Catching Up With V V Brown, a Self-Described 'Risk Junkie'
By Alex Panisch
“I’m a risk junkie,” singer-songwriter V V Brown tells me on the phone from her home in London. “I think I’m only just realizing this part of my personality. I find it’s really difficult, as an artist, to make stuff when it’s easy.” Ms. Brown certainly has not made things easy for herself. She chose not to release Lollipops and Politics, the follow up to her smash hit debut albumTraveling Like the Light; she left her major label, Island Records, to start her own, YOY Records. This all on top of turning down spots at Oxford and LSE to pursue a career in music.
I caught up with V V recently after the video for “Samson,” the first single off her upcoming album, Samson & Delilah, debuted. The video is the first part of a 20-minute long short film that will accompany the album. We talked about how she’s grown as a person, how her sound has changed with her, and the scariest moment in her life.
Out: Without comparing yourself to anybody else, how would you describe your sound?
V V Brown: My sound has changed quite a lot in the last few years. If I had to use the new album as a reference point, I’m calling it “dark and electronic and alternative.” It kind of feels like you’re going down the dark side of me, exploring a more a serious intensity of my personality that I don’t think I’ve shown before.
Why did you want to go in that direction?
I wrote Traveling Like the Light in 2008 and a lot of the time an album is a snapshot of everything you’re feeling and learning and wanting to express in that moment and then you have to tour that moment and promote that moment over the space of two to five years. When you actually analyze how much people change in two to five years, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get to your second album and be almost a different person. Especially if you’re making a record in your early twenties and making your second record towards your late twenties.
Your twenties are probably the most drastic decade when it comes to change so for me I had become a completely different person. I’m listing to different kinds of music and my ethics and fashion sense have changed. It’s to the public it seems drastic but for me it’s been something I’ve been developing for six years. I felt that I had to stay true to that. If I made another “Shark in the Water,” I would be pretending.
There’s an vast, epic feel to the record, especially with songs like “Beginning” and “Samson.” Where did this grandeur come from?
That came with my need to express this level of intensity, but I also am a huge fan of film music. It’s always been my dream to score a film and I feel that this record is touching on that drama and my love for film music.
If you could score any film, what genre would you score?
I think it would have to be a war film. Perhaps with a romantic subplot running through it. I love the piano and I’m classically trained on the piano. In war films you often get extremely pulverized sounds of an extremely simple piano on its own with the grandeur of the strings and the timpani; you have scope to go really minimal and then go really extreme.
I was also listening to a lot opera at the time. If you listen to the record, even the way I’m singing is very different and that’s because of the opera.
You get a lot of the operatic sound in the record, like in “Beginning.”
That songs about the beginning of time. If you listen to the lyrics it’s about how the Earth was formed. It was also a one-taker. Everything you hear has not been rerecorded, it’s just a demo that’s been mastered.
There are a lot of biblical references in the album. It’s called “Samson and Delilah.” Why want to did you use those references?
I was reading the Bible and what struck me was the story of Samson and Delilah. It is such an extremely beautiful story. My whole career has been a high and low experience of highs and lows and twists and turns. Sampson was strong, but then he became weak when his hair was cut, but then he became strong again. There’s a lot a of symbolism in that because I left my label and I set up my own label. I felt weak, I felt really scared and crippled; it was probably the scariest moment of my life.
When you’re a young artist you work your butt of to get signed to a major and I was signed to a major and had a very successful record and to walk away from all that was really scary. I felt like my hair had been cut and Delilah represents the corporation.
This wasn’t an easy process I take it.
I realized that in my life, every time I’ve made something, it’s come out of a struggle. Traveling Like the Light didn’t come out of a place that was easy. I lived in LA and had a bad relationship and came out of that, then I played the London clubs, then I lost my house, and then Traveling Like the Light was made. I like to feel like I don’t know what’s happening so I can feel enough to make something that’s interesting. I guess it’s quite sadistic but I follow my instincts.
Samson & Delilah comes out October 8. Check out the videos for "Sampson" and "The Apple" below.