Artist Profile: Brown

Artist Profile: Brown

Brown are a four-piece alternative pop band based in Auckland and Dunedin. From confrontations with boy racers to recording an acapella covers cassette, Michael Cathro, AKA Skinny, talks to Critic’s Adrian Ng about his approach as a songwriter, his memories of Dunedin life, and also gives us an update on Brown’s long awaited debut album.

How did Brown come to be? What is your story?
I had recorded a couple of bedroom EPs with my solo recording project Baraka and the Finish Hims and decided to transition it into a full band. My brother, Paul, and Ben Sargeant joined as the rhythm section. We were walking home after our first gig when I got bottled by a boy racer and knocked out. They had yelled at us from their car and I had shaken my fist in an attempt at a dad joke. Boy racers really hate dad jokes. We decided on a name change and I’d heard our friend’s band Thundercub describing their music as the colour “orange,” and I’d also had a pet rat called Mr Brown. I liked the idea that we could try to let a colour conjure up our music and in the same stroke honour the memory of Mr Brown. We’ve since added Theo Francis to play more guitars, so we are now a four-piece music group.

Your songs seem to come from quite a unique perspective. What kind of topics/subjects intrigue you as a songwriter?
Often it can come from something I’ve found really absurd or funny during my day, like, I’m having this issue at the moment where I’m alternating between using the hand dryer and the paper towels at work because I can’t figure out which would be doing less harm to the environment. I quite like to deconstruct things and break them down into their parts so I can see them for what they really are; this can be traumatic but also very funny and I get a lot of material from it. I also find that reading is really important for generating ideas and whatever I read tends to have quite an effect. Or there are these window cleaners that come and clean windows in the CBD, dangling from ropes, and I like to pretend they’re solipsists who live on the rooftops. I wrote one about them.

On your Bandcamp page you describe your previous release, Mannequins, as a demo album. For you, when does a song take that leap from demo to final version – is it a fidelity thing?
On Mannequins I recorded and played all the instruments myself, so it’s not a real representation of the band. It’s more me just messing around in my bedroom. So I don’t think it’s fidelity; we’ve released some shocking sounding EPs. I really mocked up the album as a way to send tracks down to Dunedin for Paul and Ben to have a better idea of the songs in their entirety. We’ve re-used a few tracks from it on our new album, so it’s probably a demo album in retrospect.

Does it feel like a sort of homecoming when you play in Dunedin? When will you be playing here next?
Dunedin is still my home and it always feels like coming home, and one day I’ll probably come home for good. When we play Dunedin it’s always a party and easily the most fun gigs to play. We’re playing Queens on the 28 February as part of a tour but I get to spend, like, a week in Dunedin, so I’m pretty excited.

Finally, what is the name of your upcoming record and when can we expect it?
We’ve named it after a song of ours, “Bacterium, Look at Your Motor Go,” and it is due out about mid-year. We have some more singles we want to release first.
This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2014.
Posted 6:57pm Sunday 23rd February 2014 by Adrian Ng.