The ensemble Brandt Brauer Frick combines techno beats with the sounds of classical instruments. Visually, the artists present themselves as versatile – but emphatically serious. We spoke with Daniel Brandt about the band’s aesthetics and branding.
Interview: Gerrit Terstiege
Putting the Question: In conversation with Daniel Brandt from Brandt Brauer Frick
Mr Brandt, let’s take a leap back to the year 2008, when “Brandt Brauer Frick” was founded. Did the three of you already have an idea back then of how you wanted to present yourselves as a band?
Yes, because we had to prepare something visually soon after the foundation to get the band out there. When you organise gigs, for example, it’s very important to have a clear visual concept. And that extends to the clothes, for example. In our case, the suits we wear are explained by our affinity to Kraftwerk. Musically, we are actually the exact opposite of the Düsseldorf band, but from the look we found them quite interesting, their exaggerated seriousness.
You often wear suits and ties for photo sessions or appearances. But not like the early Beatles or Kraftwerk in the Man-Machine phase – uniform – but everyone always wears a distinct and differently coloured suit. Why?
We are not aiming for an overall look. We wear things that we already have anyway and that suit each of us individually.
But that’s exactly the kind of thing you have to construct and then coordinate, for performances and photo sessions …
Sure! (laughs) Of course, that is arranged and at the gig we always have different things with us so that not all three of us wear grey ties or, for example, one of us doesn’t wear any. But for the album “Miami” we really did hire stylists from Berlin who went shopping with us because we wanted to create a special look from the 1920s.
When I look at your website, your album covers and the postings on Instagram, it seems to me that you follow the concept of a liquid identity: There is no strict photographic language, no uniform graphic programme. Rather, you rely on stylistic diversity, on surprising visuals. Is that correct?
Absolutely. We pursue a new style with each album.
So you develop brandings, so to speak, project-related, along with a time-limited coherence between the stage presentation, the album cover and the way you dress. But for all the diversity, there are also constants. For example, in band photos you always take the same position, which corresponds to the order of your names in the band name. So: Brandt on the left, Brauer in the middle, Frick on the right. But why did you make your surnames the band name in the first place?
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We just thought it was cool because it sounds like a law firm – so serious with the three German names. Internationally, unfortunately, many people have problems remembering the name or even pronouncing it. So I sometimes thought: Ah, if only we had used one word! (laughs)
And should one of you leave at some point, of course it gets tricky. When Carl Palmer left the British band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, which also operated under ELP, they had to find a new drummer whose surname also began with P – they found him in Cozy Powell. So it could continue under the ELP label.
Now, that’s crazy. But for us, the whole thing only exists with the three of us. That means if one of us were to leave, the band project would simply no longer exist. Our music is exactly the way it is because we three make it.
I noticed another peculiarity about the name “Brandt Brauer Frick”: the second letter in all three names is an R. This holds them together in a certain way.
That was coincidence. So if we were looking for a replacement, we would have to find someone who has an R in the second place in their surname … (laughs)
Enjoy the search! But hopefully you will stay together for a long time. Does anyone actually advise you on photo language, typography, colours?
No, we do it all ourselves. I come from a visual direction and that’s why I always have a lot of fun developing something like that. But we always consult together about what we like best and discuss what works and what doesn’t. Then we look for the appropriate graphic designers or artists. Then we look for the appropriate graphic designers or artists to realise the covers with us. We want to steer this process together.
Do you look for new creatives for each new album?
Absolutely, yes. We have also worked with a few people several times. Our next EP, which is coming out in May, is very different in style from what we’ve done before. Very colourful and totally chaotic. So we looked for someone who could also convey that visually. The cover looks hyperreal and super modern.
As a band, do you also discuss something like updates to your music, your brand…? with the aim of staying current?
We already talk specifically about how we present ourselves to the outside world. But it’s not necessarily always about the latest trend – visual styles from the past can also inspire us.
Do you also think about something like your target group?
We actually only started thinking about it recently. The music landscape has changed a lot because of streaming. You get feedback with numbers and statistics, which has a certain effect on us. In the past, you had no idea what would sell and how. You just put a record in the shop, then it was there and it was cool! What the music business is asking us to do, to adapt to certain directions so that we reach the right target groups – we try not to take that too seriously. But you can work with remixes, for example, or other people can do adaptations of our songs. That way, we can go in certain new directions and still keep our freedom to do what we want.
Artists and musicians are often expected not to live up to expectations and to surprise their audiences …
Exactly. We once released two albums where we didn’t pay any attention to what anyone would want. We just thought: we can do everything now and develop in all directions. But that was also a certain backlash for us. But we needed that. Surprises are only possible within certain limits. If my favourite band Radiohead were to release a death metal album tomorrow, I wouldn’t be up for it either.
As a band, you must not lose your way – in other words, you must not deviate too much from what you are known for or what you stand for. After all, an attitude is also expected. How is it with commercial commissions, for example? If a company approaches you and wants a sound logo. How would you deal with that?
Of course, it depends on the company first, whether it’s something we can do something with. We have often received such requests and have also worked on such things. With the first projects, I thought: OK, now we can show them what “edgy” is. But you can’t impose your own understanding of aesthetics on a company. You have to think about it: What does the company stand for? When the clients say “edgy”, they may mean something that is only ten per cent “edgy” according to my understanding … (laughs) But you learn a lot in such projects: when you do something that you wouldn’t just do on your own. You then work specifically towards something. But briefings for special sounds that have to fit a branding are sometimes tricky. It’s always difficult to talk about music in theory. Everyone has a different view. Someone then says: I would like it to be a bit “warm” and “family”. If you don’t have the same references, the result can be very different from what is actually expected. In agencies, many people often want to have their say. Once at a meeting these keywords were thrown at me: family, warm, edgy, young, street, electronic, traditional. So I said: OK, what kind of song is that? There is no such thing as this song! (laughs)
More about Brandt Brauer Frick
brandtbrauerfrick.de, the official homepage of the ensemble.
Brandt Brauer Frick – Ocean Drive (Live At Sala Simón Bolívar Caracas 2020) (Official Video)
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