The Real Deal: An hon­est inter­view with Brooke Candy

Now free from major label bullshit, the daring artist is no longer limited by anyone else’s fears.

It’s 2pm in Los Ange­les, where Brooke Can­dy is laid in bed with her win­dow open. I can hear the birds chirp­ing,” she says sweet­ly over our call, telling me she’s chillax­ing’ today after a series of back-to-back per­for­mances. Her most recent gig was part of a fundrais­er for the Tom of Fin­land Foun­da­tion, which is fit­ting; like the icon­ic queer illus­tra­tor, Brooke is well-versed infus­ing sex, fetish and hyper-stylised por­tray­als of gen­der to cre­ate slick, sub­ver­sive art.

Finland’s aes­thet­ic is sim­i­lar­ly stamped across Brooke’s pho­to shoot for The Face, impro­vised last-minute along­side long-term col­lab­o­ra­tor Matt King. I actu­al­ly had a shoot booked with [a dif­fer­ent] mag­a­zine,” she explains, but they sent this ultra-racist mood board, which was abu­sive to ani­mals. They had a set-up of me with a real, sev­ered pig’s head between my legs, and they want­ed me to tat­too it.” Every­one in her team agreed the premise was vile and dis­gust­ing”; and they decid­ed to not show up, so Brooke took the pre-arranged team to make mag­ic on their own terms. The space was like an ice-cold under­ground lair,” she laughs, but I’d rather shoot there than pro­mote that imagery.”

Brooke is an advo­cate as well as an artist and musi­cian. She defends ani­mal rights, rages against queer per­se­cu­tion and posts can­did­ly about her men­tal health on social media, in the hopes of reach­ing fans with sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences. The oth­er day, I got a tat­too over a cut,” she tells me. I used to self-muti­late – I’m bipo­lar and man­ic depres­sive – so I’ve been get­ting hap­py tat­toos over my scars, not to cov­er them com­plete­ly, but to remem­ber that I don’t have to take it to that place if I feel sad. A fan wrote that it gave her hope; that she want­ed to be alive. Com­ments like that make trans­paren­cy so worth it.”

Musi­cal­ly, Brooke has spent the last few years try­ing dif­fer­ent son­ic direc­tions to hone her own blue­print. From rap (Das Me) to indus­tri­al punk (War) and pol­ished pop (Vol­cano), she’s exper­i­ment­ed before set­tling on the refresh­ing, excit­ing” sound of debut album Sex­or­cism, ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled for a Sep­tem­ber release. It was a mir­a­cle,” she exhales, say­ing she spent half her sav­ings to fly to Lon­don and record with UK musi­cians Ash­nikko and Oscar Scheller, who played a sig­nif­i­cant role for the project. Ash­nikko is basi­cal­ly a savant! We agreed she would help with an EP if I helped with a music video, but we had three tracks done in a day… with­in four days we had twelve strong, cohe­sive songs!”

I’m con­vinced the label signed me as a tax write-off! There were so many push­backs, and I shouldn’t need my art approved by like ten old white men who are like, what the fuck is this?’”

With the album more or less fin­ished, Brooke toured to stack some mon­ey” and then began reach­ing out for fea­tures. I have basi­cal­ly all of my dream col­lab­o­ra­tors – there’s Boyz Noize, Rico Nasty and TOOPOOR, and then there’s the sin­gle XXXTC com­ing on 17 July, which fea­tures Char­li XCX and Mali­ibu Mitch, this insane rap­per who pulls from like, old-school Foxy Brown. The video is crazy, too – it’s like Michael and Janet’s Scream meets Madonna’s Human Nature with this LSD-style sur­re­al­ism. Son­i­cal­ly, the vibe is uber-sex­u­al, freaky, weird and non­sen­si­cal! I have a 90s house track with [RuPaul’s Drag Race stars] Aquar­ia and Vio­let Chach­ki that I want­ed to mim­ic Erot­i­ca, so it’s us whis­per­ing the nas­ti­est shit over this incred­i­ble bassline.” Brooke slips briefly into char­ac­ter: oh, you wan­na eat it? Eat my ass!”

Bet­ter still, Brooke now has a label she trusts cour­tesy of Lon­don-based exper­i­men­tal musi­cian Sega Bode­ga, who signed her to the NUXXE imprint. After being at a major, I was like I’m nev­er sign­ing to anoth­er label again, they’re the antichrist!’ I want­ed to fig­ure out dis­tri­b­u­tion and every­thing on my own, but it just kills you – it’s too much work. So I played the album to Sega, who said: I’ll sort it and we won’t take any mon­ey because you did it all your­self. I just want you to suc­ceed, Brooke.’”

In her eyes, the album is a fresh start; a cre­ative rebirth fol­low­ing the glossy pop she released on a major label. I watched [Sia col­lab­o­ra­tion] Liv­ing Out Loud the oth­er day – I lit­er­al­ly think it’s the worst song ever made,” she laughs. I love Sia, she’s like an angel on earth, but that wasn’t my song and you could tell! Here’s a true fuck­ing sto­ry – Peach­es said to my friend, Brooke Can­dy is work­ing with Sia, I want to work with Sia!’ Then that song came out, and Peach­es was like, I don’t want to work with Sia any more.’”

Brooke has no regrets but describes relief at her inde­pen­dence. I’m con­vinced the label signed me as a tax write-off! There were so many push­backs, and I shouldn’t need my art approved by like ten old white men who are like, what the fuck is this?’ Maybe my art is too sub­ver­sive; every­thing in pop cul­ture feels real­ly homogenised right now, and that’s not my gig.”

But after years of fine-tun­ing, Brooke feels ready to release her debut; she’s hap­pi­ly mar­ried, sur­round­ed by like-mind­ed cre­atives and unteth­ered by the com­mer­cial restric­tions of a major label. As for the trolls? It’s the cul­ture we live in – peo­ple are angry, but they mis­di­rect that rage at allies and artists instead of politi­cians pass­ing leg­is­la­tion; they’re the ones who are fuck­ing us all.” Despite her increased con­fi­dence, Brooke admits a com­ment can still ruin her day – I lit­er­al­ly spend the day in bed, cry­ing hys­ter­i­cal­ly with the blinds drawn.” But this is a marked improve­ment on the past. After a pause for reflec­tion, she con­cludes: I used to draw the blinds for two weeks, so I do real­ly feel like I’m in a good place now.”

Cloth­ing cred­its: Spank­ing Gir­dle by Sian Hoff­man (The Mod­el Trai­tor Col­lec­tion); Sheer Ruf­fle Dress by Roberts Wood; Corset by Sian Hoff­man (The Mod­el Trai­tor Col­lec­tion); Leather Blind­fold by Fleet; IlyaBra and Zip Thong Set by Savan­nah Lin­gerie; Leather Ilona Busti­er by R&M Leathers; Met­al Mask by Eka­te­ri­na Vide­va; Leather Mul­ti Buck­le Corset by Fleet Ilya; Mesh Tank Body­suit by Savan­nah Lin­gerie; Leather Dia­bo­lik Body­suit by R&M Leathers; Shoes & Stock­ings stylist’s own; Jew­ellery Brooke’s own

Spe­cial thanks to VFD (Vogue Fab­rics Dalston)


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