Charli Brix and the Musical Art of Kintsugi
- Layla Marino
As one of the most recognizable voices in drum & bass at the moment, Charli Brix has become ubiquitous and has even played a role in shaping the gold standard for female vocals in the genre. While female vox are often associated with liquid, Charli’s taken on projects from just about every subgenre, showing that the only limit to her vocals is what she and a producer can come up with.
In another bold and culture-rocking move, Brix has put out her own solo EP on Flexout. With more control over production than she’s ever had before, the artists who worked with her to create Kintsugi created the tracks around her vocals and her style. Featuring QZB, Phaction, Visages and Data 3, each track is different because of the different producers but the unifying factor is Charli herself, and not just in the vox. With deep and dark D&B vibes and equally heavy vocals, Charli has been able to show the D&B world her style on a different level than ever before. Not to mention what this breakout move will do for the scene as a whole.
For Charli, the EP was more of a personal journey than breaking cultural or subgenre boundaries. With Kinstsugi being named after the Japanese potting practice of filling in flaws or cracks with gold, the EP’s message is about self-empowerment through loving one’s cracks and perceived flaws, to see that they aren’t even flaws to begin with. Personal or not, the EP comes at a time where such a message is sorely needed. Here’s Charli Brix on Kintsugi.
First things first, for those who don’t know your long history with D&B, how did you get into doing vocals on tracks, DJing and eventually production?
I started putting covers on YouTube and SoundCloud and was messaged by producers asking if I wanted to work with them. It’s just progressed from there. I’ve always wanted to mix and my mates Joe and Max taught me on a little controller years back but I never stuck to it. When I got to Bristol I said I’d learn and so my friend Ryan taught me and I started playing out. I adore it. As for production, it’s something I’m still very new to and only started at university but I’m getting better and again, it’s just so much fun.
What was the impetus for your wanting to put out a solo EP all under your name and your own style? Did you decide on doing the EP before connecting with Flexout or did they approach you with the idea?
I’ve wanted to do an EP for a long time but it’s been hard finding the time. I work a lot and have other projects so dedicating that amount of time to one thing is hard. Ironically when I went to university I found I had the space to be creative and so when Flexout approached me with the idea I was stoked.
How did you come to work with each of the artists who helped with the production on each track? What did you feel each of them brought to the table in the context of what you wanted for each track?
I had an idea of who I would like in mind and after talks with Tom and Andy from Flexout, we decided on Phaction, QZB, Visages and Data 3. I chose these artists because individually I love their sound and production but collectively they still represented the Flexout vibe, which is what I feel the EP encompasses.
To that end, how involved were you in the production of each track? Did the artists build the track around your vocals or was it more of a back-and-forth?
Three of the four tracks were produced remotely due to location and with those it was more about building the track around the vocal and just tweaking parts here and there until we were both happy. With the fourth track I worked in the studio with Phaction as he and I are both Bristol-based. I had a lot more creative input with that track and Alex was great, he really involved me in the production process and took my ideas on board and was just lush to work with.
The EP’s title Kintsugi seems to have a special significance for you and it seems that’s what the title track is largely about: this process in traditional Japanese pottery of not hiding or fixing flaws but filling them in to make them part of the piece and ultimately make it stronger. How do you feel that related to your journey in music and getting here to the creation of this EP?
I discovered kintsugi a few years ago when I was in a bit of a challenging place personally. The idea of celebrating flaws instead of hiding them really impacted me. I’ve always been known to speak openly on topics that most would usually shy away from. I believe in voicing issues surrounding mental health, personal imperfections, and life’s struggles because they’re real. They exist. Life isn’t perfect, and neither are people; it’s a fallacy created by society and social media that can prove to be so, so toxic. This body of work expresses some of the rawest emotions and experiences that I’ve endured over the last three years but from an empowering standpoint rather than that of defeat or defiance. Like, “yes I had some shit but what did I learn from it and how did it make me stronger?”
I believe in voicing issues surrounding mental health, personal imperfections, and life’s struggles because they’re real. They exist. Life isn’t perfect, and neither are people; it’s a fallacy created by society and social media that can prove to be so, so toxic.
While the tracks are all produced by different artists, there’s definitely a deep D&B current running through all of them. What kind of notes in terms of overall vibe did you give to each producer?
It was a pretty open-ended brief to be honest. I chose the producers because I love their sound and so I trusted that each one would come through with something wicked and they didn’t disappoint. It was actually one of the most seamless projects in terms of getting to a decision on the beats. The only specification I had was that the EP would have two darker tracks and two more liquid ones. I sent a few reference tracks to each producer and they absolutely nailed it—couldn’t be happier!
How did you find this process of making the EP and putting your name out there as a D&B vocalist since generally it’s all about the producer in our culture?
It’s a weird one you know, because I used to feel like I was second tier to the producer because I wasn’t “making the beat.” Of course, music can exist without vocals but I feel like vocals take a track to the next level and add an entirely new dynamic. Having the freedom to direct the track and make the tune together instead of being sent a beat and writing over it makes a huge difference and definitely makes you feel as though you contributed more.
We’re in the middle of festival season so I imagine the tracks from Kintsugihave been played out a bit. What has the response been so far from DJs and audiences?
Oh man it’s been outrageous. I’m still shocked at the caliber of artists who have contacted me and thinking, “how the fuck am I even on your radar?” The response has been so positive, it’s been played at some huge shows already, with DJs like Marky, Gerra & Stone, Enei & Kasra supporting, too—I feel truly humbled. I know I’ve already said it but I need to give another props to the producers involved and Binga for doing the recording—he’s such a treat to work with.
Have you been able to perform at any festivals this season? Any other shows coming up?
I have been very lucky this year. I got to perform at Glastonbury with Boomsound—all the love, Luke—and am off to Croatia next month to play Outlook with Flexout and Boey Audio, which I am beyond excited for! Aside from that I’ve been doing a lot of European gigs and I start a Masters degree in September so am pretty non-stop at the moment. My next gig is actually at the Pickle Factory on the second of August with Flexout. Come and say hey!
I’m sure you want to focus on this release for a while but do you have any other projects coming up you’d like to mention? What do you feel is next for you in general after this milestone?
Once Outlook is done I’ll be back in the studio writing. I have some projects with QZB & Enei that I need to finish, and then I’m going to focus a bit more on my mixing and production. I’m part of KCDC with Kyrist, Collette Warren and Enada and that’s been taking off recently so will be performing more with them and hopefully getting some original productions underway. I also help run two event/collective brands—Shotgun Sessions & Rotations—so will be running events and performing with those guys, too. Check them out, they’re awesome. I also just want to say another huge thanks to everyone involved, the producers, Flexout, Binga and everyone who’s supporting, especially you guys at Bassrush, thanks for having me!
Kintsugi is out now as Beatport and Spotify exclusives via Flexout Audio.