Our Stories: Kels Brooks

Tom Aston

Last year we sat down with Kels Brooks to chat about her life as a second year student, and what she had in store for her final year.

We caught up with the soon-to-be graduate and chatted about what she’s been up to since we last spoke, what her plans are post graduation, and a new software she’s currently developing.

Thanks for chatting with us Kels. To start, I’m sure everyone would love to know what you’ve been up to since we spoke last year?

All sorts! I was lucky enough to work on loads of festivals last year, and landed myself a house engineer position at Matt and Phreds in the Northern Quarter. I got to work with Brighter Sound for their residency, Both Sides Now, where we put on shows at Spirit and Leeds College of Music. I also had the opportunity to work with a New York based theatre producer/director, and got to write music for some of his plays. One of them, a retelling of The Cure at Troy, is having a quarantine reading next month which is super cool. I also wrote a song for a film called The Making of Alex, which is coming out later this year.

Wow, you’ve been busy! Tell us about the audio software that you’re currently developing.

It’s a piece of software that takes a finished song, and automatically adds tags to it. It means you don’t have to type out all your tags every time you upload your track somewhere, and it works with Search Engine Optimisation to make your track easier to find on the internet.

I’m hoping to have it done by July, as that’s when my dissertation is due, and once I’ve submitted that, I’m hoping to develop the software further. It needs more research and development, but ideally I’d like to be able to set up a business to market it and sell it one day. 

That’s very cool. What inspired you to create it?

It started as my dissertation project – I’ve always been into maths and physics, so I knew I wanted my dissertation to be related to that. I basically knew nothing about computer science before I started, besides the coding I did last year during one of my Work Based Learning placements. I wanted a challenge, but found it really interesting, and now I’m hoping to develop more audio software in the future.

On top of that you have some other projects on the go, tell us about them.

I just wrote some tracks for an advert, and I’m currently co-writing and mixing the soundscape for an animated film. I’ve also been taking on some mixing work to keep me busy; I’m predominantly working with young musicians who have been affected by COVID-19 and Brexit.

What are your plans once you graduate? 

I’m taking a gap year to get a break from being in education and just focus on being creative. After that I’m going back to uni to do a master’s degree and hopefully a PhD in Music Information Retrieval, which is what my dissertation is about.

We’d love to know how you’ve been staying productive since the lockdown?

I’m lucky that I still have my degree to focus on, so I have loads of essays to write. I’ve also been making loads of plans for the sessions and gigs that will happen when lockdown is over, which has been a good opportunity to step back and think about what I want to do in the next few months. Aside from that, I have a huge stack of unfinished sessions on my hardrive which is keeping me occupied! I’m also a big believer in mindfulness, and practicing that has really helped with my anxiety and concentration to keep me motivated.

And in that vein, what advice do you have for people to stay productive right now?

I think it’s really important to remember that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic – the standard of productivity shouldn’t be the same now as it was before this started. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do a million things before lockdown ends. Be kind to yourself, take each day at a time, and just do what you can.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

I’ve been really into synthy, bubblegum pop at the moment – there’s been some really cool releases recently. My top picks are Dagny, Lennon Stella, LÉON and Robinson. The quarantine music challenges have had me listening to some of my old favourites as well, like The National, Lorde and Turnover. 

Tell us, what are you most excited about for the year?

I’m looking forward to the day I hand in all my uni work! Jokes aside, I’m really excited for lockdown to be lifted, so I can get my hands on a proper mixing desk again.

Before you go we’d love to know, what is one thing you can’t wait to do once lockdown is lifted?

Go to a gig! Normally I’m working in bars and clubs constantly, and I really miss getting my hands on a sound desk and the atmosphere of a good night out. 

Thanks for chatting to us again Kels! We can’t wait to see where the industry takes you after graduating!