Up and coming South London indie artist Bert Brett, who was recently chosen as the face of Amazon Music's Best New Bands Playlist, has followed up with his new single 'Shame'. Since his debut release in early 2020, Bert has amassed over 275k global streams, been picked up by BBC Introducing and enjoyed plays across regional radio.
Capturing the bittersweet strife of modern life, Bert's music is gritty, hooky, raw and direct, blending dynamic guitar lines, catchy pop melodies and poetic lyrics to paint a picture of a 2020 world, voiced through a distinctively London vocal.
We had the opportunity to speak with Bert on the release, the concept behind the track and plans for 2021.
Introduce yourself and tell us a little about you!
"I'm Bert. I'm an independent artist from South London."
How are you finding trying to be creative in a difficult time for the music industry?
"It's a challenge, but I'm just trying using the time to reset, write and record and keep releasing. It's tough for the whole music industry, I have friends and musicians who have had to adapt and work in different avenues. Including myself - taking on a landscaping job. But 2020 has been a historic year politically and socially, so I've been trying to use some of that to channel creativity and lyric writing. In the UK we're being asked to retrain, but I'm going to keep the tunes coming. For me a job is a job and a means to an end - to make and be around good music."
Where are you from and what’s your favourite thing about that place?
"I'm from a place called Raynes Park in South-West London. It's suburban London but growing up, as kids there was a real feel of roaming the streets and chasing excitement and it's only 20 minutes into the city on the train. There's a local live music boozer called 'The Cavern' which is a Beatles tribute pub where I worked for years behind the bar. They have "the best jukebox in London", and still host live music booking some big names from the 70s onwards as well as jam nights. I've played a few shows there over the years and it's a undiscovered gem for live music which is under pressure now more than ever."
How did you get into music and what’s your earliest memory of it?
"I always loved music growing up at school. My dad played bass in an 80s glam pop rock band called 'Voice of the Beehive' so there were always records lying around. My mum and dad took me to see The Police at Twickenham stadium when I was about 8 as well as Bon Jovi at Wembley. I remember being amazed at the scale of it and catchy tunes with everyone singing along. I got a walkman and used to listen to Sunday top 40 countdown and taping the songs I liked and sharing tapes with friends at school. Then when I was about 12 at high school we used to go to the store cupboard at break where everyone kept their instruments and jam with a few people - which is where I formed my first band."
Sum up your signature sound in a sentence!
"A portrayal of the bittersweet strife of modern life, through a distinctly poetic lyric, hooky melodies and dynamic guitar lines - Genre: British Indie"
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
"I'd say early influences from my parents are bands like The Clash, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie and The Kinks - I still listen to these as their songwriting, both lyric and melodically is timeless. From my generation UK bands like Blur, Jamie T, Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and Foals were all big for me. I also love soul and funk. Michael Kiwanuka's records are probably what I've listened to most this year and I love Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Otis Redding and pretty much all soul and Rhythm and blues music - you can't beat their melodies and it's feel-good. I was also a massive Chillis fan as a kid which has definitely rooted my love for interesting lyrics, guitars and good melody."
What’s been your favourite memory so far in your career since debuting earlier this year?
"I think probably performing on Ray-Ban's Instagram for a #Stayhome gig. I was the first artist ever to perform live on their socials which has 5.3M followers, so it felt like a big moment having just released my second single. Also being picked by Amazon Music as the cover image for their 'Best New Bands' playlist was incredible. But creatively there have been some brilliant moments. Shooting the video for my second single 'Pressure in This Town' was a big highlight - we filmed in the early hours of the morning in central London the days before lockdown with just 3 of us. It was mad seeing London completely empty, something I'll always remember and we got some incredible footage of big London places deserted. I've loved the video making process as well, as I've discovered it as another creative outlet which I hadn't experienced before."
You’ve just released your new track ‘Shame’. Tell us a little about it!
"So 'Shame' is a track about male mental health challenges - in short it confronts toxic masculinity and encourages men to speak about their emotions. It was born out of personal experience, friends and family who I've seen affected by it and was actually written at a time when a few friends I knew were suffering from it and we'd talk shit out and it felt cathartic to understand what was going on or to try to identify it. I think most people experience it to some degree, but there's definitely a heroic sense of bottling it up in men that I think is antiquated. The mind is incredibly powerful and no one teaches you how to deal with certain emotions, especially in a world where everything is moving so fast, so for me speaking to each other helps to normalize it somewhat - as I found most of the conversations uncovered common experience and feelings we had all shared.
We record at a studio in Tobacco Docks in East London - it's called 'The Rattle' and it's a music incubator that is redefining the model for independent artists, treating each as its own start up which is really exciting. But they have some great gear and mics there - the song was originally written in one session with Don Adamos (guitarist) as just guitars, and we actually released that version as it had a rawness which we felt really captured the essence of the song. We then worked on a full version with our mate Jonny Colgan who has toured with Julia Jacklin and Hudson Taylor and added the drums. Don and myself then worked on the rest of the track and arrangement gradually. There was definitely some Michael Kiwanuka influence on the backing track in terms of the production. But my vocal - It's a distinctly London vocal. Almost punky instead of soulful. I like the idea of that on top of some of those soul and indie guitar and instrumentals."
What do you hope that listeners take away from the track?
"I hope they connect with the lyrics. It would be great to think it had helped anyone suffering from mental health problems and encouraged them to speak to and be there for their friends and family."
The track is accompanied by a video, out later this month. Tell us a bit about the concept around the visuals and the message you’re conveying with that.
"So the video is concept is broken down into 3 parts - visualizing internal struggle, visualizing external pressures and capturing unity among men. To capture the internal struggle we shot myself and my dad in an abandoned theatre in an empty stagnant setting, where we created a bedroom and living room space - the father / son dynamic creates a sense of stagnancy over time with connotations of growing up, maturity and psychoanalysis. We have collated lower res phone or gopro footage from friends and family as well as strangers to portray the external pressures, which we will cut together quickly to create a montage of dream-like memories indicative of the pace of contemporary life and social media. Finally on our second shoot day we shot powerful HD emotionless moving portraits of 15 men from all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. We filmed the day before the second lockdown, but it was incredible to see how willing everyone was to support the cause. There's some emotional footage but the overarching message of the song is positive, in that it intends to be somewhat cathartic, so we have the men breaking into smiles naturally (as we tried to make them laugh off camera). These portraits portray the unity among men.
I'm also running a crowdfunding campaign around the video to raise money in support of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) to raise awareness and money in aid of male mental health. They are a brilliant suicide prevention and male mental health support charity who do incredible work for the themes of the video."
Finally, what’s coming next for you?
"I've got plenty of tunes coming in 2021 which I've been recording in lockdown. Expect some more upbeat - feel good tunes for Spring and Summer 2021. And of course gigging again hopefully. I'd like to start working on an album, so that may start next year too."
'Shame' is out now.