It’d be a true shock if you hadn’t heard the voice of Brando before.
The LA-born-and-bred singer and songwriter was the vocalist behind one of the great dance records of the late ’10s – the untouchable Body by Loud Luxury. Brando’s effortless and utterly unique vocal delivery, one that doesn’t hold onto notes for too long but delivers them like daggers, really makes him a standout on often oversung dance records that find a vocalist competing for attention with a hard, loud beat.
Originally gravitating towards RnB, Brando has found community and his true sound within the dance-pop realm, and in this conversation you’ll find a really exciting – and excited – pop vocalist with a massive future ahead for him.
Look Into My Eyes – Brando’s record is currently #4 on the Australian Shazam chart and is building as a radio smash. Nic Kelly’s in bold, Brando’s in not-bold.
Brando. What’s happening?
Just sitting here, looking at the dark in LA.
Everyone lives in LA. How long have you lived there for?
I was basically born and raised here! I’ve never really thought of living anywhere else. Especially with music, it’s super convenient, because everyone comes here.
How are you feeling with everything? How have you navigated the last few weeks?
Good! You know, I’m fortunate, since I’m in music it’s still quite non-stop, whereas if I worked a normal job, at least here, they have a lot of people staying at home and you can’t go and work. So in my case I’m still working, lately I’m working more, which is ironic, but I’ve just had a bunch of releases in the last few weeks and so it’s just been non-stop, doing interviews or recording music. I haven’t really felt any kind of ‘lull’ period really? It’s just weird sometimes when I can’t go out to dinner with my girlfriend, anything like that, the rudimentary stuff of everyday life that you take for granted in some ways.
Let’s talk about the music because there’s so much happening for you, you have this song, which is absolutely blowing up in Australia, which is so exciting.
It’s crazy. Actually, it kind of leads back to the whole virus thing, where obviously the song’s doing really well over there, but I can’t come over and meet people in person or do that whole usual thing that you do. So it’s definitely an interesting kind of situation.
I think there’s something weirdly cool about whilst the whole world is stopped, we’ve got more time to listen to music, and this is the time that Look Into My Eyes and started to go wild. This isn’t the first time Australians have heard you though, because obviously you had Body with Loud Luxury, which was the anthem over here for a few months. It must feel cool to now step out and have a song that’s just Brando, at the very front of the project. The song is incredible. And obviously, it’s got that sample in it that everyone’s talking about from Charles and Eddie. How did this whole track come about?
You know the artist, Pitbull?
Yes. I am across Pitbull.
He had actually done a remix of Body, like a year back, and he loved the remix so much that he brought me out to a songwriting camp he had in Miami. At that camp he had a bunch of top producers there and one of the producers I linked up with used to be a DJ, but then he turned into like a big hip-hop producer. We were just kind of chatting and then talking about Body, and I explained that I wanted to get into more dance-pop, separate from the features I was doing. We got in the studio in LA once we got back and one of the first songs we made was Look Into My Eyes because he really wanted to work on a ‘flip’ song, like an old 80s or 90s track, which I’d never thought of doing before. I love 90s songs in general, because I’m just a 90s kid, and then Would I Lie To You by Charles & Eddie was one of the main ‘playlisting’ songs on Spotify for the 90s section. We listened to it and I just that hook was amazing for, like, a new dance song, essentially. I went into the booth, re-cut it and just made the new track, made the new verses and it just kind of worked!
That could be potentially why the song is doing really well at the moment, because I think in times of crisis, people want something that is familiar to them in a certain way, something that’s comforting and so they kind of can grasp onto a certain section of the song, but then hear this really unique take on it and this really modern version, must make people feel a little bit more comfortable with the song.
That’s actually so true, and that’s part of the big thing with flips to, there’s that familiarity. With this whole lockdown situation, it could be people are gravitating to it based on that familiarity even more so.
I love what you’re doing with the amount of kind of genres you’re sort of melting together in a way that kind of hasn’t really been done for a while. I think kids who have been on the R&B side of things for a long time really are a little bit scared of dance-pop music but that’s the opposite with you. What is it that excites you about the world of dance music?
It’s funny because it was one of those things I’d never thought about until a few years ago when I met Loud Luxury here in LA. I was in a band at the time. It was like a The Weeknd style band, darker R&B – but still pop – but never any kind of dance-related anything. We were just playing at this little French bar in LA, it was a terrible show, but Loud Luxury had shown up to see the main act. They came early, saw us and instead of seeing the main act, they just walked up to me and said, “let’s get together, let’s work,” so I met up with them a couple of weeks later at their apartment. At the time they were sharing a one-bedroom In Hollywood. It used to be Charlie Manson’s old apartment?! Super creepy. They wanted me to play some originals that I had, some catalogue songs. One of those catalogue songs was the original Body, the same topline, but totally different tracks. So they took that topline, flipped the track, and that turned into the first dance song I ever made, technically. Then I just got fortunate in the sense that it just took off, kind of immediately and all of a sudden I fell into the dance world, haphazardly. I’d never had anything against dance music, like some of my friends did… especially with hip hop, R&B, some people are weird about it… I never had anything against dance, I thought it was cool, it just never was a lane I was working in. Then all of a sudden, with Body doing well, I was thrust into it, going to all of the clubs, all of the dance festivals all of a sudden and I kind of just fell in love with it! I guess in some ways, it was a matter of the circumstances, but then, to me it just became a part of my life in such a way that I wanted it to also be part of my own personal music.
That’s really special. That’s a really special way of discovering it.
Yeah! It’s trippy. Especially because DJs and stuff, they just grew up with it and it’s what they’ve always wanted, they usually have been around it all their life, then I just… fell into it and all of a sudden now it’s the type of music I like making.
And there’s nothing like being at a dance music festival, is there?
Oh yeah. It’s crazy. I also before Body, seeing all those highlight reels they do at the big festivals like Tomorrowland. Even if you’re not a dance fan, those things look really cool, the way they put them all together, the atmosphere of it, so there was always that inkling of me being interested. And then Body kind of just pushed me over the edge into the whole culture of it.
That gives me goosebumps. It just makes me want to be able to get back out and see dance music live again.
I was doing a radio interview the other day, and I was chatting about when the most likely that we’ll be back to going to concerts, especially like the festivals, will be? The festivals will take a long time because it’s just so many people in one area, you know, like right now – at least here – we can’t even go to the beach. So it’s like
It feels like it’s gonna be until we get like a vaccine.
I feel like part of the battle is really in people’s consciences too. Even if the virus isn’t out there anymore in a couple of months, people won’t want to be like around other people because not being around other people is already in our heads!
We adjusted to it and when we go back to hugging people and like moshing with people, it’s gonna be a whole other thing! So, I suppose most people in Australia have now heard Look Into My Eyes. Definitely everyone in Australia has heard Body. What do they need to know about Brando and what’s to come and who you are?
Ultimately, I kind of just see myself as like a pop act that likes to mix genres in general. It doesn’t just have to be a dance song, doesn’t just have to be like a pure pop song, In general I just like making music that I see as like, palatable in some way. I just always kind of liked that kind of music. And I like the idea of mixing genres and not being stuck in just a certain kind of lane. With my own music I try to be, in some ways, deeper than a ‘cookie cutter’ pop song, but not Billie Eilish deep! Trying to find that middle ground where people don’t think you’re just taking the piss out of everything. It’s really trying to find that sweet middle ground. That’s kind of where I see myself sitting in general.