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Brooke Fraser
Photo: Patrick Fraser

Brooke Fraser interview

We speak to the soft-spoken songbird about her latest album, working with David Kosten, and learning how to write music all over again

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about Brooke Fraser. No longer the acoustic, folk-pop girl next door, the Kiwi native dramatically departed from folk fare with her fourth LP, ‘Brutal Romantic’. It’s hardly uncommon for an artiste to make like Madonna and reinvent oneself – but the switch to gritty electropop and psychedelic synths is drastic when compared to her earlier work. We speak to the soft-spoken songbird about her latest album, working with David Kosten, and learning how to write music all over again.

If your lead singles ‘Kings and Queens’ and ‘Psychosocial’ are any indication, your fourth and latest album ‘Brutal Romantic’ has a bolder sound, and is a drastic change from your previous work.
It’s not necessarily a new sound, but just an evolution in my sound. Even before I had finished ‘Flags’, my last album, I knew that with the next album, I was going to make some bold choices. I wanted to do something that was a bit different for me, and step out creatively.

Did you find it difficult writing for ‘Brutal Romantic’?
I deliberately made it difficult. If I wanted to make the same album again, or if I wanted to do the same thing I had always done, it would have been easy, but I wanted to stretch myself – to learn new things and to grow as a songwriter, an artist, a producer.

We listened to ‘Psychosocial’ repeatedly, because we read that it was inspired by your social media stalkers.
Oh, actually, it was a blog that said that; I didn't say that.

So, what’s the song about?
The song is about social media; not about social media stalkers, but just a cheeky, slightly sarcastic look at the way we all interact with each other online. How the perceptions we have of each other can sometimes be so far away from reality because we’re interacting on this format that’s limited and onedimensional. The video for ‘Psychosocial’ on YouTube received a ton of not-so-pleasant comments. Are you afraid of alienating your long-time fans?
I think that people who have been fans of my music for a long time, they’re totally on board. They understand who I am as an artiste, and that I’ll continue to change and push boundaries, and discover new ways to express myself.

Is there anything else you can tell us about your new album?
From the time I set out to write it, I decided I wasn’t going to pick up an acoustic guitar. I wrote the whole thing using old synthesizers, just travelling from Swedish café to Swedish café with my laptop and a little mini keyboard, and making beats, which is hilarious because I’ve never done that before. You know, just beginning again. It was almost as if I was learning how to write music all over again.

Why did you choose to go to London to make the album?
Well, the whole time I was writing, I was on the lookout for someone who I could partner with to make the album with me.

Oh, David Kosten (Bat for Lashes, Everything Everything, Marina and the Diamonds).
Yes. I was aware of how I wanted the album to sound like, but I was also aware that I didn’t come from that electronic, synth background. I needed to find someone who was amazing at that; someone who got the essence and the heart of what I wanted to do – and that was David Kosten. He lives in London, so there I went.

Is the title ‘Brutal Romantic’ thematically appropriate, or is it a reflective statement? There’s something quite cynical but also hopeful about that term.
Yes, that’s what I loved about it, and I love that you said that! The phrase is a juxtaposition, two opposites that cross bonded. Even the album cover, there are two figures – which are both actually me – and you can’t tell if they’re embracing or if they’re wrestling, which encapsulates the phrase ‘Brutal Romantic’, which in turn encapsulates the album’s sound. I’m pleased with how it’s all come together.

'Brutal Romantic' is out now in major record stores.
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