By Gabriel Aikins
As much as it can hurt, grief is a necessary part of life. It allows for the processing of loss and can be a reminder of cherished memories that will never be forgotten. Most importantly, it spurs growth and introspection. Joy may spring from sorrow, and that’s where its true value lies. Siblings Georgia and Caleb Nott, better known as New Zealand pop duo Broods, have been through much turbulence over the last couple years. They’ve since transformed it into their new album Space Island, and they’re inviting listeners to take the journey with them.
After releasing their third record Don’t Feed The Pop Monster in February 2019, vocalist Georgia went through a painful divorce, and things shut down in March of the following year as COVID-19 took hold. It was from this position that she and multi-instrumentalist Caleb first began to work on what would become Space Island, an album that struck both of them as deeply personal. Georgia recalls realizing the enormity of the emotion she poured into her writing. “There was definitely a time when I was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to share this with people,’” she tells MTV News. In that way, both Notts are grateful for the extended time a pandemic album cycle afforded them, as it has allowed them the distance necessary to finally talk about this project.
The duo are extremely close, and their sibling bond runs deep. While Georgia's divorce initially spurred the creative process, Caleb says he felt his sister’s pain. He also mentions that, by the time Space Island’s songs were completed, he had also broken up with his partner. And while the pair love making songs together, they implemented some tweaks to let each other mourn properly. “There are quite a lot [of songs] that we started together, but quite a few that [Georgia] needed to write on her own. And then we needed to build around that afterwards,” Caleb says.
The concept of Space Island came early, with writing starting soon after Pop Monster’s release and the upheaval in Georgia and Caleb’s lives. Caleb, who also produces much of the pair’s output, explains that their creative process usually involves bringing in several new collaborators before narrowing down a core group of producers and writers to help complete an album. But the pandemic altered that plan. “It was just a lot of friends we worked on this album with… Most of it was just worked on by four of us who were in the same bubble,” he says, referring to Broods and their friends, producers Leroy Clampitt and Stint. Having those close relationships was key as the band worked through their pain.
To help mentally visualize this process, both Georgia and Caleb view Space Island as an actual place somewhere off in space, an idea supported by Georgia’s futuristic jumpsuit and glass coffin-like “craft” in the project’s music videos and album cover, which finds her floating down a tranquil river with a vast landscape to explore behind her. The island’s purpose is to act as somewhere to go during the grieving process. “We started to figure out how that relates to grief and loss and heartbreak,” Georgia says. “Those times after something like that happens, how you kind of feel a little bit like you've been flung out of orbit, and you're feeling alienated.” From there, the idea further crystalized, and the duo began watching science fiction films from the 1960s and ‘70s to gain inspiration for both the visuals and sound of the album.
The spacefaring movies they watched paired perfectly with what they wanted the record to sound like. “We always wanted it to be a shiny thing that had quite a lot of nostalgic songs,” Georgia says. It’s easy to hear this influence on pre-album releases like “Piece of My Mind” and “Heartbreak,” which combine funky guitar lines with soaring and shimmering synths. While it might seem strange that a darker, probing album sounds so warm and inviting, Caleb and Georgia wanted to explore each stage of grief, including eventually reaching peace and acceptance.
The duo’s differing approaches to using music to deal with their harsher emotions also contributed to this sound. “Georgia will write music and she's likely to write about feelings and get them down and process things, whereas music is a different tool for me,” Caleb says. “I don't necessarily use it to process things. I do it to get out of my head and go away from things like that.” The result is a merging of the two methods, with a radiant and lively layer of production over the raw, impassioned writing from Georgia, like on the snare- and synth-fueled “Days Are Passing,” where she sings about the world and time itself passing her by as she grieves.
The additional time in a bubble allowed Broods to flex their creative muscles outside of music, as well. From the intrepid visuals to the narrative structure of the rollout — each single so far has been presented as a “chapter,” with each music video directly continuing the story from where the previous one left off — the duo gave deep thought to every aspect of Space Island. “Even though it's been the heaviest subject to write about, it's been the most fun to do, because we just created that whole story and world to exist,” Georgia says.
Caleb adds that previous album cycles found them scrambling a bit to get everything done before release, so the extra time to develop themes and a more ambitious vision on Space Island was something the siblings found rewarding. In addition, the pair were able to work with director and childhood friend Sam Kristofski to create many of the visuals. They both count the time spent driving around New Zealand to capture footage with Kristofski as some of their favorite moments creating Space Island.
While Space Island the album and the “place” were key for Broods to process their grief, they both make it clear it’s not a permanent home. “It's meant to be left,” Caleb says. It’s a place that allowed Georgia and Caleb to recover from heartbreak and isolation, and they’re both proud of the album they’ve put out. With the healing done, Broods are looking forward to what comes next. And if that grief comes back, Space Island will always be there.