Winter in Gippsland, we are warming ourselves by the fire as we chat. The interview at the art department of Federation University, the oldest part of the university and surrounded by gardens and patches of bush that are typical of the Australian landscape. Brice Sedgwick grew up not far from here,. The 31 year old artist has spent the last decade traversing the world, with bases in Melbourne, London and LA where he independently wrote and produced his first LP Pacifico, which one critic describes as a “cohesive journey combining a bevy of unlikely genre influences. While ‘Pacifico’ is “pop” in its core, it’s doused in alternative and psychedelic rock, hip hop, industrial, and so much more.”
Sedgwick’s use of the synthesiser also shows the potential of this tool to be utilised as a creative device, when paired with the art of experimentation reveals quirky sounds bordering on ghostly reverberations. The album explores a plethora of themes including sexuality, gender and friendship and the perverse fascination of growing up around drug culture; many of us can identify with these themes that are authentically framed by his own experience.
“I started writing songs for other people. Hearing their stories and crafting a snapshot of life for them to tell. I wanted to write songs that dance over the line; personal yet relatable enough so other people could make it their own, The project turned into a much bigger beast. I realised there were songs that I knew in my bones, that only I wanted to tell. I didn't want to be that person who went through life with half a record in their mind and no music to their name.”
Picture London, early 2015. Sedgwick completed an early song, mostly for himself: 'Midnight In Echo'. Sedgwick views 'Midnight In Echo' as one of his most truly personal pieces, one that he hopes listeners will add to the soundtrack of their own life. “Even though those who listen to it may never have been to the places I write about, the themes I explore will resonate, in the same way that I have related to countless songs in my life. I wanted to make it an interesting sonic journey but also a personal narrative. The way I create songs changes all the time. It could start with a song title that pops into my head and develop from there or it could be lyrics first, chords first. One morning after a heavy night of drinking I went to the piano, hung over and began speaking words over a random chord progression and ten minutes later I had a song completed. The words may come quickly, and the music may have just tripped out of my hands, but the emotion in the song, I assure you, would have been there for a long time. For Midnight in Echo, love was a big inspiration. This place, this energy, Portishead on repeat; how can I develop this place in to a piece of music? So, I started with just the name of the suburb, a trip hop beat and worked from there.”
Is there a physical space that you felt you needed to create?
I was mourning a break up, I was mourning my time in London. I didn’t even have a guitar or a piano. It was a heavy time for me. I went into a few music shops that had a piano in the window and I asked if I was able to use it. Eventually the manager of Hahn’s Pianos in Koreatown agreed to let me use it for one hour a day before the shop opened for business. Why? Because he had lived for a few years in Melbourne and thought it was the best city in the world, and was happy to help. Those 30 minute snatches of time were nothing but everything at the same time. 30 minutes to write a song, rearrange a song, or orchestrate a song; time was short, and adrenaline was pumping.
Can you talk about writing through an lgbt lens and the role of gender in your music?
I’m fairly loose with my use of pronouns in my music. Take it or leave it. You’re going to like it and sing along or not. The use of a he or she in my music shouldn’t ruffle too many feathers, it’s been happening for years. I remember being told by a colleague that music publishers would refuse lyrical changes, which is why when Cosby sung “There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears”, nobody blinked an eye. I’ve no interest in keeping my music strictly palatable, and I think that makes it relatable. I’m going to continue to allow myself to write what I want to write without combing through my music hiding gendered pronouns.
I’m currently working on a body of work that’s more sonically cohesive. I want to keep exploring the psychedelic guitar sound you can hear in Tortoiseshell Sky. I’ve been playing around with a lot of surf guitar and desert rock and I’ve been drenching my ears and eyes with the palm desert scene. The Beach Boys and The Black Keys have been on heavy rotation at the moment, and I’m excited to play some of the new stuff live very soon.”
The murmur of the art department has grown quiet as our interview draws to an end. Sedgwick and photographer PollyannaR take the opportunity to shoot some photographs. Sedgwick appears comfortable in front of the camera as they experiment with different angles and props, including smouldering sticks from the fire.
But of course he is no stranger to exploring creative opportunities when they arise; the frameworks of his creative practice seem to be made up of experimentation, serendipity and grit.
As well as the drive to create some really, really good tunes.