JONATHAN BREE – unter der Maske…

Foto-© Ljubov Dzuzhynska

Seit seinem letzten Album Sleepwalking ist der neuseeländische Komponist, Multi-Instrumentalist, Produzent und Label-Boss Jonathan Bree in aller Munde! Kein Wunder sind seine Kompositionen doch schwelgerisch-zeitlose Songs, die mit großen orchestralen Arrangements – Streicher, Hörner, Celeste und Chöre – und dem unverwechselbaren Bariton wie aus der Zeit gefallen wirken und die an den ein oder anderen Soundtrack-Score erinnern. Das neue Jonathan Bree Album After The Curtain Close, das diese Woche erscheint, steht dem in Nichts nach, sondern ist vielmehr die nächste Entwicklungsstufe, liebäugelt immer wieder mit schwelgerischen Pop-Entwürfen und wirkt trotz dem Emblem „Trennungs-Album“ luftig-leicht. Wir haben die Veröffentlichung zum Anlass genommen, um mit dem zumeist eher wortkargen neuseeländischen Maskenmann zu sprechen – unser Bedroomdisco Interview mit Jonathan Bree!


– Name: Jonathan Bree
– Founding year: 2013

- Location: Auckland, New Zealand
– Album: After The Curtains Close

– First of all: how are you, how did you experience the outbreak of this worldwide crises and what is the situation in New Zealand at the moment?
Are you familiar with the meme ‘When you find out your normal daily lifestyle is called “Quarantine”’? That was embarrassingly accurate when things first started to happen. However my band and I were weeks away from a 5 month tour of Europe and North America when the borders started closing. It dealt a major blow to the plans of the year and all the pre planning went out the window overnight. A lot goes into planning these things and so when 8 members of the tour party are left without employment it was naturally deflating.
New Zealand seems to have been incredibly fortunate so far and has managed to avoid what a lot of other countries are experiencing.

– You started writing songs and playing in bands at a very young age – do you still remember which musician first made an impression on you? And did you have other talents / professions you were interested in at that time?
I do. I always liked certain albums in the family record collection, Elvis, Blondie, David Bowie, Abba. The first time I saw the music video for A-ha ‘Take On Me’ though was when I was like, I want to be that guy. When visiting my grandparents one weekend my elder cousin took one look at my first purchased record that I was proudly showing off (Hunting High and Low) and immediately took it upon himself to direct me towards the work of the Beatles. I was then obsessed with the Beatles for a brief 30 years following…
I loved drawing growing up but lost the focus for it in highschool. Teachers critiqued and graded artwork based on my english skills to talk absolute nonsense about the work. Shortly after learning guitar became a much more rewarding pursuit…

– Your music is often described as cinematic pop – were there certain films / soundtracks that stuck on you as an influence and formed your musical taste and if which?
I greatly admire the work of Ennio Morricone. His more erotic soundtracks especially. Also Bernard Herrmann, his soundtracks for thrillers and sci fi are brillian.

– Your last record Sleepwalking was kind of your international break-through – is success something important to you as an artist and did you feel any pressure during the production of After The Curtains Close?
No more pressure than the normal pressure I put on myself to not be bland. Success isn’t a goal, making a decent album is though.

– Can you describe a bit the production process of After The Curtains Close, how, when and where it came into life, what was the best/what the worst moment during production and what is the most told anecdote of that time?
The writing and recording process happened during a fairly transient time in my life. The best time, tracking vocals in a vocal booth made of mattresses in a Brooklyn airbnb. The worst time, unsurprisingly is the final mixing time. Getting things balanced and sounding okay on different systems. It’s pretty boring.
I don’t know about most told anecdote, I don’t really talk to anyone

– We read that you are usually producing everything on your own at home in the bedroom – which comes as a surprise, as with your orchestral sounds we would have expected a big studio production! Can you describe how you work on your production, which tools you use and if you have a certain working routine during the writing phase?
I tend to do most of my writing in the bedroom/studio. I’ll write and arrange demos using guitars and keyboards. Once I have a solid idea of the direction of the track I’ll often invite string or orchestral players over for layering up those elements. I’d love to record the way Brian Wilson did back in ‘66, with amazing players assembled in a large studio space to track live, but that isn’t realistic. Especially while the time machine is being serviced.

– With the new record being a break-up-record – were you always easy on directing personal issues openly in your music or did wearing a mask also help to open up more?
There’s a personal connection to just about everything I’ve written but I suppose there’s been a gradual shift towards being more direct on the lyrical side. I’d say the mask has little to do with that but maybe, who knows

– We love the song Kiss My Lips from the new record – can you let us know what it is about, how it came into existence and if there is a story behind the song?
Thank you. It’s been kicking around for a few years. The video for it was actually filmed on the same day as the video for You’re So Cool. Kiss My Lips in my mind was the more important song to get a video done for so we spent most of the day on that, maybe an hour or so on the other. I decided to keep Kiss My Lips off the Sleepwalking album because it didn’t seem to fit right, plus Chelsea was about to release her Loneliest Girl album which I had also worked on. It seemed potentially confusing to release at the time but I’m glad it’s out there in the world now

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– On the title track there is even a lyrical hint to the Australian Bachelor series – is trash tv something that appeals to you or why did you add this line to the song?
That show was a guilty pleasure watch for the band when we toured in 2018. I generally don’t watch those sorts of shows but it was a good band watch in whichever hotel room we piled into to view. The end was dissatisfying for many but his parting words of sad optimism were okay by me. Good enough to paraphrase even.

– You’re always self-producing your records, but is there a producer you’re looking up to and who you would love to work together with?
Danger Mouse

– A big part of the success of your career are your music videos, although it seems like music videos are a dying medium, as less and less are really featured on TV – could you describe a bit why you even though think that it’s important to have a certain concept on the video side and what concept you had for this records videos?
I used to approach making music videos with a certain amount of apprehension, because it usually involved handing over the job to someone that was going to put their own artistic spin on your music. These days though making videos (like music) can be done on a laptop if you apply yourself. Music TV might be dead but a lot of people stream videos online. So now I kinda look forward to making videos that in my mind compliment the music. The other thing with most other non video streaming platforms, they are curated by program directors and taste makers that work hand in hand with the established music industry. Being a self-financed artist, editorial playlist inclusion can come down to factors I have no control over. Currently from what I can tell the music video platforms are more algorithm based so are a more even-playing field potentially. That’s why I think it’s important to make videos still in 2020.
There’s no album-based theme for videos from this album. Some are performance based, others star dogs that wander everywhere except the way you need them to go.

– With the record coming out soon, in a moment where it feels that everyone is trying to get back to normal, but most of the campaign was happening in the middle of this situation – how was the music or the campaign affected by it? Which new ways / improvisations did you have to do?
Taking a break for touring has allowed for more creativity. Working on a number of videos for tracks off the album has been one of those creative outlets. Also a Danseuse Academy has been started online via my artist website, so there’ll be a lot of future dance instruction videos. This will allow for budding Danseuses to learn our live choreography in the safety of their own homes.

– Usually when you release a new record the plan is also to tour the album, now all venues are closed (with a lot of them struggling to still be active, when the whole situation is over, the same with a lot of festivals), as well as the borders of most countries. What are your plans for touring at the time and how do you imagine life after all of this?
Currently the plan is to begin touring again in May 2021 beginning in Europe. Is this a realistic goal, time will tell. A time traveller should never give away secrets of the future, that is the golden rule.

– As you are at the same time also your own boss as founder of your label Lil’ Chief Records – which impact did the Covid-19 crisis also have on your label and furthermore onto the music scene in New Zealand?
A lot of the label day-to-day is still the same. Currently NZ is in a fortunate state comparatively to the rest of the outside world. A lot of live music venues are operating as per usual again now. I suppose it will just be a very insular scene for the time being. Lots of NZ artists will tour the country this year as opposed to abroad. Maybe people here will pay to go see local musicians rather than spend a few hundred dollars on seeing an overseas artist in concert.

– You’ve been doing music as a band for a long period now, how did the music industry change during that period in your eyes, what changed for good, what for worse and what’s your plan for the future?
The world has changed a lot and with it the industry and artistry. I’d be lying if I said it was for the better. Self-responsibility and stoicism seem to be ever eroding ideals, art runs an ever increasing risk of becoming flagged for offending. So creating something that could be challenging or thought provoking comes with an increasing amount of scrutiny. If you have a certain amount of comfortability in living you can perhaps be bold and fearless, or just casually flippant. I believe a lot of artists and people in general just keep softening the edges to make sure they don’t offend so they can continue to be creative and survive. That’s not a great success story for the modern world if you ask me. Another thing that I believe adds to bland think-tank music has been brought about when some people won’t accept that a musician can sing words in the third person or simply create a character. Songs aren’t a social media post declaration in the first person. Whatever happened to villainous characters within song, the pop world certainly seems devoid of them

– Whats next on your schedule?
I imagine like many bedroom recording artists I actually spent most of lockdown writing and recording. I have around 20 new recordings now so it’s time to figure out which ones I want to
completely finish and turn into the next album. I suspect by the time I tour next year I’ll be releasing that.

– What are you doing when you’re not doing music?
I’ve been living on a small island for the last 6 months. I started going fishing when lockdown started and the tour plans for 2020 fell through. I’ve also started watching the original 1980’s version of Unsolved Mysteries. It’s kinda amazing that a lot of the criminal re-enactments are done with the actual victims of certain crimes. The music is very cool also, very John Carpenter.

– What did you learn in 2020?
You can’t allow yourself to get too upset over things that are out of your control.

– How would your Bedroomdisco look like?
When I was 19 I covered my bedroom walls in tinfoil and fairy lights. That was as close to a bedroom disco as I ever got

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Bedroomdisco-Gründer, Redaktions-Chef, Hans in allen Gassen, Golden Leaves Festival Booker, Sammler, Fanboy, Exil-Darmstädter Wahl-Hamburger & happy kid, stuck with the heart of a sad punk - spreading love for great music since '08!

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