We had the pleasure of chatting to Largs musician, Matt Hickman, frontman of Brownbear, to discuss the highly anticipated album, Demons. Brownbear, known for their upbeat indie sound and raw lyrics, take us through the writing process of the album, the task of drawing from personal experiences and the arts in Scotland. Keep reading to learn more about the journey of Demons and the vivid messages that it holds.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your new album, Demons?
With Demons, it is my second album. It was a lot more reflective than the first. I think with the lockdown, I was finally forced to be at home and grapple with some of the things that had happened throughout my life that I had used music, touring and always being busy to avoid. It was at times painful writing this album but in the end, it has felt more like therapy. I am so grateful for the response so far.
You are a keen advocate of diversity in the arts, and you particularly champion Scotland - what was your experience like entering music from Largs? What do you see or wish to see for the future?
Growing up in Largs, there wasn't all that much access to the arts, theatre more so but with music it was very limited. From a young age I was trying to get myself up to the cities to play shows, reach more people. I hope that changes, for me community and music is essential, and each area has its own love and need for music and arts. We have to start to shine a spotlight on arts in rural areas for sure, we could be losing exceptional talents if we don't. For the future, I hope we see continued investment in grassroots arts. It has to be for and led by the communities. So often, it is designed then designated to them, without input or choice, and in turn it doesn't reflect or resonate with the audience. Art is for the people.
Your lyrics often deal with personal struggles, emotions and growth – especially in the title track, Demons. What is it like drawing from your own experiences, how does one start, if they find it hard to be vulnerable?
Writing in general can be quite a vulnerable experience. Often you are drawing from your own emotions, even if the subject matter is not yourself. It is also an isolated, lonely job at times. So you spend a lot of time in your own head. The best songs though are the most honest ones. For yourself, and for an audience. This is my second album so I think some of the nerves of wearing my heart on me sleeve were a lot less this time as I've been through the process before. The more emotional the song, the longer it takes me to finish it. I think I just like to reflect on the words, what they make me feel and I also get a bit previous, like I am not ready to give it away to the world yet.
Do you have a favourite track on the album? If so, which one and why?
Oh, that is a tough question. Lyrically, I think Spin Another Web. It is my most honest self reflection. Production wise, Unity, It is different for me but I love it and we really crafted that sound. It came from a total place of angst around racial injustices, I wanted it to be powerful all round. Arrangement, Take your time. It is soulful, fun and a tip of the hat to Motown. I know this is cheating, Sorry.
How have you evolved as an artist since your debut album? In what ways do you think your music has changed or grown?
I've definitely grown as a writer. I find that I am more focused and have less refining to do. I am very strict about the process and what is actually needed for a song. Early days I would let them be too long or be scared about a section, I trust my gut a lot more and let it be based on feeling as much as structure. Musicality wise, I have improved a lot as a player, I learned to really play piano during lockdown as well which enhanced my arsenal as a writer and gave me a different perspective for songs.
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring musicians, especially young People of Colour, who are just starting out?
My biggest advice is be yourself. Be proud of who you are both as a person and a musician. A lot of pressure gets put on Black artists, especially in Scotland, to fit a certain mould. The funds and projects are often 'Hip Hop & R&B' as if that is all we are into as people. It is not. If you love rock music, pick up a guitar. If you like pop, write those hooks, whatever your style is that is "Black" music and it is YOUR music. Own it. Don't ever settle for anything less than you are worth, and you are worth a lot!!
Can you tell us about your upcoming performance on Friday 12th May?
Friday 12th May, the band will be bringing the 'Demons' Album show to The Caves in Edinburgh. It is going to be a great night so definitely get along. The Glasgow show was sold out but I know Edinburgh is going to give Glasgow a run for its money in terms of energy. I am so excited.
Support act TBC so keep your eyes peeled for some local talent to join!