Ever since I saw the title to their single ‘I’m so in love with all of my friends’, I have been captivated by Philip Brooks. Admittedly some of that may be to do with their great, great hair, but a whole lot of it has to do with their especially emotive brand of dream pop. The cadence of the title planted a hook right in the middle of my sensibilities, and when I then saw Brooks’ excellent taste in artists like Mallrat and Cub Sport, I was a goner. I was dragged under the dreamy spell of their sound- or up into the clouds, as I should say.
In a year already more turbulent than most, Brooks has faced quite their own share of life changing events. They moved country multiple times, had their heart broken, and in the ensuing period of self-discovery, came out as non-binary. It feels fitting then, that Brooks should close the year with a single like ‘everything is changing now’. Written with LA songwriter Julianna Joy, the track takes all the inherent anxiety of a state of flux and balances it masterfully with the power of the hope that is driving us all onward. Vulnerable lyricism and swirling guitars meet a sizzling electronic fill that will draw out all the serotonin your brain has been hiding from you. Preoccupations with the unknown are refocused- everything is changing now, Brooks says, so see it.
I’m hoping that one day we’ll get to hear ‘everything is changing now’ soundtrack a coming of age movie, but until then I thought we all should get to know Philip Brooks a bit better. You’ll get to be the smug one when someone attempts to introduce them to you. Brooks, now settled in Brighton, was kind enough to answer some questions I cooked up, so check out the interview below:
Where do you think your love of music and your music making comes from?
Definitely have to give my parents a lot of credit here! Growing up there always was music playing and often we’d watch live VHS cassettes together. My dad would play bands like The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and The Cure; and my mum artists like Cindy Lauper, Kate Bush and Bowie. I still divide my life into what I listened to at certain periods of time. There always were instruments around, my grandma taught me the basic guitar chords when I was smaller than her guitar. From then on I just never stopped. It never was something I decided to do, it just always felt natural to me. So I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to. I always always come back to making music.
What effect do you want your music to have on people?
I just want people to form memories around it and associate a portion of their life to it. Soundtrack some nice moments. And have it be something to relate to. When I just started figuring out what is going on with me in a sense of mental illness, finding songs with lyrics that I see myself in helped so so much in making me feel less like I’m not going through this alone. So now I want to pass it on and write about my experiences.
What has been your standout career moment so far?
Playing my first headline show in London last November was pretty darn wild. I mean, that was the first time that people came to see me specifically! Like, people bought tickets, left their house and made their way to a venue to see ME play. In my head I’m just some small worm who makes these lil songs and puts them on the internet sometimes. So seeing people show up to sing and jump along felt very special. Also so many of my friends travelled to come see me! From America, Germany and all over England.Also Girl In Red posted “spend some time alone inside my head” when it came out, that was pretty cool. But really every time someone tells me they like my music or that they connect something to it feels just as standout to me. I really do get excited every single time and will think about it for the rest of the day.
Which artists are you listening to at the moment, and who would be your dream collaboration?
Earlier this week, somewhere out of the depth of my mind, I remembered that my first celebrity crush was Kate Bush in the “Wuthering Heights” music video (the forest one) after seeing it on MTV a few times when I was young. So I’ve just been listening to that on repeat. My dream collaboration has to be Clairo, no question. She’s my #1 favourite songwriter alive right now and all her other collaborations were so so good.
Is there any piece of non-musical art (Tv show/book/scene in a movie) that has had an impact on you?
Yes! During the first lockdown I set myself the challenge of reading through all Haruki Murakami novels and some of the imagery and general emotional feeling of them did sneak into some songs. I also loved Normal People by Sally Rooney, both the book and the show, they ended up inspiring a few songs. Right now I’m watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, as I have the tendency to absorb characters from shows I’m watching into my personality, that surely also will stick with me for a while.
How much of yourself do you put into your music? Are you building a new world or do you pull on parts of yourself?
It’s all just parts of myself, my world that I wanna let people into. I love it when other artists create entire personas (Bowie definitely first comes to mind here) but I’m not really good at that. My music sounds like different things I’ve heard play around the house throughout my childhood, from Cocteau Twins to The Cure to Billie Holiday. My music videos look like my parent’s home movies of road trips they did through the USA. And everything around it is just extensions of my personality in words.
Your most recent single, ‘everything is changing now’, came out at the end of November. What was the process behind that single, and what do you want people to think about when they listen to it?
It was such a quick process! I was in Germany for the summer to see someone that I liked for a longer time, things didn’t work out so I packed my bags again to move back to England. A day before I left I sat down in the studio where I was staying to just work on some things. I came up with the drum beat and the chorus for this song in a few minutes, kinda by accident. I finished it on my friend’s floor, where I was sleeping in Brighton until I found a flat, in just two days. My friend Julianna Joy helped me get all I was feeling into lyrics and melodies, as it was quite the hard topic to tackle alone.
I’m really interested in the way artists might factor in or reject the idea of responsibility in their art. Does responsibility mean anything to you?
I do see that I am starting to have somewhat of a platform, even if it’s just very small. I try to talk about things that are important to me and I find are important to be shared. And I try to only put positive energy out in the world. Because I do have a good few younger listeners, I try not to swear or talk about anything, you know, not suitable for younger kids. I’m still trying to figure all of this out though, so I can’t give too clear of an answer for now. But know I’m trying my best.
What are you thinking about for 2021?
World domination. 🙂
And finally, what are you doing when you aren’t playing or making music?
Oh I’m just constantly cycling between hobbies. This year it has been baking sourdough bread, making solder-jewellery, collecting vases, knitting, screen printing, oil painting and gardening. I always overly focus on one of them and then forget it exists when the next thing comes around. But right now I’m just trying to give myself a break, all I do is watch Buffy, nap and take walks down to the sea.
Huge thanks to Philip Brooks for their time! You can listen to ‘everything is changing now’ below: