When talking about the electronic music scene most people picture colossal rave parties at the legendary Berghain and Panorama Bar in Berlin, but Strange Boy offers a refreshing take on the genre. The young duo from London joined forces two years ago to create a compelling new sound that mixes electro notes with classical elements. Kieran Brunt, one half of Strange Boy, is a musician, writer and Cambridge choral scholar alumnus, whilst Matt Huxley has made a name for himself by working in theatre, circus, film, and as a solo artist. But what makes this duo of Oxbridge alumnus so special? Their unique style is heavily influenced by Kieran’s choral background and Matt’s passion for electronic, having already had a track released by renowned Icelandic label Bedroom Community. A formidable pairing when collaborating, the duo also work on solo projects separately. Kieran has recently collaborated with artists of the likes of Terry Riley, Anna von Hausswolff and is now working on Nils Frahm’s next album; whilst Matt has a remix of Nico Muhly’s music coming out on Bedroom Community soon. The busy pair is currently working on their first EP Annunciation. Launching their debut video Brooding, Kieran talks to Schön! about the music industry, collaborations and the future of Strange Boy.
You are releasing your debut video Brooding, which you describe as an intense and graphic exploration of sexuality and guilt. How did you come up with the idea for the track and then the visuals?
The track came first and is essentially an attempt at a self-exorcism. I thought about how we spend so much of our time trying to be so nice that we often end up repressing our basest and most animalistic tendencies… There are people who take advantage of this to get what they want. The song is a response to those people, a release of pent-up frustration. With this song, I wanted to bare my teeth and indulge in an aggression that I don’t really express in my day-to-day life.
The idea for the video came about afterward. I was really keen for Jacob to be in it and for his story to be a part of the video itself, so we all met up to devise the concept together. We spoke at lengths about image, gender, sexuality, guilt, shame… eventually, we found ourselves obsessing with the concept of a self-exorcism. I love the idea of extracting the things about yourself that have caused you pain, anger, and discomfort and engaging with them in an intense, cathartic ritual. It’s not all brute-like though; there are definitely moments of tenderness and vulnerability.
For this video, you’ve collaborated with London-based director Theo Davies. How did this collaboration come about?
Theo has worked with Matt on a few things, and we’re big fans of the videos he’s done with Kero Kero Bonito. He has a really visceral way of communicating ideas, which worked so well here. It’s cool that this video is totally different to what he’s done before.
In the video, a young man walks into a forest. He makes something, engages with it, loves it, fucks it, chases it, fights it, kills it and destroys it. It’s a metaphor that I hope many can relate to! Our hope was that the video would be open to different interpretations.
How did you come about casting drag queen sensation, model and Cambridge grad Jacob Mallinson Bird to star in the video?
Jacob and I have been friends for a while, having studied music together at university. He’s a man of many talents, so he was an obvious choice for this video. What I was blown away by was how incredible his acting skills were; this is a side of him that I’d not seen before. The intense acting is a really crucial part of this video. Theo was not sure about hiring a male model at first but it worked out better than we could’ve hoped.
Jacob and I did a deal for this video – in return for his performance I had to appear on stage in drag and perform a couple of songs with him. It was fun, but I’m glad that the performance wasn’t as permanently documented as this…
Your sound is really eclectic, mixing electronic and classical elements such as violins and choral section,s. How would you describe your music?
Our sound is a pretty honest expression of who we are as musicians. We both have backgrounds in classical music and are very passionate about electronic music. My songs and lyrics tend to be drawn towards darker themes, so we aim to build electronic textures that correspond with them. The songs usually start with me and then we work together to flesh out the arrangements, always aiming to make a distinctively unique sound world for each track. Matt is brilliant at creating interesting and unusual sounds, which is exactly what we want Strange Boy to be.
You have set up your own new independent label named Glass Guts. How important is it for you to remain independent?
Glass Guts is something I’m really excited about starting. We spent a lot of time thinking about which labels to approach with our music but it seems that many have a particular style or sound that they are looking for. We want to make our own mark, so rather than worrying about pleasing certain A&R people, we thought we’d start a collective of artists ourselves.
Glass Guts’ main aim is to celebrate bold, distinctive music that really does its own thing. If an artist finds it hard to describe their music then we want to hear it! We’ve already signed a couple of really great artists who we’ll be unveiling soon…
What artists would you say have influenced your sound?
This is a hard one. We listen to a lot of electronic, dance, hip-hop, indie… I listen to contemporary classical music a lot and am obsessed with folk music too. I think the most recent album that we both adored was Anohni’s Hopelessness.
What can we expect from your upcoming EP Annunciation?
It’s not quite as angsty as Brooding but the sound is definitely similar. We recorded it with a great producer in Paris and had it mastered at Greenhouse Studios in Iceland, so the production is very shiny. We made an effort to put the emphasis on storytelling and making the lyrics very intimate. But we don’t want to give too much away…
You’ve been long-listed for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, how did that feel?
It was totally unexpected! We chucked in an application on a whim and totally forgot about it, so it was a real surprise when we got told. We didn’t think our music would resonate with any of the judges and thought that they’d go for rock/pop bands with a wider appeal. For a band like us, it’s a real privilege to get some recognition from an institution like Glasto.
Do you have any exciting projects for the future you’d like to share?
After Annunciation is out we’re hopefully off to New York to make the next EP. In the meantime, we’ll be doing a label night in London and Berlin in June; so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Discover Brooding here.
Words / Sara Delgado
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