Ambient music fills the air as Brooks settles in. He leans back in his chair, cautious not to spill the brimming latte in hand. It’s noon on a Friday and The Lot Radio is as relaxed as the day feels. The sun is warm, forcing Brooks to shed his many layers revealing a “Somebody in Texas Loves Me” t-shirt underneath. An appealing level of contradiction begins to reveal itself.
Brooks Hudgins is the lead singer of the band Private Browsing. We caught him for a quick interview the day before the group was asked to perform at The Red Pavilion for an event hosted by The Kollection, a group dedicated to connecting members of the music industry.
One of four boys, “Bless Miss Meghan”, he says with a grin. The native Texan found himself growing up as a California kid when his family decided to make the move. “One could compare our first few years to the Beverly Hillbillies. Trying to figure out this new place. My southern parents wanted to be by the water…why live in California if you’re not on the beach, right? But I was always finding myself in LA. It’s where the music was”.
Despite his new residence, a nostalgia for the South clung to him. Southern rock was one of Brooks’ early influences - his introduction to the genre came courtesy of his father who filled their home with it. Songs of all types played throughout their home, but the preference for the Southern Rock genre was clear. When he listens to it now, there is something that feels comforting. Familiar.
He first took up the piano – “My dad was a guitarist…so I had to rebel a little bit”. But it wasn’t long until he started teaching himself guitar, as well as percussion for his high school band. Down the hall from band practice was an electronic music class, “I was desperate to get my hands on the equipment, but the class was full. I couldn’t tell you what it was, but I knew there was something there that I wanted to be a part of”. In between classes, Brooks found himself in that room - mixing and creating new sounds. He didn’t know it at the time, but this was only the beginning of what has become a lifelong journey.
Los Angeles has always been a hub for music and entertainment, and in the early 2010s, electronic music began to gain significant popularity in the city. From mainstream genres like house, techno, and trance to underground sounds like dubstep, drum and bass, and experimental electronic music, there was a wide range of styles and sounds to cater to different tastes. The underground scene played a crucial role in shaping the LA electronic music scene. Independent record labels, collectives, and warehouse parties were essential in providing alternative spaces for experimental and niche electronic music genres.
Bloody Beetroots, Justice, and Burial pulsated through young Brooks’ headphones. He was transfixed. He and his friends quickly became consumed by this scene. Journeys into the city for warehouse parties and concerts are some of his fondest memories from his high school years. He’d gotten the bug - he was going to make music.
Brooks couldn’t help but seek out a place that fostered the same community for college. Edinburgh has a thriving music scene, and the University of Edinburgh has a long-standing reputation for being at the forefront of electronic dance music culture. The university has produced many successful DJs and producers, including Denis Sulta, Jackmaster, and Eclair Fifi.
It was this that made Brooks want to attend university there. Brooks mildly cringes as he recounts his first few weeks, “I would leave the door to my room open while I played my music. It’s such a freshman thing to do, but it kinda worked. I met a lot of my future collaborators doing this my first few weeks”.
“Why don’t you become a DJ?”, a friend of his had suggested one afternoon. It reminded him of the first time he came in contact with a DJ. He had gone to a set where he really connected with the songs. Coming to the realization afterwards that none of the songs were the DJ’s left a bad taste in his mouth.
“DJs get to stand in front of a crowd, play someone else’s music, and reap the benefits. I wasn’t gonna be that. But the best way to promote myself was by DJing. So I decided I would do it - with the exception that I would solely play my own stuff”.
Brooks began to put out his own music under a formal DJ name. Who we now know as Private Browsing was once many other things. “I’ve gone through so many DJ names. This is why I can’t get a tattoo - I change my mind weekly”. Private Browsing’s sound has gone through many phases, as well.
“I wanted to find a way to work in the rock guitar vibe with a more electronic sound. Finding that balance has been the majority of the process. How can we make something that sounds just as good live as it does as a set?”. Private Browsing’s latest album, “Slant”, is a great representation of this sound coming together. Some stand out songs include “Squeeze the Day” and “Eye Contact”.
It was Cinco De Mayo, so naturally Brooks suggested getting margaritas. Sitting in McCarren Park with only liquids in his stomach, Brooks began texting the band - trying to pull together a rehearsal before their performance at the Red Pavilion the next day. Pulling together four musicians for practice is no easy feat. As Brooks waited for responses, stories of underground raves and unreleased tracks began to flow. He reminisced on nights trekking through the woods surrounding Edinburgh, listening out for the sound of a kick drum as his navigational guide.
Brooks pauses for a moment - grinning as he reads his phone, “Oh my god…on the audio rider for tomorrow, ‘wireless head-worn microphones’. I’m going Britney baby!”.
It was a maze getting to the rehearsal room. The band practices out of a friend’s recording studio on West Street in Greenpoint. The room is small and comfortable. Two 40s of Budweiser sat on a small table to the side of the studio. Is this how Brooks lures the group to practice? It’s definitely possible.
The band moves about the room seemingly all with different intentions. Chris sits the furthest away, strumming on his guitar as his mind wanders. His riffing sets the relaxed tone of the room. Monk, the drummer, messes around with the recording system as Jacob, the bassist, turns dials on the speakers. No one seems to know how to get the system to connect to their sound - the inconvenience of a borrowed studio space.
Every member comes from a different place. Chris is a guitar teacher, Monk works in media, and Jacob is a contractor. Then they begin to play. Four individuals quickly meld into a collection of artists. The member’s distinct personalities melt into the music; each offering alterations to the sound with little to no need for approval. It’s as if they’ve reached a level of collective understanding. As the minutes tick by, it’s difficult not to become enthralled by this band.
Private Browsing’s music is that which grows on you. Much like its lead singer, their newest album Slant is layered with contradictions. Some songs are synthetic and soothing while others feel stripped and exposed. It’s clear that this album has been made by people that understand the art of production and have a passion for the medium. Slant is a don’t miss.
Their latest album 'Slant' is out on August 31st -- stay tuned!