Words By: Molly Schmidt
Bri Clark rocked up with rosy cheeks and wet hair from her post run shower. She had a cute floral dress on and a massive smile.
We sat on these really comfy couch seats at a bar and got chatting. After about twenty minutes of chatting like old friends, I remembered I was actually here to do business. We laughed and began the interview.
Naming her influences as Missy Higgins, Coldplay, Florence & The Machine, Ben Howard and Eva Cassidy, Bri Clark delivers “dark, steely pop” with a touch of grit. Her voice is soulful and deep and explodes out of her with an operatic force that leaves the innocent gig goer a little mind blown.
We started off talking about Shiver and the accompanying music video, in which Bri is gradually covered in black paint, until it is dripping from her hair and enveloping her entire body.
“It was a really strange experience. There were eight people in the room doing stuff for the video, and I was completely butt naked and being covered in this paint.” Bri laughed almost nervously at the memory.
“It was really scary, but really fun.
“The black paint represents when you first meet somebody and you’re fine…but then they just sort of somehow infiltrate every thought that you have… the black paint represents that weight, that extra sort of thing that you’re just constantly thinking about, even though you don’t want to be thinking about it, it’s really hard to be without it.”
Unfortunately some people with small minds have interpreted the video as provocative because of Bri’s nudity. (Which, might I mention, is done very tastefully. You do not actually see any “bits”, and the lighting is nicely shadowy. The clip is mysterious, emotional and fragile.)
“It’s not trying to be provocative…it’s about that vulnerability,” said Bri. I assured her that was pretty damn clear to me, which made her smile.
“I showed my Dad, and Dad really liked it. There were a few edits beforehand, a few nip slips in the first couple of drafts, and I was like no we can’t have this, my Dad’s going to see this!”
Personally, I think Dad monitoring seemed a perfect way to ensure her clip was PG rated.
“If I’m not happy with my Dad seeing it, I don’t want the rest of the world to see it.”
The girl has her priorities right.
And then, because we humans still haven’t quite got our heads around the gender equality deal, we had to discuss the whole “being a female musician” thing.
“It’s hard, especially being a woman. And I don’t want to just put that out there like woaaah, but it is,” said Bri.
“And you do something like this and it’s really emotional and you’re bearing everything…I’m a bit nervous about the backlash.”
Bri said she got some of her lyrical inspiration from poems and novels, which made me swoon a little. Her song Never Far Enough features her fiery power, and has stemmed from ideas in Kate Chopin’s 1899 novel The Awakening, which was one of the earliest pieces of American literature focusing on women’s issues in a way that was not condescending.
“There is a metaphor in there (the song) about how the butterfly never settled on his arm, the butterfly being the main female character,” said Bri.
“And this bit about how “to claim is not to know” so just because you think somebody is yours doesn’t mean you totally know them, and who really can claim a person anyway? I mean I’m glad that we’re not in the 18th C anymore, but there’s still some elements when you’re like, is there much difference?”
I was so excited about the fact that her seriously great music was about some seriously important issues.
“It really puts people out when they see a strong woman who is not afraid to be like “no”. Who can’t be caged and pigeon holed into the whole “have a child and do that.” I mean I can’t wait to be a mum, all in good time.”
Bri for Prime Minister, is what I was thinking.
Bri said a lot of her songs are about “boys and dickheads and being in an industry where it’s really hard to get started, and it’s really hard to be taken seriously. I still rock up to venues, and guys from other bands just think that I’m the girlfriend of the person who’s singing or whatever. And then when get up on stage they’re all like ohhhhh…. I’ve got a lot more hurdles to jump.”
I incredulously asked her if she also thought this was because she is a woman.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know.”
We both shook our heads and rolled our eyes.
So then I asked this talented lady, just how exactly, this whole thing began.
“I was eight when I first started learning the piano,” said Bri.
“And it was this really cool way of learning, like it wasn’t this classical theoretically based one, it was all about patterns and hearing things and being able to play them by ear.”
“Getting into that made me really excited about music, I really loved it.”
Bri explained that once she started high school she had to leave music behind a bit.
“I wasn’t doing much music for a while. Then I met a couple of girls and we started this little thing together, it was really fun, kind of like a country vibe. A guitar and a violin. We started at fifteen and stopped after school finished.”
Once Bri started uni, music had to take a backseat again as books and study took over.
“And then I got really sick,” she said matter of factly.
“And you know, all the time I was writing, I just wasn’t showing anybody. It sort of changed my outlook on things. So for the next couple of years I was in and out of hospital…it was a shitload of shit you don’t want at twenty.”
Bri had this way of telling her story with no drama whatsoever, just this cool honesty while looking right into my eyes. This honesty was clearly a huge part of her character, both on and off stage.
She said the decision to follow her passion for music came when a doctor was telling her it might be pretty serious.
“And I was just like what the fuck… and from then on it’s just sort of been something that I am going to passionately pursue.”
“It’s ok, I’m better now, but it kinda just made me think, well, fuck it, life’s too short.”
This time for Bri became about gathering herself and starting the process of song writing.
“I lost a lot of friends who were just really keen on going out every weekend and drinking themselves ridiculously stupid, and I was at home, reading my book or on the piano and just out with friends going to dinner.”
We sat for a bit, processing. When you look at Bri Clark on stage, you see power, confidence, strength, honesty, and maybe a touch of vulnerability. Face to face here she was, telling me of the difficult times that have shaped her and her music today. I was struck by how beautiful it was for Bri to be able to turn her experience of sickness into music.
Bri told me some of her songs are about this tricky time.
“I was just this shell of a person that was just trying to fight all this stuff that was happening inside my body, but not being able to express anything on the outside.”
“Music is my way of translating what was happening. Wrong Side of the Glass is about being stuck in the hospital, being inside that room. I was there for a couple of weeks, and I wasn’t even allowed to go outside, wasn’t strong enough to walk anywhere, and all I wanted to do was go outside and smell the fucking flowers. Lame shit like that. And I couldn’t. And that’s what that song was about.”
One of my favourite things about watching Bri play, is her connection on stage with her younger brother. Reece Clark plays keys in the band, and in some marvelous moments, saxophone. The sax just transports the music somewhere else entirely, gives it this soulful, jazzy groove and more importantly, Bri just totally beams at her brother the whole time he is playing, which makes the good vibes like 10000000 x 10.
“He plays in the WA youth orchestra. He’s doing jazz vocal at WAAPA and stuff like that.,” said Bri proudly.
“He’s heard a lot of my songs now, and he really likes this one that I’ve written called Safe. I wrote it about when we were little when Reece would have nightmares, when he was about four years old, he’d come into my room and into my bed with me and then end up taking up the whole fucking bed. And I wrote that song about that – it’s his favourite song and he doesn’t know what it’s about.”
Ahhhhh sibling love.
“I really love playing and having him up there with me.”
So it turns out Bri has only been playing with her band for a couple of months. A couple of months! Keep that in mind next time you catch them live – you’d never guess it!
Bri’s recorded tracks feature just herself and her producer. She said a drummer friend came on for a few tracks, but other than that the talented lady takes on synth, bass and keys and all the vocals and backing vocals alone!
“I’m thinking about biting the bullet and just making an EP,” she said.
“I’m going back into the studio and the next couple of releases are going to be really ballady, and really emotionally intense. I have started reading quite a lot of poetry, and my lyric writing has just taken a really dark deep turn.”
I can’t wait to hear music influenced by the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Faudet and old feminist novels.
“I struggle so hard trying to speak to people, but the minute the music starts it’s a different thing. Music is what I can do,” said Bri.
I felt like hi-fiving her or hugging her or something. Our interview went on as we chatted about music making, travelling, work and just life. My tape recorder kept going and eventually we just had to stop – it was getting dark! I went home with an interview to write, but also a wonderful conversation of my own shared with the lovely Bri. Cheers for the chats girl, see you on stage soon!