Harry James, better known by his stage name KID BRUNSWICK, claims he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he steps into the studio, but it certainly doesn’t sound that way.
The British artist makes sure every song of his sounds completely different from the last, mixing in aggression, atmospheric vibes, voice manipulation, both pulsating and gentle guitars and plaintive drums that’ll all make themselves at home in your mind. KID BRUNSWICK has two consistencies, though: his lyrics are always meaningful, and he always keeps it real.
The Post sat down with KID BRUNSWICK to talk about what pushed him to become a musician, what his most popular songs are really about, the genre he’s looking to kickstart and more.
The Post: Let’s start with your come-up story. How’d you get here? How did you get to becoming a musician?
KID BRUNSWICK: So I grew up in a very musical household. Everyone in my family plays some sort of instrument. I started playing drums when I was about 2 or 3 years old, started tapping on tables when I was in school. And the teachers were like, “You need to f------ get this kid a drum kit. He’s a f------ nightmare.” My parents bought me some bongos, and I went into school, and you know in assembly, they sometimes have people come in and do stuff, like show off or whatever. So I went in, and I played my bongos for like f------ 20 minutes, just playing the same groove over and over again. And that was my introduction to music. I realized I really liked drumming. And fast forward, I ended up getting accepted to a really classical, prestigious music school where I was classically trained and sang in choirs and toured the world with that choir. I learned the double bass and stringed instruments and stuff and got kicked out of that school. Fast forward to when I was 15, I started making beats on my laptop, and then I started hanging out with a lot of rappers in East London. And I just used to make loads of beats, basically. And then, eventually, I found a way to write my own lyrics and then started out as writing bars for people. And I was always really good lyrically. I could always come up with a good punchline, lyrics and stuff. I was like, “I can just do this for myself,” and I started writing my own lyrics. And a couple years after that, I picked up a guitar, and besides putting guitars and my beats together … that’s been the birth of BRUNSWICK to KID BRUNSWICK, which is where I’m at now. And now, I’m just kind of making my own stuff, and I don’t work with anyone else now. I’ve always kept it just me. And myself, I always find I make my best stuff alone, so I’ve kept it like that. And since then, people have started to react to it because it’s stuff that’s coming out of my head, rather than just copying other people’s styles. So, yeah, that’s been the story: rags to slightly less riches and more rags. That’s where I’m at right now.
The Post: You actually mentioned it, but your first mixtape, we surround ourselves with chaos, was released under the name BRUNSWICK. Now, you go by KID BRUNSWICK. Why’d you make the slight change?
KID BRUNSWICK: I could tell you a really cool, interesting backstory, but that’d be a lie. It was basically because I don’t want to get sued by a company called Brunswick in the United States. It’s a financial firm, and my previous management were like, “Just change your name, so you don’t ever get sued.” And I was like, “OK, well, that kind of sucks.” But at the end of the day, Brunswick sounds like it could be a band. So whenever I play shows, in the past, people would always tag me, and they’d be like, “I love this band.” And I’m like, “I’m not a f------ band.” And it really annoyed me because when you put all your work into something, and you do it all yourself, and credit gets taken away from that, it’s really annoying. You’re like, “Hang on. I do this all myself. There’s no one else involved.” So the thought of that really annoyed me. I’m very stubborn, so when I was told to change my name, I was like, “Nah, f--- off. I’m not doing that.” And then when that started happening, I was like, “Oh, I’m going to change my bloody name” because KID BRUNSWICK sounds like it’s just all one guy. So that’s me.
The Post: What’s your songwriting and production process like? You said that everything we hear is entirely you, so do you enjoy doing everything yourself?
KID BRUNSWICK: Oh, yeah. Look, I don’t know … For the most part, I don’t know what I’m doing. I have no clue. You probably know just as much about my songwriting process as I do. I go into my little studio. I work off a little laptop that’s broken and doesn’t have a screen, so I have to connect it to a big monitor. The speakers on the laptop don’t work, either, and there’s no headphone input. So it’s impossible to get it to work, and it’s got every virus under the sun, so it takes a while to load up a project. But once we get on there … every song is different. If it happens very quickly and organically, then I know I’ve got something really special, but I don’t really remember ever writing any of my songs. I don’t remember writing specific lyrics. I know where I’m at when I write the songs; I know which place I’m in, but I feel like I’m connected to some sort of weird energy. When I’m writing a song, that’s not me writing a song. It’s a different part of myself that’s kind of expressing itself. I think you’d call that maybe the true self, but there’s no ego involved. There’s no side of that personality; it’s just pure self, and it’s very honest. And that’s why I don’t really remember how I write songs. I just know that happens very organically, and it’s always different. Every song is different. It always starts with a different hook or a different instrument each time, and it’s just always a little idea that perked my ears up a bit. And I’m like, “Oh, what’s that?” and I somehow just know immediately where to go from that. And 10 hours later, I’ll be sitting in the studio, and I’ll be listening back to it, and I’ll be like, “OK, this is really cool.” And the next day, I’ll just send it out that evening. I’ll just send it off to a couple of people and see what they think. And the next day, I’ll wake up, and I’ll listen to it first thing in the morning. And that’s the worst thing you can do ’cause everything sounds really shit … so I’ll be like, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever wrote; this is crap.” And then always, always to the f------ dot around 12 p.m., I’ll start getting messages back from people I sent it to, and they’ll be like, “This is amazing.” And then I’ll hear it differently and be like, “Oh, this is sick,” and I won’t stop listening to it for three days.
The Post: Well, I’m going to ask a little bit about the lyrics, even though you don’t really remember writing them. You have a lot of vulnerable lyrics. You juxtapose “if,” which is a very vibey, sonically relaxing track with lyrics like “If I killed myself today, would you miss me?” Would you consider music your form of catharsis in that sense?
KID BRUNSWICK: It’s a form of expression. I wouldn’t call it catharsis because it’s painful to write those words. I think everything that I say on my records is very honest. And listen, I refine my lyrics again and again and again until they sound right. But lyrics like that, you have to just let that be and not change it, especially if it says everything that it says on the tin. So I think it is helpful to write the songs, yeah, but at the same time, it’s also painful because whenever you hear it, it reminds you of that feeling. So that’s why I don’t listen to “if.” I f------ hate that song. I hate it. I hate “ADHD.” I think it’s cringy, and I don’t like it. I hate pretty much every song on we surround ourselves with chaos except for “nevermine.” That’s it. That’s the only song that I kind of like. Sorry for the negativity by the way. I just don’t like listening to that.
The Post: Your most popular song, “Prescription Kid,” has over 1 million Spotify streams. It has a little bit of everything: roaring guitars, aggressive vocals, almost like pump-up music, but then there’s also meaningful lyrics. Can you talk a little more about what you want listeners to take away from “Prescription Kid”?
KID BRUNSWICK: Yeah, I wrote that song when there was a lot of school shootings happening in America. It’s a first-person account of someone that’s really f----- up and has access to medication that he shouldn’t be prescribed. And he’s almost treating this scenario like a Bonnie and Clyde situation where he’s saying, “Let’s get a gun, Bonnie. We don’t have to live.” It’s a story of someone taking action about how they feel and then someone being insightful about how they feel. So there’s the first half, is where it’s really, really aggressive, someone basically saying, “Let’s kill ourselves” to his girlfriend. “We don’t have to live; guns are legal in America, so let’s go and buy one.” She also was in the f------ head, and then and hurting other people in the process. And the second half is basically not doing that and explaining how they feel. So there’s two sides to it. You see school shooters on the news, and I think it’s disgusting, but it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, they are sick people. You can say that with a lot of other horrific crimes that have been committed, doesn’t mean you have to sympathize with them at all. But to say that they’re well people would be criminal because they’re not well people. No one does that if they’re well, they’re mentally well, so instead of just saying “F--- school shooters; f--- the NRA” like a lot of other artists do. It’s like, “OK, well, why don’t I take that energy and write something a bit more interesting?” That’s what that song is about.
The Post: Your latest single, “4AM,” is much calmer. It could draw comparisons to Lil Peep. Is your desire to be an emo artist, or is it just to write and just see what happens?
KID BRUNSWICK: Lil Peep. I wouldn’t have got that. I would’ve got Dominic Fike from that song but not Lil Peep. … Man, I loved his music. It’s very repetitive, but I love him. I wouldn’t call myself an– I mean, I’ve always been a bit of a f------ emo; let’s be honest. But I’d say I’m more rock than emo, if I’m being honest. I’m a lot more rock. I’ve got a rock ‘n’ roll sort of upbringing, and I’ve got an emo soul and a rock heart, if that makes any sense. So it’s kind of like the two worlds colliding.
The Post: Do you want to talk a little bit about “4AM” since it’s your newest?
KID BRUNSWICK: Sure. Yeah, that song’s about something that I’m still suffering with. It’s insomnia, getting sober for the first time in 10 years.
The Post: Congratulations, by the way.
KID BRUNSWICK: Thank you. Yeah, it hasn’t been easy. It’s been very hard, but I needed to do it because I wanted to write music. And when I was on the level of addiction ramped up so high that I couldn’t express myself, I couldn’t be creative anymore, I hated that, so I went into rehab. So I wrote the guitar for that when I was in rehab, came out, listened back to it on a voice note a few months later, and I was like, “Oh, that’s cool,” and I put it into my computer, and I wrote the song. And the song is about trying not to relapse basically back into drug addiction, which is something that I ended up doing. But this is weird: I wrote the song two weeks before I ended up relapsing. So, yeah, that’s what the song’s about. It’s a sad song. It’s very sad boy hours.
The Post: Considering the shift of tone and sound between those two songs, would you be able to place your music into a specific genre?
KID BRUNSWICK: Yeah, R&G. R&G is a genre that I want to create, rhythm and grunge. You’ve got that more R&B sides of it on “4AM,” and you’ve got the more grungy side of it on “Prescription Kid.” But at the end of the day, they both have the same sound, even though they’re different. They’re different records; they’re musically sounding different records. They’re sonically very similar. When I listen to those, I can hear them on a project together. I couldn’t put it as both rock. They’re definitely both alternative, but I think alternative is such a wide genre. I’d rather put it into a genre that I want to create, which is R&G.
The Post: Did you plan on spanning the entire spectrum with your sound, or did it just happen?
KID BRUNSWICK: Happened. I have no idea what I’m doing.
The Post: Let’s say someone opened whatever streaming service they use and saw your music. They’re deciding between giving it a listen or not. If you could become the voice in their head, what would you say to persuade them to click play?
KID BRUNSWICK: I’d just say, “Are you sure? Do you really want to feel worse? You don’t need to do this. Please don’t do this.” I’ve no idea what to say about that other than the fact that … people find it if they find it. If I have to persuade someone to listen to it, then I have no care for that.
The Post: What can fans expect from you next?
KID BRUNSWICK: A lot more music, a hell of a lot of music. I’m trying to build something at the moment. The best stuff is yet to come, basically, and it’s very exciting. It’s a very exciting time. I’m very excited. Just a lot more music, a lot more head-banging, a lot more, hopefully, some mosh pits in the future when shows open up again.