Nicholas Allbrook on Manganese: ‘Music gives the opportunity to be vulnerable with yourself’

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Nicholas Allbrook on Manganese: ‘Music gives the opportunity to be vulnerable with yourself’

nicholas allbrook manganese
Photo credit: Diana Trippe
Words by Coco Veldkamp

Allbrook is back with his fourth solo album Manganese promising a fusion of pop, psychedelic rock and experimental elements while delving into everything from existential musings to the complexities and nuances of relationships.

Speaking over Zoom from his coastal home in Fremantle – Allbrook is full of energy and immediately captivates. His musical talent is extraordinary; he’s an acclaimed songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. But perhaps more compelling is his apparent state of mind. The way he sees the world is indicative of someone far older than the 35-year-old – but his eccentricity, fervour and lust for life are intense.

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Set to be released on June 9 via Spinning Top Records, Manganese builds on Allbrook’s already impressive discography, having previously co-founded and fronted Pond and toured as the bassist of Tame Impala. 

Allbrook emphasises his open-mindedness and passion for blending musical styles in his conception of the 11-track album, heeding his own enjoyment and allowing it to usher his artistic direction. 

“Everything’s inspiring, I guess… I just go with what I enjoy and where it takes me, and that’s where it took me,” Allbrook explains. 

Manganese is a deeply personal and introspective album for Allbrook, akin to a collection of diary entries. Each track offers a glimpse into his thoughts, emotions, and experiences, culminating in a mosaic of self-expression. Allbrook finds power in words, even when their meaning may seem elusive or intangible. This approach gives the album its distinct character. 

“For me, the only way things ever become conceptually concise is by complete accident,” he said.

“This is just a vomit of things that I think or even don’t think. Sometimes words just feel good – even when the meaning is a bit vaporous or whatever.” 

Among the tracks on Manganese, a few hold particular significance for Allbrook. Released in February to preview the album, Jackie is a poignant tribute to a departed friend. The track serves as a cathartic outlet for Allbrook to process his emotions – a reasoning which resides behind many songs on the album.

“[Jackie] is about a friend of mine who died. It almost seemed like a way of legitimising her death for me and all the things that you think when a friend passes. Like, I didn’t see them enough, or I didn’t call them enough,” he said.

“A lot of people have a way of writing in a diary or talking to a friend or doing therapy to figure things out by putting them outside of your own brain. 

“And I think it was a way of figuring out the loss and tragedy of it. And how that is not always the case – that there is beauty and transcendence to it.”

With lyrics like “Somewhere silent, free from violence/ Attended by angels, as you float ‘tween the islands” Allbrook does just that. And it is tracks like this – scattered throughout the album – that promise a sonically and emotionally enriching experience for listeners.

“Oh, man, I just hope it really drives a dagger into people’s hearts,” Allbrook half-jokes. 

“Honestly, I’d be so happy if people chucked it on and put on the poppiest song on repeat to drive around with their mates. That would be sick. But if I’m being honest, I really want people to cry their eyes out.” 

The creation of Manganese was not without its challenges. Allbrook openly admits moments of self-doubt where he questioned the quality of his work and contemplated abandoning the project entirely. However, with the support of a “shitload of people”, he found renewed enthusiasm to resurrect the album. 

“There were maybe several times that I decided that it was all shit and didn’t want to put it out. That’s always what I do, especially with solo albums…But I’m sure everyone else who works on anything by themselves has to go through that kind of self-doubting. And now I know that it’s a valley, not the edge of the world.”

Manganese is a testament to Allbrook’s ability to capture complex ideas and feelings in his sound; a power he is grateful for. Through his music, he creates an intimate connection with listeners, inviting them to embark on a reflective journey alongside him.

“Music gives the opportunity to be vulnerable with yourself and the listener,” he resolves.  

Nicholas Allbrook is playing at The Workers Club, Fitzroy on June 15. Manganese is out on June 9