Big Strong Brute’s unpolished sound touches hearts
I don’t get a lot of joy out of practising an instrument. I’m not proficient and I don’t read music. Songwriting comes first.
Sincere. Easygoing. Humorous. Observant. Not the usual qualities one would find in a Big Strong Brute, but 26-year-old Brisbane indie musician Paul Donoghue is anything but the mainstream stereotype.
In an industry where there is immense pressure to have years of proper training and put in hours of practice, Donoghue’s alter ego strips expectations right back to the bare essentials of quality songwriting and a passion for music.
“I keep it simple and sparse, not too polished. It’s lo-fi natural pop music that revolves around the lyrics.”
With his unpolished vocals and insightful, self-doubting words, Donoghue has separated himself from other musicians who write more commercially.
“Most songs are based on personal experience or big political game-changers. You can’t only write those two.”
One example of ‘outside the box’ thinking is a track from his latest EP Good Work. Oh Me Oh My was written in the style of author George Saunders.
“Songwriting isn’t that different from writing fiction. Authors are given a lot of leeway – readers don’t expect them to be every character when they inhabit different voices. I think of songwriting in the same way, as long as you are saying something that rings true.”
Big Strong Brute was created seven years ago when Donoghue was playing in another band.
“I wanted to do something different,” he said.
Throw away old pop songs and disarm people by having a funny name while writing serious songs.”
His first release, 2010 EP We Can Sleep Under Trees In The Morning, drew comparisons to Elliott Smith and Grizzly Bear. In 2012, his debut album Avalanche of Truth was nominated for the Australian Music Prize and his song Fever, about the Brisbane floods, was nominated for a Queensland Music Award.
In contrast to the acoustic folk in his previous album, Good Work has a bolder, more layered sound with the addition of electric guitars and synth, while the lyrics are less melancholy and serious.
“They’re a little less personal, more optimistic,” Donoghue said.
“These are things I still care about but it isn’t about me. I got the impression from previous reviews that people considered my records sad and melancholic. I’ve never been that sad person and I didn’t want to propel a myth that I’m some sad bastard.”
Good Work was recorded on a cattle farm in New South Wales, and was produced by Todd Dixon. (The Panics, Meg Mac) Donoghue recorded all the instruments himself and although it took longer, he was granted more creative freedom.
“I never liked studios because I find the sound conventional,” he said.
“I could make as much noise as I wanted, no one was charging by the hour and no producer was giving his two cents. It was easy fun.”
“It was financially impossible to hire a band and it made more sense as a solo artist to record the tracks myself as I could come up with ideas on the fly.”
Speaking of ideas on the fly, the second single on Good Work, Wait, shows Donoghue busting out a Napoleon Dynamite-style dance routine. The video showcases the light-hearted, fun spirit that is Big Strong Brute.
The ‘Good Work’ tour will be heading to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne next month.
Wed Sep 07
Sun Sep 20
w/ Ben Salter & Halfshark
*arvo show from 2pm
Sat Sep 26