VV Brown - Interview
Interview with VV Brown September 2013
Previously known for her 50's influenced soulful Pop, academic business woman, musical artist, fashion enthusiast, model and presenter, VV Brown set up her own record label, YOY records, in order to be true to herself by creating a new sound a new image and a new gaining a new outlook on art whilst still containing her youthful spirit and musical talent!
Determined this new album is about more than statistics and sales, VV Brown records something created for her, accessible to everyone!
VV talks to us about her musical change in direction, her UK tour and how to deal with the daunting prospect of multi-tasking!
CM: Hello! How are you?
VV: I'm good thank you, how are you?
CM: We're very well thank you. Your new album, Samson & Delilah has just been released, how does it differ to your previous material?
VV: Travelling like the light was quite heavily inspired by 50's music. It was a lot more pop. This new record is a lot more alternative and electronic. There's a huge transition and a huge change in tastes and I changed as a person during that time.
CM: What influenced the change in your musical tone?
VV: I didn't want to make colourful pop music anymore and was really inspired by Factory Floor and Battles. I started going to a lot of live gigs and learning about music and art from a completely different place, which I had never experienced. When I was 18 - 19 I was thrown into the mainstream music business where everything was about selling records and chasing after a single. During the transition a lot of my friends went to art school and their ethic towards making a piece of work was so new compared to the way I was making things, it really opened my eyes and inspired me to make a record which was completely cohesive and consistent and had a message and identity. Even if it didn't sell or chart high it was something that was a body of work that I was completely proud of.
CM: Although it's just come out, what's the initial reception been like?
VV: It's been really positive. It's always really scary when you bring a record out, especially this record because I think a lot of people have preconceived ideas about myself as an artist. I was nervous. All the Twitter comments have been really positive and we've had some great reviews: Q gave us four stars and The Times Culture said 'Stunning'. It's such a great feeling when you make a record, not thinking of that, but when it is positive it's like 'Yay!' - It a bonus. It's wicked.
CM: You established your own record label for your latest album, were there previous conflicts you're your previous record label, (Island Records)?
VV: I love Island Records, but because I made a certain type of record I was trapped, where I was expected to follow that record because it was out there in the mainstream. I don't think I would have ever been able to make this record if I was under that record company, I think they would have said 'You're crazy' - And I sometimes I think I'm crazy that I've done it because this could potentially stop things, or start things.
I was walking away because of that reason but there was no conflict or falling out with my label. I couldn't be the artist they wanted, not after 'Shark in the Water'.
CM: Although it's still early days, would you consider producing other artists on your record label?
VV: Yes, that's the dream. Definitely in the future. I've got my eyes on Mandlebrot Set who I would love to sign in the future - They're like a math rock band, they're really good and really great live. I'm a small fish in a massive ocean but I would definitely like to contribute or help, if I can invest in some kind of tour support or anything to help up and coming artist - I know how hard it is. Especially doing it this way.
CM: Your album, Lollipops and Politics was cancelled in 2012 after you stated it: 'didn't feel it was right as an artist' - How important is the impression you are giving people via your music?
VV: It's majorly important. It's your legacy. It defines who you are and you're showcasing that to thousands or millions of people. By compromising that you're compromising yourself. Lollipops and Politics was probably the perfect second album to Travelling Like The Light but I wasn't that person anymore and the impression I had to give needed to be who I was.
If I look back at Travelling Like The Light, that was who I was then and I'm proud of it. I think it would be disrespectful if I shunned it because it allowed me to be able to invest my money into this project. When you make music it's like a photograph of where you are in your life. It just so happens that my two photographs are pretty drastically different - Ones in the middle of busy city and the other ones in the middle of a quite village. Very different parts in my life.
CM: You've had a very diverse career varying from punk bands, to performing classical to performing in Jazz Bands, how have previous musical projects helped you develop as a current artist?
VV: It's the same kind of hustle. Doing it indie really feels like I'm starting all over again - It feels like the old days. We're going on tour in America and this time round we're going around in a splitter van and staying at friends houses so it's kind of gone backwards, but I'd rather go backwards and make a record that's true then make a s**t record as a puppet.
CM: You're academically very successful, what made you pursue a career in music?
VV: I'm obsessed with music and it's quite sad and amazing at the same time. I'm addicted to risk and love the idea of challenge. I think I create better, under uncomfortable circumstances. I couldn't let go of the fact that this was what I wanted to do. It started with my Mum, she gave me a year out from studying law and said "I'll give you a year and we'll see if you land a deal" which she was hoping for. Then I got the taste of making music and playing live and the obsession grew.
CM: You've stated 'Fashion is a sense of expression and a sense of who you are and what you want to be' how would you describe your current fashion sense and what it states about you?
VV: I'm kind of minimalism. I love Japanese culture. Comfort over style - I tend to wear things which are over sized and pyjama-esque with strong lines. I'm a big fan of simple colours like: Black, White and Blues. Once again it's quite a drastic change fashion wise. With the first record I was very much an extrovert with my fashion style, with everything being over the top - Eccentric. This time it's much more subtle and not as much in your face.
CM: You're quite unconventional in some respects (Leaving a major record label and starting your own), what's your current standing on the music industry?
VV: I think the music industry is forever changing and as much as it's an exciting time for new, interesting, alternative music, because of the internet - I think the music business is slowly trying to catch up. The idea of this new media model: Spotify and streaming and illegal downloads, are obviously crippling them. There are lots of '360 deals' going on where labels are trying to make money from an artist, from every avenue. You could write a book when you're 75 and you'll probably get a phone call from them saying: 'We'll have a bit of that' even though the book is about gardening.
It's quite an interesting and exciting time. Music is becoming like water. It's so accessible and is causing live music to have more value and people are investing into going to gigs more. It can create incredibly independent artists yet it's quite scary for the big corporations.
CM: You own your own record label, you're an artist and have your own fashion line, where do you find the time to do the work?
VV: Ummm. It's really hard and stressful. There's a team of us who are really passionate about music: we have a project manager, radio guy and a PR person in a team. It's not just me at home, on my own, but it is quite daunting that I have to oversee everything and make sure everything is going right from a much more director's point of view.
I remember my first planning meeting and I was really nervous. You're obviously sitting in a room with experienced people who have worked for major labels and I'm here as an artist, having to lead this planning meeting. It's like: Are they going to think I don't know what I'm talking about or start talking about statistics and strategies. I know what I'm talking about; I've been in the industry for 12 years and now its working fine, we're a great team together and our main focus is about the music and we're not worried about statistics. If it doesn't chart high or doesn't sell amazing in the first week, that's not what it's about! It's about a continuous journey and that's what's so nice. I don't do it all on my own and I cope because of my team.
CM: You're involved in all aspects of public career allowing you to create the persona you want. What's one message you want to give off?
VV: Take risks and be who you want to be.
CM: Have you ever felt the pressure to conform to the industry since starting your own record label?
VV: When I was doing Travelling like the Light - Oh My God, I was consumed with fear that I would fail because I didn't get into the top 40. I would watch the radio playlists, every Wednesday, in fear that we would not make the playlist but that's completely changed! I think that you cannot validate success by those things when you're an artist. I looked at all the artist in my record collection and they are not in that. The artists I'm inspired by and love don't get caught up in that - Little dragon, The Knife these artists don't worry about statistics, they just make great music! They just inspire me. They're not in the daily mail every week but good record has its own life.
CM: In terms of your demographics, who are your aiming your music towards?
VV: Everybody! I was previously aimed towards the singles market which I don't think I am part of anymore - Don't get me wrong, if it got in the charts, oh my God, amazing, incredible but you can't be defined. I'm an artist musician not a statistical analysis.
CM: You've got a UK tour in October, are you excited for that?
VV: Yes, I'm very excited! I've got a reasonably small UK tour and the US as well.
CM: You've been through a drastic change in terms of your music, how do you choose a setlist for performing live?
VV: It's been very difficult as a live show in terms of choosing a setlist because the music is so different. It's mainly new, but we've a melody got a melody of old songs. I don't want to disappoint people who are coming so we're trying to please everybody.
CM: You mentioned the diversity of people who enjoy your music, what's the general demographic at your concerts?
VV: Everyone! It's a real mix of all ages and genders. The crowd have become more eclectic - real music heads! It's really polarized - People who love who love the 50's Rock 'N' Roll and young pop Indie. It's a great feeling seeing people who would attend Rough Trade and The Invisibles at my concerts - They're their own critics and say the right things.
CM: What does the future hold for VV Brown?
VV: In all honest, I don't know. We're touring America and are attending film festivals after we made a 20 minute short film. We've also attracted the attention of some UK film festivals so that should be exciting. I also have fashion week coming up which I can't wait for!
Not knowing is in some ways really exciting. My life is a lot easier now! I live in Peckham and can go to my local pub. I'm living a life with music rather than losing a life to music. I've loved the decision to go independent, not only do I have creative control, I have life control!
CM: Thanks for speaking with us!
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