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Brooke Bentham

Biography

Brooke Bentham’s Everyday Nothing chronicles the inertia of life as an artist post-graduation. Guitars veer from spectral one minute to menacing the next. Her lyrics are both personal and elliptical, flashing relatable truths. Confronted with the mundanities of life and caught between two jobs in London, Brooke finds intense lyricism in the struggle for purpose and direction.

There is so much frustration in being young and unsure of what you want, especially when your path is creative,” says Brooke. “You can only hope that it leads you to something fulfilling, so you cling on to the everyday details — burning candles in your bedroom at three AM aged sixteen, or having a bath in the evening at twenty three, or watching your breath when you step outside in winter. I was reflecting a lot when I wrote these songs, romanticising those moments.”

Written entirely by Brooke, with a few contributions from producer Bill Ryder-Jones (who’s own album Yawny Yawn was showered with 4 and 5 star reviews last year), Everyday Nothing documents a fast-rising 23-year-old looking to make sense of her existence.

Widely acclaimed for a debut single released during her first year at Goldsmiths University and signed (to Believe) in her second, Brooke began Everyday Nothing as soon as her studies were over.

I was supposed to start, but mostly I lay in bed,” she says of those first few months after graduation. “I read a lot of books and I wrote a lot of notes, but I didn’t come up with a single song. I didn’t have a job. Nothing was going on. I had fuck all to write about.”

In need of more income, she hauled herself out into the world of work and started again. With routine re-established by getting a job in a shoe shop, her notebooks were soon filled with everyday images: dead flowers on a window sill, the feel of keys in her hand as she approached home, snippets of conversations, scenes from the rom-coms, novels and poetry she’d been reading. These shards captured the essence of her internal life at the time.

The first song finished for it was album closer My Baby Lungs, which has the narcotising allure of Nancy Sinatra and Nico channelled through the woozy aesthetic of Angel Olsen.

The lyrics are me, right after I finished uni,” says Brooke. “Basically, super depressed. I’d lie in bed and hate myself for it. I had to give myself a real kick up the arse.” For the first time in her life Brooke had to depend on music to give her days’ direction and was forced into inventing her own rules.

Future single ‘Keep It Near’, which the album’s title is taken from, details Brooke’s life around the same time, although with typical Brooke-like ambivalence.

It’s the banger,” she says with a wry smile, “but it’s not particularly happy. It’s about me trying to figure out how to stay in love with making music while not getting the results I’d hoped for. ‘I left my mouth to become yours’ is me saying that I’ve surrendered myself to music, but it’s not what I thought it would be.

The song also contains one of the album’s many sharp biographical quips: ‘Even my mother will tell you I’m not good at affection’. “All of the lyrics are true,” Brooke reflects, “although they don’t necessarily make sense. I’ve never been fond of straightforward storytelling”

The album’s immersive first single is the superbly-titled ‘All My Friends Are Drunk’.

Also true,” laughs Brooke, “although the song is more about me missing home. I mention the Tyne and The Cumberland, which is a pub my dad and I used to visit to hear folk music.”

I’d been out of uni for nearly two years when I wrote it. I’m looking back at who I was then and how much I’ve changed since. The lyrics are a bit of a stream of consciousness and the vocals are ridiculous, almost whispered. They shouldn’t work with all the guitars, but they do. I put that down to Bill’s brilliance.”

Introduced to Ryder-Jones last year through her manager, the pair hit it off immediately.

Their first song together, last autumn’s shoegazing single ‘Out Of My Mind’ — which found a fan in Iggy Pop — marked a change of direction for Brooke, whose previous releases had leaned more towards folk than rock. “Meeting Bill changed everything,” says Brooke. “It was the first time I’d had a chance to make music as I heard it in my head.”

Growing up in South Shields with three older brothers and a music-obsessed dad, Brooke first started singing at the theatre school she attended every Saturday from seven to seventeen. There she discovered that it was music she loved more than acting (though she naturally still harbours her childhood hopes of a role in Blood Brothers), and while studying for her music GCSE, a teacher spotted her talent and encouraged her to get gigs.

For three years she busked and played pubs and open-mic nights around Newcastle, often sharing a stage with her friend Sam Fender, who stole her version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In the Dark’ and will finally repay the favour this November by taking Brooke on tour.

After completing her A-levels, Brooke won a place at Goldsmiths to study popular music. She was barely into her first year when her first single ‘Oliver’, released through indie label Trellis, generated an avalanche of acclaim which lead to a management deal. She eventually signed to Believe in 2017 while only in the second year of her BA.

The acoustic ’Oliver’ was in fact an old song, written back when Brooke was busking and listening to Fleet Foxes and Angel Olsen. During her studies, she took up electric guitar and her tastes broadened to include ‘90s rock bands, notably Low and Mazzy Star, Yo La Tengo, Broadcast and Bjork.

She released a pair of EPs produced by Ben Baptie (Young Fathers, Daughter). Both This Rapture and The Room Swayed landed her songs on Radio 1 and saw her music hailed as ‘austerely beautiful’ by The Times, ‘formidable’ by The Line of Best Fit and ‘bewitching’ by DIY. Festival offers came flooding in, and Brooke spent the summer playing Reading & Leeds, Latitude and Green Man. After finishing her third year, Brooke tried to begin working on Everyday Nothing as soon as her studies were over.

By the time she left, she had a band and a desire to make music drenched in dreamy guitars. Hence her label suggested Ryder-Jones. The pair exchanged playlists and found common ground.

His included The Verve, Duster, Eric’s Trip, Red House Painters and Pavement. I was listening to the rockier Angel Olsen stuff and Aldous Harding at the time. Different eras, but similar sounds.”

At Ryder-Jones’ studio in West Kirby they recorded ‘Out Of My Mind’ and the spectral ‘High’.

High isn’t like anything else on the album,” says Brooke. “When I took it to Bill it had a Neil Young vibe. He turned it in to this almost Portishead/Air song. He thought it was about someone high on drugs, but actually it began with a line from my mam complaining that I never call her.”

Following a support tour with Soccer Mommy in the UK and Scandinavia, Brooke was back in the studio last Christmas, leaving with ‘My Baby Lungs’, romantic album opener ‘With Love’ and dramatic forthcoming single ‘Perform For You’, inspired by the toxic power dynamics at the heart of a novel she was reading, about a man treating his girlfriend badly to make himself feel better.

’Perform For You’ is probably my favourite because it reminds me of lots of the music I love,” says Brooke. “It has so many different guitar parts. Once we’d recorded that, I knew we were making an album. Musically, I was exactly where I wanted to be.”

Everyday Nothing was completed in two further spells with Ryder-Jones, the final was this May. Among the last songs recorded were the sparse, strummed ‘Without’, an ode to Brooke’s boyfriend, and ‘Control’, written after a strange falling out with a friend. ‘Men I Don’t Know’ deals with Brooke’s dislike of certain aspects of the music industry.

Sometimes I wish I could keep music as a hobby,” she says who, to her manager’s bemusement, refuses to give up either of her two jobs despite all the time she has to take off to tour. “If I didn’t have a real job I wouldn’t write,” says Brooke. “I need structure and deadlines or I get nothing done.”

The album’s artwork reflects its title and is a nod to Yo La Tengo and Gregory Crewsden “We tried to create something unnerving in an otherwise mundane photograph. I became obsessed with Gregory Crewdson work. His images should be boring – so little happens in them — but the lighting suggests something otherworldly.”

Everyday Nothing soundtracks the reality for many young people today. One in which hopes and dreams play out in a haze of confusion and frustration. Brooke captures this existential vulnerability, the baffling day to day-ness of a young life in the most relatable, poetic and compelling of works.

A lot of life is boring and predictable, but I hope this album is a way of saying that with some charm.”