Brook Candy for Ladygunn
Brooke Candy knows that empowerment takes time. While she was working her way to become a subversive cultural icon, her personal life was spiraling into a self-declared “grave” of drug use and depression. Her feminist, in-your-face grit won Candy a spot on too many mood boards to count: the larger-than-life blue braids and metallic ensembles, all held up by massive platform shoes, were unlike anything the world had seen, and it was sensational. But it wasn’t until she got herself sober, with help from friends like Sia, that she found the clarity and self-empowerment she needed to hone her craft. Since then, she’s better than ever.
Her 2016 single “Paper or Plastic” showed an entirely new side of Candy, whose chameleon-like ability to adapt and change feels like Madonna on speed. Despite being notorious for several years, the artist is just now preparing to release her debut album. Produced by Sia, it’s a particular brand of pop that sits comfortably on the border of Top 40 music and dissident art. Catching up with Candy over the phone as she made her way out of The Grove in Los Angeles, we discussed her new album, getting her life together, and why she wants to be an artist for the people.
I saw you nearly half a decade ago performing at Santos Party House in New York. What’s changed in your life since then?
I think I was living in Los Angeles, but I was [basically] homeless. I was sleeping under my car and on people’s couches. I was hustling like a motherfucker. I was stripping. I was living this very intense but also quite magical life. And then I kind of got super heavy into drugs and it became a bit more hedonistic and a bit darker. Over the past year, I’ve gotten off drugs, and found myself again. I feel like the past two or three years, I just lost myself. I had no artistic identity. I was sad. I was asleep. I wasn’t able to feel grateful for things. Over the past year, with just a lot of meditation and a healthier lifestyle, I’m not in that headspace anymore. I feel like I’m finally finding myself again as an artist, and I’m really confident in it. I’m much more clear and really grateful to be alive.
Despite it being a hard time, it sounds like you were able to feel things really intensely, which is probably why you became an artist.
That’s 100 percent accurate. Up until this point now—now I’m making art because I just fucking love it. I could be so happy either way. Now I just do it because it’s fun. There was definitely a time in my life where it was absolutely necessary because if I didn’t do it, I would have killed myself. That’s so dark, but I have to laugh at it. Because it’s so fucking crazy! I have a lot of creative energy and my entire life, it was really hard to channel, because I didn’t have anyone teach me how to channel it. I didn’t have a creative outlet growing up, so once I discovered that, it became a savior for me because yeah, it was quite sad.
Isn’t it weird how all of a sudden, your outlook on life and what makes you happy changes?
Often times we can’t control it. I would say that a lot of my decision-making and my outlook on life was based on how I was raised. I was programmed to see things in a very specific way. I took everything so much more seriously, and now I’ve broken free from that and my eyes are open. Nothing should be taken seriously; life is an illusion, and this is so weird. Let’s just have fun, spread love, have sex and do whatever.
What does the new album sound like?
My album sounds like “pure pop.” There’s a little bit of everything, but it’s definitely 100 percent pop music… A few songs have a sad undertone and there are even one or two with a solid Cher vibe. I’m hoping that I can create another EP or two to release between now and my album cycle, [which would allow] me to take it back to basics and do what I’m best at, which is straight up rap…I feel like l I need to give my hardcore fans a taste of the old sound every once in a while to keep the fire alive.
You’re always super involved in your visuals as well as the music. Can you tell me about having creative control?
I’m getting to a place where I want to have creative control over the music, I want to have creative control over the video, I want to do it all. I want it to be a 100 percent honest representation of who I am as an artist. When I was really depressed and in heavy darkness, I did care, but now I don’t. I want everything that I put out to be just honest. For me, to do that, I have a creative partner. His name’s Seth Pratt. We’ve made my favorite work together. We have this really fluid, creative energy that goes between us that I’ve never experienced with another human being. He and I did “Paper or Plastic”.
Was there ever a time when you felt you didn’t have creative control?
The “Opulence” era was definitely not a proper representation of who I am. I was on a lot of drugs at the time and wasn’t able to take the reigns when it came to making my art. The art I produced during that time was a combination of drug psychosis and other people’s visions. I was more of a vehicle than a voice. Now I’m much more confident in my vision and am ready to make my voice heard!
Sia helped to produce this album in a major way. How did that come about?
We met over the Internet. She found me on Instagram. She emailed me. I had no idea who she was. She was like, “Hi, my name is Sia. I want to write a pop song for you. Will you meet me at this café?” I didn’t really know who she was, and I didn’t believe it. I thought it was this girl who was online bullying me, which sounds so funny. I emailed her back and was like, “Hey, don’t email me again. Fuck you.” She emailed me again and was like, “Hey, no, it’s really me.” So I went and met her at this café. I sat down with her and we talked and then she was like, “Fuck a song! I’m going to do your album. I’m going to find some management, and you’re gonna kill it.” And then beyond all those things, which are so great, she also helped me get off of drugs. To me, that was the most magical thing that’s ever happened in my life. It was so hard to get out of that fucking hole. That hole was a grave, and she pulled me out of it. I owe her my life forever because of that.
At the end of the day, makes you feel happiest?
I wrote a wish-list the other day. I do want a lot of things, but I’m not willing to do anything dirty or depressing to get them. If they come to me, it’s meant to be. And I’ll work really hard. But if they don’t come to me, that’s fine too. I’ll still find ways to enjoy life. But my dream, I really want to live on a farm, near the beach, with some friends—almost like a commune. I just want to be able to make art in all forms. I want to be able to paint, I want to be able to direct videos, I want to be able to make music and just do it all, at my discretion. I want a life where I don’t have to think about money and I can just chill by the beach and make art. Anyone who’s supporting anyone that I love, I want them to help. If my album doesn’t do well, who fucking cares? It’s cool that I still got to make an album. That’s pretty weird, you know?
The “Paper or Plastic” video gave me goose bumps. It was supposed to be released earlier than it was, but you pushed things back because of the issues with gun violence happening in the States.
We started making that video two and a half years ago. It was so long ago. Obviously, the timing was just so weird with how it worked out. I feel like I want to be an advocate for the fucking people. I’m not of the 1%. I don’t drive. I share an apartment with my best friend. We walk everywhere. We’re fucking punk rock. That’s the community that I come from, so that’s the community that I want to protect. That’s the kind of artist I want to be. And I feel like, you know, I just wanted to make something righteous and I wanted to make something shocking, and it seemed fitting for the visual. Amish people, they have weapons. Sometimes drastic measures need to be taken. When you’re in a situation and you’re pinned against a wall, sometimes you have to do something drastic to get out of that situation. Sometimes you have to abandon your innocence in favor of the bigger picture. And something more righteous; something larger than yourself. I feel like gun control is not the answer. Because I’m not trying to live on this planet as this weird human being or whatever we are with all of the power being in the hands of people that don’t really actually give a shit about me or where I end up. I just don’t trust it. I’m for the people.