Likewise, it's good to see the other members of The Peasants thriving and creating in Nelson, Auckland and Dunedin."
Looking back at the bands he was involved with at high school, Caleb describes Broods as a more concentrated style of writing.
"We can go a completely different way now as compared to being in a band," he says.
"It makes it easier, no-one takes anything to heart and you don't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings. If you're related it's very easy to tell the other person that their idea is crap."
For their self-titled EP, released in January to international acclaim, Georgia wrote the lyrics and melodies and Caleb crafted the music.
But Evergreen is different. Caleb describes it as upbeat.
"The album has been a lot more collaborative. I'm just getting more and more into as it goes on."
Georgia has always wanted to be a musician, he says.
"She has no plan B. I studied design, it is a lot of fun and I'll still do it one day."
He is a little anxious as to how the album will be received.
"It's pretty nerve-racking. I hope people like it. We're pretty proud of it."
They may be making their names around the world but the album is sweetly lo-fi in places, referencing nights out in Nelson and has homely recording touches.
"L.A.F. is us reminiscing about going to town in Nelson," he laughs. "In a bunch of different scenarios, highly exaggerated and made up. It's a bit rude, it means loose as f..."
During the recording session, Caleb was relaxing on a couch, making a sound with the drawstring of his cargo pants.
"It made a really quirky sound and Joel said 'get in there, that's going on the album'."
He sighs with faux exaggeration when asked to describe the album's main motif.
"There are lots of love influences from Georgia, she writes from emotion. I write from irritation or frustration. Loud eating is the most irritating thing to me, like people who eat rice cakes while watching TV."
The R'n'B flavour of Killing You contains a lot of the original demo.
"It was recorded outside Georgia's bedroom and you can hear her phone going off halfway through if you listen carefully."
The brooding Caleb selects new song Sober as a favourite: "It's the slow one."
Recording at Golden Age studio with Little was a comfortable experience.
"It was a natural thing. You don't feel like you're in a studio or under pressure when you're in there. Basically we just get in there and bounce ideas off the three of us until something good happens."
If you compare photos of the siblings from The Peasants' days, they appear to have had a glossy makeover.
When they had cut through the crowd to join their parents at the Ellie Goulding concert they stood out as impossibly polished, almost airbrushed and larger than life.
Georgia has been given a hip wardrobe and Caleb now has hair that could cut butter.
He says being signed to major international labels doesn't mean they've lost any artistic freedom.
"I don't think we'd have it any other way."
But he admits that he is sometimes asked to change his appearance.
"Sometimes they want me to wear tight clothes. I'm like, 'no, I wear baggy clothes'.
"Georgia didn't really have a style before we started this project. She shopped at op shops and wouldn't buy anything over $20, she's a bargain hunter."
When their first headline New Zealand tour finishes this week, they head off to the US for more influential shows, playing their next New Zealand show at Rhythm and Vines festival on New Year's Eve.
How many pinch-me moments has he had in the last 18 months.
"I have them most weeks," he admits.
As for his backup plan of one day becoming a Corrs covers band, that idea inched closer this week as the pair's younger sister, Olivia, following in their footsteps, was announced as one of nine Smokefreerockquest national finalists.
Elae (pronounced like the city LA) are Anna Robinson and Olivia Nott from Garin College in Nelson. Last year the folk-indie duo made it through to the top 10 finalists.
It certainly sounds like a familiar story.
"Whatever happens, we don't want it to stop, just to keep going would be nice. Maybe we'll end up as a family Corrs covers band one day, I'd be OK with that," Caleb says.
"We are still trying to get better and better, nothing has changed."
The title of debut album Evergreen references a song on the album but it is also a statement of intent.
"When we started the project that was our aim, longevity, like an evergreen."
Broods' new album, Evergreen, is released today. Broods perform two shows in Christchurch on Saturday night. An under-18 show, strictly for 13-17 year olds at the CPSA Building at CPIT, Madras St, 5pm-7.30pm. The R18 show is at the same venue afterwards.