Brotherkenzie is the solo output from Minneapolis producer and songwriter Nathan Stocker – and, through the project, lives in the shadows, operating on the outskirts of the music industry, something he’s grown increasingly less interested in as he ages. Brotherkenzie’s music is a chasm carved from honesty and earnestness, the result teetering between catchiness and pop, but with sharp edges.
On the cover of Nathan, Stocker is about to be enveloped by an enormous black box in a deadened Minnesotan sprawl, framed by the eeriness of placid blue skies, the suggestion of a cold wind. It’s like a snapshot of calm caught in a moment before something bad happens, but you don’t know quite what that bad is yet. The looming black mass is a physical manifestation of narcissism – and Nathan is an exhaustive exploration of that. It’s an artifact of what happens when you listen to, and obey, your demons. A final look-a-round at the dirt you’ve known your whole life before descending to the eternal what-have-you.
The record is a re-introduction to Stocker’s solo output as brotherkenzie; his last release, 2020’s BIG WHAT closed the first chapter of the project, while Nathan explores the afterlife of a creative death. The 12 songs collected here are intended to signify a new brotherkenzie era: one embracing sex and heathen ideals. Even the title vies for blasphemy; Stocker’s attempt to divorce his first name from its loaded religious meaning and instead take ownership of it. It’d be easy to say it’s in response to Stocker’s deeply religious upbringing, but that’s too simple – instead, it’s an exercise in “what if’s?,” leaning into the dark side, interested in exploring what it means to be satanic without ever mentioning a devil – or any type of God, or religion – by name. Instead, Stocker wonders what happens when you die and are reborn as a demon. When you operate without goodness in mind. Is that a mode for something true? Even if it’s evil?
Stocker wrote these songs from March to November of 2020. It was isolating in the usual ways for that time, of course, but he was also juggling a number of relationships that were unhealthy for a myriad of reasons. He was stuck in a cycle, unable to escape, and every time he sat down the self-loathing and demons came out. Here he examines that self-destructive tenderness, observant of the way he was then but not fraught over it. Instead, he’s like a documentarian of trying times; of what it feels like to grow a new epidermis instead.