A Deep Dive Into The Intensely Loving Brockhampton Fandom
“People connect to their stories, and see hope from the successes that Brockhampton have achieved despite their struggles."
If you’ve spent any time on the internet over the last few months, you would know that there’s a little bit of buzz around this band called Brockhampton.
The expansive hip-hop collective recently caused hysteria on their first ever visit to Australia, as they played a run of sold-out shows (including one that leader Kevin Abstract described as their “greatest show ever“) and headlined Listen Out.
Adoring fans camped outside their shows — in one impressive case, a fan told us she waited for a staggering 26 hours outside Sydney’s Enmore Theatre just to be up the front of the throng. Security ended up having to divide up the crowd inside the venue to ensure the safety of over-eager punters.
If this sounds reminiscent of Beatlemania, or One Direction-mania, that’s because it is. Of course, this entire thing may have passed you by entirely and you’ve now found yourself catching up. Perhaps you’re trying to disguise the fact you’re an ageing millennial losing touch with what’s cool, so you write articles in second-person to try and cover it up. Hypothetically, of course.
So, in a completely unrelated matter, we decided to ask four die-hard Brockhampton fans about what “America’s favourite boy band” means to them: 22-year-old Ruby, 20-year-old Georgie, 16-year-old Lucas and 20-year-old Kass.
The Beginning Of The Love Story
As with any multifaceted group, the appeal of Brockhampton is not monolithic. There is a myriad of entryways into what they do, as affirmed by the variety of responses given when asked what it was that turned the four into fully-fledged fans.
Kass was drawn in by footage of their live show: “I saw a video from a concert on Twitter, and I really liked how they sounded,” she says. Ruby, on the other hand, was specifically drawn to one of the members in particular — Russell Boring, better known as Joba. “It was his vocals,” she recalls. “I don’t even know what it was about them, but I have never heard a voice like his.”
“I love how diverse his vocals are,” Ruby continues. “One minute he can be singing you to sleep, and the next he’s yelling in your ear. He’s also classically trained. and brings that element into the music which I think is super cool and different for hip-hop.” Lucas agrees: “I really enjoy listening to his verses, especially when he screams and gets very hyped on-stage,” he says.
Georgie found herself drawn in on a bigger-picture scale, praising the group’s production choices: “Saturation III had such an early 2000s R&B vibe,” she says, “and I loved that a lot.” It wasn’t until she properly delved into their lyricism, however, that she found herself hooked in as the superfan she is today.
“They really put their entire backstories in their music,” she says, “and I’m such a huge fan of transparency in artists.”
“The difference between Brockhampton and most other boy bands is that they represent different races and sexualities,” says Ruby.
Although Brockhampton sports over a dozen official members, ranging from vocalists and producers to graphic designers and managers, they view themselves less as a collective and more as a “boy band.” It’s a term they’ve endeavoured to push – even to the point of it appearing on their merch (which routinely sells out every time a new design ends up on their website). Querying these fans on the significance of applying the term to Brockhampton themselves inspires passionate replies.
“The difference between Brockhampton and most other boy bands is that they represent different races and sexualities,” says Ruby. “They give a voice to people who don’t usually get heard. They aren’t manufactured by a huge label, and they write music about real things. They’re breaking the mould of what a boy band is and I am totally here for it.”
“When the term ‘boy band’ comes to mind, I think of manufactured groups in reality TV forced together by producers,” Georgie adds. “With Brockhampton, it’s a multicultural collective of different races, social status and sexuality. It’s inclusive and welcoming, and I’d say it’s a reality check that the pop world needed.”
A Personal Connection, A Mass Appeal
As with every boyband, the individual personalities within the group are just as important as their united front. Ruby and Lucas are both steadfast in their love of Joba, while Kass options vocalist/producer Dom McLennon: “His verses really speak and relate to me and some of my experiences with mental health issues,” she says.
For Georgie, it’s Ciarán McDonald — AKA Bearface. In her eyes, McDonald has undergone the biggest transformation during his tenure as a part of the group — and witnessing that progression as a fan is what’s kept her so involved. “In the Saturation trilogy, Bearface provided a shoegaze-like ending to each album, and usually lingered around the back of the stage for the majority of their live performances,” she explains.
“This shoegaze-inspired music was more like the kind of stuff I listened to, so I easily favoured that side of Brockhampton over everything else. Since the departure of Ameer Vann earlier this year, Bearface has become much more of a contributor to the group — even interacting more on-stage. The way he has opened himself up over the past year has blown my mind.”
“I was number one at the Sydney show,” Lucas says. “I got there 3pm the day before, and had camped overnight in front of the Enmore.”
All four fans ended up at Brockhampton’s recent Australian tour — specifically at their headlining date at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre. Although everyone arrived well before even the people who work there, Lucas easily won the race. “I was number one at the Sydney show,” he says. “I got there 3pm the day before, and had camped overnight in front of the Enmore.”
Kass arrived next: “I got in line at 5am and there were already people there!” she recalls. “I knew I should have come earlier, but I needed sleep.” Georgie was not long after that: “I spent 26 hours in line for Brockhampton’s Sydney show,” she says. “It was easily the most stressful show I’ve camped out for!”
Last, but not least, was Ruby: “I got to the Enmore around 9:30am so I could get to the barrier,” she says. “I really wanted to photograph them, but they didn’t approve any photographers.”
In order to try and control the over-capacity crowd, the security attempted to divide the audience into an under-18s section at the front and an over-18s section in the back half of the floor. Both Ruby and Georgie pretended to be under 18 in order to secure a spot on the barrier.
“There’s no pedestal between them and their fans,” says Georgie. “They are constantly interacting with the crowd, hyping each other up and having a lot of fun. It brings out the best in the crowd, too. When the band left after the stage before their encore, there was a crowd singalong the entire time. The crowd was singing ‘I want more out of life than this,’ which is a lyric of theirs from ‘SAN MARCOS.’”
For Ruby, the entire experience was, although stressful, an overwhelmingly positive experience. “I made so many new friends,” she says. “It was probably one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.” And what of our brave young adventurer Lucas, who slept rough in pursuit of a moment with Brockhampton? “I definitely don’t regret it — it was the best time of my life,” he says.
The Rapid Ascension
It didn’t stop there, either. The day after the show, Event Cinemas on George Street in Sydney’s CBD were screening The Longest Summer in America, a documentary about Brockhampton and their ascent over the last couple of years. Using the largest cinema in the complex, the screening sold out instantly. Among those lucky enough to attend the premiere were Ruby, Georgie and Lucas.
Following the screening, Brockhampton themselves arrived. “They walked down our side to get to the stage at the front,” Ruby recalls. “Joba told me I had nice hair!” The group went on to conduct a Q&A with the audience, which Georgie described as “super insightful.” At its conclusion, Kevin Abstract asked the crowd if they were up for shooting a new music video. Needless to say, they didn’t need a second invitation — within minutes, the group had Iridescence opener ‘NEW ORLEANS’ blasting out of the cinema’s speakers.
After a half-dozen takes, they had the video — and within 12 hours, it was posted to their YouTube channel. “It was so bloody amazing,” says Lucas. “It was such a surreal and fun experience.”
“People connect to those stories, and see hope from the successes that Brockhampton have achieved despite these struggles.”
Brockhampton have not slowed down since they left Australia, touring extensively and even returning to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to perform live. Their cultural clout seems to be growing with every tweet, video and performance. They’re just as obsessed over as any current pop star, without quite sounding like any of them — and, in Georgie’s mind, it’s this uniqueness and individuality that has brought such devotion.
“I think the reason why Brockhampton were held up to a pedestal so quickly is because of what they speak about in their music,” she says. “Kevin’s transparency about a person of colour in the LGBTIQ+ community. Merlyn [Wood, vocalist]’s story of dropping out of college, and being bullied by his parents whilst he perused his dream career. Dom and Joba’s experiences with mental health.
“People connect to those stories, and see hope from the successes that Brockhampton have achieved despite these struggles. As Brockhampton’s fanbase expands, the pedestal they currently stand on will rise.”
David James Young is a writer, podcaster and ageing millennial. Please follow him on Twitter, as that would be *checks notes* totally lit, fam: @DJYwrites.