Brazzaville’s Siberian Traditions

 David Brown, frontman of the indie band, has shown the world the «home concert» format  05/12/2014, 18:53

Katya Stromova
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Brazzaville’s Siberian Traditions
Photography by Sergei Mordvinov

David Brown, founder of the band Brazzaville, regularly visits Russia, delighting fans with both official concerts and regular intimate performances. The musician introduced listeners to his latest album Morro Bay — the long life story of an imaginary girl — on 25 April at club Truba. David told Sib.fm’s correspondent how to be happier and why people need music.

A rock star is always a role model, whether they’re a positive or negative character. It’s possible to call you a «father in three persons» — you’re the head of your family, the founder of the band and an example for your audience. What’s the easiest thing to be?

Everything is easy. At the end of the day, I’ve been really lucky — I’m doing what I love. So many people work where they don’t want to, for example, in banks. Although there must be some people who like it! But such prospects aren’t really for me. Anyway, I don’t behave like a father in the band — I don’t lecture anyone and don’t throw my weight around. For travelling, conversations before and after performances and, of course, music, it’s better to surround yourself with friends. And it’s also easier to communicate with the audience on an equal footing. So I avoid fatherhood, except when I’m dealing with my children.

You’ve said many times that the existence of the «ego» depresses you. As things stand now, can you live in peace with yourself?

Oh. Sometimes you wake up in the morning and think, «Hmm, well, David, aren’t you just a piece of shit». It might mean that I haven’t had enough sleep, and I don’t like you. And I don’t like you especially. And I don’t like myself either!

The «ego» forces you to make comparisons. You get the feeling that its only goal is to make people as unhappy as possible.

In general, it is necessary to grasp one simple thing: God made you the way you are, you’re already perfect. If you accept yourself, you’ll be able to accept others too. And another thing — until you do that, nothing will make you happy: neither wealth nor fame. They won’t makes things any worse either, but they don’t guarantee anything. I tried in every possible way. Every day I remind myself that my life is pretty damn good, it could have been much worse, and I’m lucky and have no reason to suffer.

Your new album Morro Bay is an entire conceptual record, which you’ve never done before. Perhaps you’ve started to play differently too, and we should listen to Morro Bay differently to previous Brazzaville material?

No, special conditions aren’t required; the themes are still the same as before. As before, I love elements of spontaneity in performances, we never even have a setlist — a few new songs, a few that the audience already knows and loves. For Russians, it’s nice to sing the song that we did with Zemfira (David recorded the track Mistress for project The Uchpochmak — Sib.fm comment). This is how I see the aim of a show: people come to a bar and forget about everything for a couple of hours: their heartbreak, money, worries and problems. We communicate, enjoy the music together and remember what it means to feel happy. When we manage to make the audience forget themselves and relax, I forget about everything myself.

All music encyclopedias call Brazzaville an indie band. Is this a good definition, do you like it?

Broadly speaking, «indie» is just «independent» — it doesn’t mean or stand for anything at all. But people really need definitions, although all these labels only confuse us rather than helping to understand. How can you describe Lou Reed’s style? What about David Bowie? Rock? Well, it’s rock too, but that’s a bit restrictive. So what’s Metallica? Metal?

Perhaps the term «indie» actually helps to get rid of labels.

A few years ago you took the Siberian tradition of «home concerts» («kvartirnik» in Russian) away with you. How does this format work in other countries?

It works well both in Europe and the States. I swear I played the first kvartirnik in the history of Istanbul; no one in Turkey even knew that it’s possible! No one has ever drunk as much at my home concerts as the Turks. They brought buckets of alcohol with them.

I had to warn them, like, guys, I don’t have a microphone, so you drink as much as you want, of course, but do it quietly. Sasha, the guy from Barnaul who, in fact, suggested that I play my first mini-concert, did a great job organising everything. I sang, then during the breaks we ate fruit, drank tea and talked to the guests. I love this magical atmosphere. We have time to play music, exchange interesting facts and tell little funny stories. Recently, I heard about how one guy sends texts when he goes to see his grandmother in the countryside. He has to go to a certain place, type the text and throw the phone up in the air to catch the signal.

You call yourself an American. At the same time, you travel constantly and live in Spain. How did that happen?

It wasn’t really a deliberate decision, but I don’t believe in chance either. Take my daughter, for example. We weren’t planning to have a child, but I don’t even want to think about a world without her. It’s the same thing with Barcelona — we didn’t consciously move; a series of unconnected events led us there. Only then did it become clear what a magical city it is. Barcelona is really small, like a fairytale kingdom with the sea and mountains. I work mostly with American and Russian musicians, then in Spain I relax, spend time with my family, swim in the pool.

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