Rolling Stones Article

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Branded: The Rockstar Revival

In all honesty, when I first heard about Branded, A.K.A the five teenagers from England's top boarding school turned internet sensations seemingly overnight, I didn't believe the attention surrounding them could possibly be well deserved. It sounded too formulated and planned out, meticulously orchestrated to draw in more money and views to just another teenie-bopper wannabe band with simple four chord progressions and facilitated emotion. But, after listening to their new record "Counter Culture" and attending their first ever sold-out area concert (and first official concert they've ever had), I realized I was wildly wrong.

So, on a windy early-December morning, I payed a call to their London hotel room, were the five members of the band, plus India Laneswood and Ivy Fernadez (the final aspects of this power-friend group) lounged about through our eight hour interview for the cover story.

"The first time we met Nola she was dancing and singing on the table of a bar on Broadway in Nashville," Matteo Fernandez, the 18 year old drummer and half-brother of Ivy recalls fondly. He longes in an armchair, India tucked under his arm.

"She looked like an angel," Rowen, the "co" lead guitarist and vocalist, mutters. He looks a little too disheveled and tasteful for a 18 year old rich kid, resembling a bit of a 60's Mick Jagger or Gram parsons with his grown out long hair and cool boy smirk.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Magnolia Harris (endearingly called Nola, like the acronym for the Crescent City) roll her own eyes as she walks back from getting herself a glass of water. She is wearing a short 60s bohemian style dress, with black suede boots that come up over her knees. She looks a bit like Anita Pallenburg or Pattie Boyd, but plays like Joni Mitchell (stumbling between an insane amount of deviations from standard tuning). She twists and entangles rock and folk and alternative country the way Emmylou Harris (Nola's proclaimed idol), Lucinda Williams, and Loretta Lynn all do in their later albums. She seems to toe the line between 60s folk music, 70s rock, and 90s alternative country, the convergence unprecedented for a 16 year old girl.

"A honky tonk angel to be precise," She laughs as she fumbles with the small braids spread throughout her hair. She shoots a glance towards Rowen, drawing attention to the relationship that has drawn more attention than you'd expect for two teenage kids. The spark seems to allude to a Baez-Dylan, or Johnny and June style love. Or, even more closely, an Emmylou and Gram sensation.

"Nethertheless, we were immediately charmed by her.. Chaos," Laurent Moreau adds in. He swirls a glance of undoubtedly expensive liquor. It's almost comical to pair his refinery to Caspian Grant-Martin who is seated right next to him.

Caspian quirks a brow at the comment but says nothing, leaning back in his simple worn out t-shirt, flannel and jeans, his blonde hair beginning to fall around his face. Ivy sits near him, and elbows him in the ribs. The unspoken conversation only lends itself to the dynamic in the room

The dynamic in the room is contagious, and reminds me that these truly are a group of teenage friends who like music- and are extremely intelligent about the music they make.

The misfit group seems as if they have fallen out of some John Hughes movie, or maybe stumbled out of some convergence of every music era.

The lyrics of the songs- primarily written by the increasingly impressive duo of Rowen and Magnolia, send shivers down anyone's spine that hears it. Conversations on the greys of femininity and masculinity, the position of the muse and the artists, and the confusion of arts position in love spear themselves across the Neil Young- level electric guitar. The ultimate feel of the songs sound like a Rolling Stones song- but have the haunting lyrics that almost remind me of a bit of Lana Del Rey. In an age where guitar rock is too quickly labeled as passé, they seemingly are turning the tables of what a band and what pop music is headed.

Trust me when I say, their music is anything but bubble-gum pop. I wasn't surprised when half the band members visibly winced when I referred to their music as pop. It is strange how a deviation from the already popular gained more attention than anything else.

When asked about inspiration for the songs, besides the glances around the room, Nola admits it's something she needs to do, "I can't sleep unless I write down the lyrics that float across my mind and constantly tug at my attention- it's all I know how to do."

This admission lends itself to the rumored prophetic or prodigal nature of the group. While they are undoubtedly revolutionary, they seemingly haven't garnered any hate from parents, suspicious of their music corrupting their children.

The group is everything this age of teenagers needs- growing up in a world where everything feels manufactured and tech-centric, Branded fuels a lust for something real. From the dirty, real emotions filled through their songs, to the reliability and uniqueness of the teens themselves, it doesn't take a genius to see they are destined either for fame or for music magic.

Or, more likely, both.

They all are serious not only about their performance, but their instruments as well. It's almost comical how well suited their personalities are to their tool of choice- Laurent's cool calculator and taste for the classic in life lends him perfectly to the piano, Matteo's strength and stability places him perfectly for the drums, and Caspian's chaotic edge lends him to the bass- as well as anything else necessarily.

Caspian said at one point in the interview that, "The tamboracca is my favorite instrument. It sounds like I'm joking- but I'm not."

Rowen seems to become one with his Fender Telecasters, seemingly effortless in mystery in his deliberate movements, and Magnolia prefers the biggest acoustic guitars around- Jumbo Martins or elaborate Gibsons dwarf her body, playing even heavier on the Emmylou comparison.

Ultimately, the band is headed straight towards the title of "legendary"- so don't be surprised when a beatle-esque branded-mania settles in. 

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