Capitol Records in LA and Polydor in the UK had them pegged as the next Lorde, their first single ‘Bridges’ managed to break them worldwide and they put two albums into the US charts, at No.45 and No.52. Yet when they were dropped by their label, they successfully reinvented themselves and had another breakthrough with the viral hit, ‘Peach’.
Caleb and Georgia Nott grew up in a musical family, but it took multiple attempts at forming a band before the two of them decided to proceed as a duo. Their first connection with live music was seeing their parents playing with an aunt and uncle in an ABBA tribute band. Relegated to side-of-stage, Georgia sang along so loudly they had to stop bringing her along.
It was the kind of family where there was impromptu singing practice during car journeys, with each person attempting to sing a different harmony to whatever music was playing. At family gatherings, there’d be small performances – as when Georgia sang ‘Breakaway’ at age nine to the extended family at her grandad’s birthday party.
They won “Richmond’s Got Talent” at their local mall when Georgia was 15 and Caleb was 17.
Georgia started guitar lessons with her parents at age eight, while her older brother Caleb picked it up at high school, with both of them teaching themselves keyboards over the years that followed. Georgia had the idea they might play in a quartet like The Corrs, with their kid sisters on violin and drums. Their first success was as a duo: they won “Richmond’s Got Talent” at their local mall when Georgia was 15 and Caleb was 17. They performed ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’ by KT Tunstall, winning cash and a voucher from the mall.
The pair attended Garin College, Nelson, where they both played in pop-rock band The Peasants of Eden and came second at Smokefreerockquest in 2010 (beaten by Good Fun, fronted by Leroy Clampitt, who reappeared later in their career).
The next year, Caleb left school and moved to Melbourne but the band continued, shortening their name to The Peasants. This time around the seven-piece line-up blew away the competition to win Smokefreerockquest.
The win gave them the opportunity to record with upcoming producer Joel Little, who was in the process of producing Lorde’s first EP. Little managed to cohere the large group sound into a solid sounding single, ‘Letting Go’, and an accompanying music video was produced with NZ On Air funding. However, the members of The Peasants couldn’t come to an agreement on where their music should head in the future, so the band broke up soon after.
The Peasants attracted the interest of experienced music manager Ashley Page, and he stayed in touch with Georgia after the band split. He’d spent two decades in the industry, starting at Mushroom in the UK before moving to New Zealand and working at Festival and Warner here, then starting his own management company. Georgia moved to Auckland to study music at University of Auckland, where Caleb was also enrolled. She quit after a few weeks to focus on songwriting and Caleb joined her when he had time.
Georgia had been listening to indie pop acts such as Oh Land and wanted to move away from guitars into synth-based music. This led to sessions with Joel Little, since Georgia already knew him and Page was his manager as well. Page also suggested the name “Broods” – a name that seemed perfect since it captured both their family connection and the brooding nature of their songwriting at that time.
Broods was officially launched in early 2013 and by October they had their track ‘Bridges’ up on Soundcloud. Georgia wrote the lyrics about a relationship break-up and its verses were downbeat, before opening up into a big chorus with pulsating synths and soaring vocals. It was picked up by influential music blogs/websites including MTV and Idolater and was helped along by a tweet from rising star Lorde: “oh WOW @iamjoellittle worked on this with caleb and georgia nott of BROODS. so so lovely!!!”
It cleared 200,000 plays in the first week and within a few months had reached half-a-million. Major labels took an interest and by December Polydor had signed them for the UK and Capitol Records (US) for the rest of the world. This meant the duo visited the famous Capitol Records building in LA multiple times in the years that followed.
By January, ‘Bridges’ had reached the Top 10 in New Zealand and soon after came their self-titled EP which reached No.2 in New Zealand and entered the Top 30 in Australia. It also spawned another Top 40 hit, ‘Never Gonna Change’, which Georgia had written about breaking up with her boyfriend Jacob Wieblitz, though they actually reunited soon after (she married him in 2016). Meanwhile ‘Bridges’ was continuing to find new fans overseas, especially after being chosen as “single of the week” on the US iTunes store. It would gradually rack up huge numbers on streaming services, with over 65 million streams on Spotify alone.
Broods had their first show in the US in February, then debuted on the live scene in the UK in March, doing four shows supporting HAIM. They wanted to perform their set as “live” as possible, so they didn’t use backing tracks. Instead, Caleb ran multiple synth sounds through his keyboard and then used Ableton Live to trigger samples (eg of Georgia’s backing vocals). They were joined by New Zealand drummer James Mataio, whose kit was supplemented by a range of drum pads (he had started out in the band Good Fun, who had originally beaten them at rock quest).
This was the beginning of a long, ever-expanding world tour. They did their own shows in North America, before returning to Australia for support slots with Ellie Goulding. Two highlights during this period were performing a set at the famous Abbey Road studios in London and making their first television appearance, on Late Night With Seth Meyers.
Georgia and Caleb took five weeks away from touring to complete their debut album with Joel Little. The limited time window showed the increased pressure they now found themselves under. At this stage, Georgia was still writing most of the lyrics and Caleb focused on the production and instrumentation side of things with Little, though this split would become more even over the years ahead.
the ‘Evergreen’ album came out on 22 August 2014, instantly hitting No.1 in New Zealand.
Evergreen came out on 22 August 2014, instantly hitting No.1 in New Zealand. The songwriting process on the album had varied. For example, ‘Four Walls’ had been written entirely by Georgia, before being worked on by Caleb and Little. However many tracks were written in the studio. The album also had backing vocals by their younger sister Olivia (who helped contributed to the dreamy vocals in the outro of ‘Medicine’).
The lead single from the album was ‘Mother & Father’, which Georgia had written about leaving home for the first time: both the fear and exhilaration of going out on your own. It reached the NZ Top 20, as did their next single ‘Four Walls’, with the album Evergreen debuting at No.1 in September. The album stayed on the charts for nearly a year and was certified gold, as well as reaching No.5 in Australia. It was little surprise when they were named breakthrough artist of the year at the NZ Music Awards.
Broods’ main focus was breaking into the North American market and they returned for another tour in October, this time supporting singer Sam Smith across Canada and the US. By November, their album had managed to reach the Top 50 of the US charts, peaking at No.45 on the Billboard 200.
It was an astounding success for a group that had only been active for a year-and-a-half, but the hard work wasn’t over yet and they spent much of 2015 on tour. There was another round of shows across North America and this time the duo was backed by Australian drummer-producer Joel Farland (known as a member of Peking Duk). They performed ‘Four Walls’ on Conan and did many of the big festivals (including Lollapalooza).
They also took time out to hold writing sessions when they could. The first fruits of this work included the song ‘Ease’ which they co-wrote and co-produced with Australian singer Troye Sivan. It featured on his EP, Wild, which hit the No.1 spot on the charts in Australia in September. The song also featured on his album, Blue Neighbourhood, which reached No.6.
Their busy year was rounded off by a run of wins at the New Zealand Music Awards: album of the year, best pop album, best group and radio airplay record of the year (‘Mother & Father’).
As with Broods’ debut, recording sessions for Conscious, their second album had to be squeezed around their touring commitments, so they started work soon after Evergreen came out. Their experience of constant touring meant they were seeking sounds that they knew would grab a live audience. They played around with the different instruments in the studio – guitars, an organ, and even a Wurlitzer – to find a new way into their songwriting.
The first single ‘Free’ had a hint of Nine Inch Nails in the abrasive synth bass of its verses, which also included the intermittent sample of a whipping chain. The anger was real. The pair were frustrated by people at their label who were trying to push their music in a certain direction and forcing them to include songs on the album which they weren’t happy with. These pressures were hampering their creativity, as the lyrics says: “When I didn't care was when I did best”.
The heartfelt energy of ‘Free’ drew listeners in and it reached the Top 30 in New Zealand and Australia in April 2016. That same month, Caleb and Georgia moved to LA. They had already spent a lot of time in the city as Joel Little had a studio there and it was a convenient location to recuperate between tours.
However, there wasn’t much time to enjoy their new home. They were straight off to support Ellie Goulding throughout North America. In May, they appeared on The Late Late Show with James Corden, performing ‘Free’ as a two-piece – although they now had their cousin Jonathan Nott from ONONO as their touring drummer.
Conscious, came out in June 2016 and followed Evergreen in debuting at No.1 in New Zealand – it also reached No.2 in Australia. Broods also kept a solid foothold in the US market by reaching No.52 on the Billboard 200 – both of their albums made the Top 10 of Billboard’s “Alternative” chart.
Their year ended with another armful of wins at the New Zealand Music Awards.
Among the tracks on Conscious were a couple of surprises. There was a co-write with Lorde (‘Heartlines’) and another with Tove Lo (‘Freak of Nature’, on which she also appeared). Both ‘Heartlines’ and ‘Free’ went on to surpass 20 million streams, as did a single they’d co-written for Jarryd James, ‘1000x’. Their continued success meant they consistently headlined large theatres across the US (Staples Centre), Canada (Vogue Theatre), Australia (Enmore), and New Zealand (Vector Arena).
Their year ended with another armful of wins at the New Zealand Music Awards – album of the year, single of the year (‘Free’), best group, best pop album, and people’s choice award. Meanwhile, the album tour continued into 2017 with dates with Tove Lo across Europe in March.
Broods now had a solid fanbase in the US and Australasia, which allowed them to support themselves as musicians. However, the tensions expressed in their song ‘Free’ had come to a head and they were dropped by Capitol Records; Polydor UK had parted ways with them after their first album. The upside of having no label was that Broods were now free from the constant cycle of touring and recording with no time in between, so could try different projects outside the band’s core work.
One interesting collaboration came in early 2017 with Broods joining Australian act Flight Facilities on their track ‘Stranded’ alongside an odd group of contributors that included Reggie Watts (a music-playing comedian), LA singer Saro, pianist Piers Lane, and Stella Mazgawa (drummer in Warpaint).
Around this time, Georgia and Caleb were also working on side projects to inject new energy into their musical lives. Caleb was developing his skills behind the scenes by recording tracks entirely by himself, though was cautious about releasing any of this work. However a solitary single, ‘Make Me Feel’, did emerge under the name Fizzy Milk with Jarryd James singing.
Georgia’s endeavour The Venus Project was more ambitious. She had noticed the lack of women behind the scenes in the music business and decided to do an entire album where all of the core creators and organisers were female. Broods’ manager Ashley Page put her in touch with Sherry Elbe to manage the project. Another close collaborator was Camila Mora, who played keyboards with Broods and so was involved with the songs early on. After this, it took a concerted effort to find the right people to work with in an industry crowded by men.
Georgia eventually found sound engineer Adrianne “AG” Gonzalex to work on the tracks and final mastering was done by Emily Lazer. The album and single art was done by Ashley Lukashevsky, whom Georgia met through a close mutual friend – and the accompanying promotional photographs were by Catie Laffoon.
Many of the tracks were ones that Georgia had earmarked for this project over the years. Lead single ‘Won’t Hurt’ was written by Georgia in a backstage green room while on tour with Ellie Goulding, but when she tried it acoustically with Caleb it didn’t seem to work. She later met producer Ceci Gomez at a party and they worked together on the song, opening the track with odd samples and soft strings before Georgia’s vocals come in. It gradually builds to crescendo with beautiful layers of singing and an off-kilter beat.
Georgia and Caleb’s side projects allowed them to develop their talents, while also appreciating more sharply what the other person brought to the table. As a result, when it came time to regroup, they came back with more passion than ever.
By the time they released a new single, Broods had a new record deal in place in the US. They signed with New York label Neon Gold, an indie label that had become an imprint of Atlantic. This meant it had the reach of the larger company at its disposal while retaining its own core team and connections. Broods also had a deal with Island Records/Universal for Australia, so were well set up in both territories.
Broods took a new approach to songwriting and production by writing with a bunch of new collaborators.
Not only were there changes on the label side, Broods also took a new approach to songwriting and production by writing with a bunch of new collaborators. The first product of these sessions was the single ‘Peach’ with American producer Tommy English (who worked on Carly Rae Jepsen’s album around the same time).
‘Peach’ was about appreciating moments of joy, especially when they happen during a period of anxiety and stress. It was a sign of their confidence as songwriters that they allowed the song to build slowly for a full minute, before bringing in the huge chorus, which sounded all the more glorious for the restraint. The promotional material that accompanied the track was also a surprise, with the pair taking advantage of their new freedom to show a playful side to themselves. On the music video Caleb looked like an 80s saxophonist, while Georgia took on the role of “Peaches Magenta” – a 90s pop star in the mould of Gwen Stefani.
‘Peach’ came out in August 2018 and was picked up for Spotify playlists across the world, racking up tens of millions of streams in the process and eventually surpassing 40 million. It was good timing since Broods were about to play some of the biggest shows of their career – opening up for Taylor Swift across Australasia. Georgia even found herself being asked onstage to sing ‘Shake It Off’ alongside Swift and fellow support act Charli XCX.
Broods dropped another single to take advantage of the interest around the tour – ‘Everything Goes (Wow)’ written with US pop producer Jesse Shatkin, who had previously worked with acts like Sia and One Direction. They ended 2018 by featuring on a surprisingly successful track by Whethan, ‘Be Like You’, which reached the Top 20 of the US dance charts and surpassed 20 million streams.
Their new album, Don’t Feed the Pop Monster, was released on 1 February 2019. The title was a clear nod towards them taking back control of their career, with the idea being that they would only “feed the pop angels” instead, writing songs that were true to themselves rather than only searching for hits.
The album did feature two songs with their long-time collaborator Joel Little, ‘Too Proud’ and ‘Life After’. In fact, Little suggested they go on a writing trip to Nicaragua alongside a group of other New Zealand songwriters. The beautiful surroundings and chance to bond with other musicians in a similar position mean that they felt open to trying new things.
Caleb even took the main vocal on ‘Too Proud’, which was about the male impulse to repress one’s feelings. On the first day recording it in the studio, Georgia laid down all the initial instruments for the track, once again flipping their usual roles.
Rather than the clean, clear vocals of their previous albums, there were tracks like ‘Falling Apart’ on which auto-tune was used to warp the voice so it sounded like another instrument. The album featured two collaborations – the funky track ‘Hospitalized’ and an upbeat ballad, ‘Every Time You Go’ – with fellow New Zealand expat in LA, Leroy Clampitt, who produces under the name Big Taste.
Elsewhere, there were songs that allowed live instruments to stand out from the mix, most notably the guitar on ‘Dust’ which even had a short guitar solo. The funky bassline and big strums of guitar on ‘Old Dog’ also stood out and the lyrics encapsulated the duo’s new attitude: “I’m an old dog now, not here just to please, get that leash off of me.”
Broods had shown they could survive the vicissitudes of the US music industry and come out the other side with one of their strongest collections of songs. By this stage, they also had a formidable back catalogue with hundreds of millions of streams garnered across their three albums: the song ‘Bridges’ alone had over 65 million streams. What’s more, they managed to hold on to the love of music that had them singing along to music in the back of their parents’ car as children – a passion that will fuel them into the future.
Kiwi actress Rose McIver (The Lovely Bones, The Piano) appeared in the music video for ‘Heartlines’.
Georgia Nott - vocals
Caleb Nott - production, vocals