Meet Bugs' Connor Brooker, who launches his solo project with its first song, Miss You
The Brisbane-based favourite launches a new project full of big hooks and fun energy.
Connor Brooker is someone whose music you've no doubt heard before, especially if you're in the depths of Brisbane's tight-knit live music community. He's best known as the lead vocalist of Bugs, the recent breakthrough favourites who found themselves entering 2021 off the back of a string of brilliant singles and their debut Hottest 100 position (their Mallrat Like A Version slotted in at #91, the year after a song of their own - Seriously - snuck in at #194 on the Hottest 200) with plenty more to come. Aside from that, he's also someone you'll commonly find intertwined within that close-connected community mentioned, checking out and working with other Australian acts that thrive as a part of this community.
Despite their busy year, however, Bugs found themselves with a bit of time to spare in the past 12 months; a consequence of a year largely without touring for a band that's become so well-recognised and comfortable on the live stage. In turn, that gave Connor the chance to experiment a little bit and work on music aside from that he writes with his Bugs co-members, eventually leading to a rush of creativity that paves the way for the beginning of his self-titled solo project, which launched the other week with its debut single Miss You.
Miss You veers away from what you'd expect from Bugs but only slightly, keeping the charm and energy that Connor naturally brings to the group as a frontman but distilling it down to its most pure form, which is where Connor's solo stuff moves away from Bugs' work. It's warm and fun, plucking from influences spread throughout the last few decades and capturing them with bright hooks and energetic melodies; something Miss You really introduces to the world as Connor's first solo release.
Talking about the single, Connor mentions nods to coming of age films and their often-empowering closing credits songs; a particular energy captured within those songs present within the backbone of Miss You, thriving amongst its cheer-y melodies and the inspiration it's been built from. It's just an all-around fun-time full-stop, and as Bugs steadily work to whatever comes next for the band, Connor Brooker's solo work offers a nice little taste of their quick-rising, country-adored charm.
We'll leave it to Connor himself to chat more about the song below, but you can take a dive into Miss You below, and stay tuned for more to come throughout the year.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a 27-year-old songwriter from Brisbane, when I’m not flat out working on my primary Noise/Pop band Bugs, I really enjoy trying new stuff in order to expand my horizon and I guess appease my ego a bit. I grew up on a lot of billboard pop before the rite-of-passage transition to independent/alternative music in my teens. It means I’ve always had a pretty polarising wealth of influences applied to my writing, as a result a bunch of musical projects under different monikers over the years.
Perhaps out of necessity due to lack of structured training, I love lo-fi production and learning - I grew up recording covers on audacity with my webcam as a microphone, I have had songs played on national radio that were entirely self-produced in garage-band (again using iPhone headphones for the main vocal take). I’m a firm believer in substance overshine, you can have the nicest studio and most expensive gear in the world - it doesn’t matter if you can’t create unique identity or write a fundamentally strong melody. That’s all a song is to most people anyway, words and tune.
What’s your music like? What does it sound like? What kind of themes does it usually cover?
This new project is high-fi, warm and fuzzy, packed full of sing along hooks. It’s I guess a bit of a throwback to late 90’s coming of age film soundtracks, my love of the OC + an amalgamation of rich textures accompanied by airy-floating vocals. The lyrics and melody are certainly pretty pop-centric, the first song Miss You is about not really knowing where you stand with someone you care about. That funny in-between period when you’re feeling out each other's personality and learning about the other person, the fear associated with that vulnerability. I’m a pretty emotional person so I just drew on experience to guide me with the energy of the song. It’s probably one of the quickest I’ve ever written too, it just kind of naturally fell out.
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
For this new record, it’s been super satisfying, I basically had a moment of clarity realizing last year that despite recording our Bugs release mid-2020 that it wasn’t going to be released till 2022. I write too many songs for that to feel completely satisfying in all honesty, so I collated all my previous favourite solo songs + wrote a bunch of new ones and decided to aim pretty high in terms of mixing. I got in touch with Sam Cromack, and much to my surprise he was really excited to work on the music together. Basically, I recorded most of the songs myself at home over the course of a few weeks and then piece by piece I take them to Sam and his studio and we refine the mix, add new parts and textures, talk about structure.
He has been such an incredible person to help guide me with this, I can’t understate my appreciation for his patience and energy. It’s pretty surreal to be working with one of your heroes, even more-so to have a satisfactory celebratory knock-off beer reminiscing on the days work afterward. It’s a very positive relationship and workflow, we just have a great time. Pretty convenient his studio is a 3-minute walk from my house too haha. We’re close to finishing all 10 tracks for the album, it’s kind of bittersweet thinking such an enjoyable process is close to its completion - but dwared by the satisfaction of listening to these incredible mixes and having made a new friend.
Can you tell us a bit about this new single, Miss You, and its video clip?
Miss You was written in November last year, I was pretty confused after a breakdown in communication with a girl I really liked (as lame as that sounds). I guess writing it was that cliche way of processing the emotions and understanding what had happened, retrospectively if it hadn’t occurred I probably never would have had the inspiration or motivation to start pursuing this solo music again. So basically, rejection can foster growth.
I shot the video with my roommate Jaden at home in one afternoon, we just wanted to make something simple and beautiful that didn’t try and distract from the song too much. Plus being a ‘debut’ single I guess I wanted to use it as a bit of a personal introduction - so duh, here’s three minutes of MY FACE hehe.
What do you have planned for 2021?
I’m doing some shows in Brisbane to try and build a bit of a following here before trying to do anything interstate - plus Bugs have some pretty hectic touring schedules on the immediate horizon so I’m wary of over-committing despite seemingly being addicted to it. I just want to finish making the album the best it can be sonically, release more songs and do more expansive videos that are truly representative of the messages in my music.
Overall I’ve got pretty broad, open ended and large plans for this project. But I understand building something of character and quality takes time and patience, so I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be doing any of this at all - as vague as that sounds it is the truth. I think last year taught me a lot about perspective and appreciation. It’s great to have dreams and goals, but my main one is being happy, right now I am successful because I feel like I am living true to my values and appreciate the opportunity that luck has afforded me. Music consumes my whole life.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
That is a really tough question. I think once you release a song and kind of put it out in to the public it becomes a shared, malleable thing. People are so diverse in their personalities, life experience and way that they value / or enjoy music. What I’m seeking above all else is a connection, for the listener to feel something when they hear my music. That’s the goal, and that is the most beautiful result. The emotional power of having experiences where you can relate to a stranger can be profound. I don’t expect everyone to enjoy my music, taste is personal, but if they can appreciate it comes from a place of honesty then that is pretty nice too.
Where can we find more of your music?
Here! Just about any streaming platform in the world, but if you’re wanting to support me the best place to be is on Bandcamp. Truly the only ‘artist first’ based service that prioritize fair pay splits. If you trawl youtube, you’ll find some of those hilarious high school covers too - I’ll probably regret advising people to seek that out but feeling confident today hahaha.