Jonathan Bree ~ Shilpa Ray
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Jonathan Bree is a composer, multi- instrumentalist and producer from New Zealand.
A self-confessed workaholic and social recluse, Jonathan spends his days (and nights) in a dingy home office attempting to run his record label Lil’ Chief Records (who have put out albums by the likes of Princess Chelsea, Ruby Suns and his previous band The Brunettes) whilst simultaneously producing albums for artists such as Princess Chelsea, directing and starring in viral music videos for duets about Cigarette Smoking (yes THAT video) and then somehow finding time to record his own material when he should be sleeping.
Jonathan starting playing music at the age of 9 when he wrote his first song "Rebecca" about a primary school crush.
By 12 he was playing drums with 20 year olds in an average goth band ‘The Plaster Saints’ whose claim to fame was releasing a song on a Flying Nun compilation in the 90s.
At 13 out of fear he was going to start wearing fishnets and piercing his privates he was sent to live with his Father in Australia. His Father was a spiritual guru living in Byron Bay, graciously helping his followers to starve themselves in order to raise their ‘vibrations’ so they could board the invisible motherships floating above them.
At 14 after failing to raise his vibrations and also feeling quite hungry he left home and took care of himself by selling drugs to local tourists to make his way through high school.
At age 19 he returned home to Auckland, New Zealand and started his first band The Brunettes. The Brunettes was basically a bunch of indie guys that liked Pavement and the Modern Lovers and the music reflected that. Within 6 months the band broke up but not before Jonathan met Heather Mansfield and convinced her to turn The Brunettes into a duet based recording project.
Jonathan wrote and produced 4 albums and 4 EPs for The Brunettes, driving himself mad over the course of their ten year career trying to achieve the sonic standards of his 1960's heroes of 4 track recording, George Martin and Brian Wilson.
The Brunettes went on to sign to Sub Pop after opening for The Postal Service in 2003 before eventually breaking up 2010. They still however have a loyal and dedicated cult following, especially in New Zealand where their debut ‘Holding Hands Feeding Ducks’ is regarded as a classic.
Jonathan Bree released his first solo album ‘The Primrose Path’ in New Zealand in 2013. The album drew much critical praise and was a finalist in the ‘Taite Prize’ – a respected arts award named after the late journalist Dylan Taite.
Jonathan’s second album ‘A Little Night Music’ drew similar critical praise locally and saw Bree venturing into more free-form territory, further breaking away from more traditional pop formulas found in some of his best-known work with The Brunettes. This was partly due to new interest in classical music after inheriting some old ballet records of Tchaikovsky, and music of Bela Bartok.
Nobody grows up wanting to be an artist’s artist. Appreciated by the sub sect of the sub sect is like being the beauty queen at the leper colony. Hell, anybody who claims they grew up wanting to even be an artist rather than an astronaut or a Cthulhu is probably lying or was a corny kid. Art is hard and degrading and generally bullshit. Your friends will find you irritating and your parents will certainly not throw you a parade. But if you’re an artist you’re an artist; the soul will fuck you every time, what can you do?
Shilpa Ray is, through no fault of her own, one of our unsung great artists. Having made her bones with the gothic Sturm und Drang of Beat The Devil and moving forward to the blues erosion of “…and The Happy Hookers” Shilpa Ray has been, armed only with an incomparable voice and harmonium haunted by the ghosts of dead lovers, perpetually crying in the wind, hoisting both middle fingers in the general direction of god. It’s not a life a wise man would choose. Shilpa Ray kicks against the pricks but the pricks keep coming. But, again, what can you do?
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