V V Brown Talks Growing Up, Going Independent + Showing Darker Side With ‘Samson & Delilah’
For some, turning 30 is the end of all things fun, exciting and worthwhile. That’s not so for V V Brown, though. She sees it as an opportunity to have a new outlook on her music.
Her 2009 debut, ‘Traveling Like the Light,’ made the Billboard 200 chart and broke the U.K. artist on American soil. While she released four singles from that album, it was ‘Shark in the Water,’ featured in various commercials, that put her in the spotlight. ‘L.O.V.E.,’ which was never released as a single, was used in Hellman’s ‘Love Notes’ advertisement. Brown planned on releasing her sophomore LP, ‘Lollipops and Politics,’ in 2012, but after a number of postponements, she decided to set that aside, as the album no longer reflected her as artist.
Last October, Brown returned with ‘Samson & Delilah,’ which not only shows a different and, dare we say, darker side of VV Brown, but it also reveals an artist who has grown up. Filled with layers of synths, white noise and her strong voice, ‘Samson & Delilah’ is the next phase in the Brown’s evolution.
Diffuser.fm had a chance to chat with VV Brown about her new approach to music, what happened with the album that never released and the story behind ‘Samson & Delilah.’
What have you been up to since ‘Traveling Like the Light’?
I basically wasn’t really sure about the album ‘Lollipops and Politics.’ I remember listening to it, and I was feeling that it wasn’t quite right. I didn’t want to put out a record that I didn’t really love or didn’t have some sort of conviction. So it was probably the hardest decision I’ve made in my life — to turn my back on it — and tell the label. Basically it was a transition between the two records, where I was making new music while learning about art and surrounding myself with art students and just learning new things, new culture. Then I started own business, vvvintage.com, and I was just kind of discovering the new VV. And because I’m 30 now, I wanted to go toward the serious side. ‘Traveling Like the Light,’ I love that record still. But I wanted to show a much more grown up me, and it finally arrived in ‘Samson & Delilah,’ which I’m very very proud of.
‘Samson & Deliah’ has darker elements than to it ‘Traveling Like the Light.’ So does that mean grown-up VV has a darker side?
Yeah, I think the first record exercised a lot of fun poems that made quite a colorful record. And I think when you make a record like that and pushed that record for four years, you kind of want to do something else. And I think listening to artists like Bjork and the Knife and Fever Ray. I just wanted to try something different, and naturally I was attracted to that darkness and that intensity.
Critics have compared you to Grace Jones in this new album, especially when it comes to your videos for ‘Samson’ and ‘The Apple.’ Was Grace Jones an influence as well?
Definitely. Grace Jones has always been a big influence of mine. Even in ‘Traveling Like the Light,’ she was influential there, too. She’s a strong black woman and is highly respected and different. She was strong in what she wanted to be as an artist. She has always been an inspiration. I think visually, the first video, I was inspired by was Grace Jones. I’ve finally taken it to the next level where I’m not just mimicking her, like from a fashion point of view, I really, really listened to her records and researched ’80s culture and electronic music. You’re hearing my love of Grace Jones, especially in fashion, now.
Why did you decide on the title, ‘Samson & Delilah’?
I chose that because I love the story, and I was reading the Bible. And the best thing about this story is the relationship between strength and weakness with the man who’s very strong and can pull down a building and Deliah, who’s very gentle and is a temptress. And when she found his secret to his strength, she cut it off. And that kind of feels like my career in a way where it has been this constant roller coaster ride with “I don’t know”s. It’s this real relationship with being strong and being weak. I think when I decided not to do ‘Lollipops & Politics,’ I felt very, very weak, very scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen. So when I wrote this record, it empowered me, and I felt strong again.
Basically, we’ve gone ahead and shot a short film. So when you buy the deluxe version of the album, you get to see the whole 17-minute film. The part one is showing where Samson got his hair cut. And when you watch that video, there’s a part where he gets old. Then in part two you’ll see him going into the wilderness and leaving the room that he’s in and guiding himself. This album is very much music supporting a short film.
You’re releasing this album on YOY Records, which is your own label. What inspired this? And what are the challenges of doing it all on your own?
I started my own label because, one, I have complete creative freedom and do exactly what I want without having problems or questions. And I think the second thing is the industry is changing so much that you don’t need to really have a big major label as long as you have a fan base there. I never chased fame or being popular. I’ve always enjoyed music, just music. So I don’t have dreams of being a mega big star. I’m really happy being in the indie scene. And as long as I’m able to tour and make music, I’m happy with that.
I just realized that the independent thing is more for me. And it’s tough and very difficult at times because you have to go to planning meetings, the accounts, the spreadsheets and keep up with things. And obviously you need to help your manager and project manager, but I’m investing my own money into this. So juggling the creative side and the business side is a challenge, but at the same time, it’s so fun to be able to have no pressure. You can release an album and keep releasing singles as much as we want and pushing the album without the pressure of, “Oh no! We haven’t sold a million records yet.” We could keep it going and have people keep discovering it.