Feature: Austin’s Large Brush Collection Find Their Balance on ‘Off Center,’ a Delicate & Sweeping Tapestry of Folk

Large Brush Collection © Syd Fuller
Large Brush Collection © Syd Fuller
Large Brush Collection’s debut album ‘Off Center’ aches with a sense of renewal and rediscovery as the Austin-based folk band channel growing pains, familial strain, and more into a gorgeous and resonant tapestry full of emotional depth and sonic light.
Stream: ‘Off Center’ – Large Brush Collection

Austin’s Large Brush Collection are musical painters tackling life’s great canvas.

Their delicate, sweeping folk music is the brush, and through intimately introspective lyrics, radiant melodies, and compelling textures, they capture the weight, and the wonder, of what it means to be alive: To be present, connected, open, and changing. Their debut album Off Center (released January 26, 2024) aches with a sense of renewal and rediscovery as they channel growing pains, familial strain, and more into a gorgeous and resonant tapestry full of emotional depth and sonic light.

Off Center - Large Brush Collection
Off Center – Large Brush Collection

“As a project, Large Brush Collection parallels my own personal growth. They’re inextricable from one another,” singer/songwriter Nora Predey tells Atwood Magazine. “When I started writing songs, I was faced with some things in my life where I didn’t have a practical way of working through or processing them.”

“A lot of themes on Off Center that emerge from that are some amount of rebirth, self-reflection about the kind of person you want to be, and also a lot of immediate external pressures and the world – the way that people look at you, the political landscape, and my family landscape. so much of what made it into these songs is tied up into the way the relationship I had with them changed over the last 6 or 7 years.”

Large Brush Collection © Syd Fuller
Large Brush Collection © Syd Fuller

Founded by bassist and vocalist Nora Predey and guitarist Dan Magorrian in 2019, Large Brush Collection has grown into a collaborative band over five years’ time, adding classically trained flutist Gabriela Torres and drummer Rishi Bajekal after a long pandemic break.

While they’ve found common ground in the folk canon, each member brings their own musical background – soul and R&B for Torres, post-punk and alternative for Magorrian, Indo-jazz, rock, and blues for Bajekal – into the mix, making Off Center not only the band’s first fully realized offering, but also a unique crossroads of influence and inspirations.

“When we converge to a place that includes bits of each of our musical backgrounds, I feel we create our most compelling music,” Bajekal shares.

Magorrian agrees. “I like to think that the way we play live shows, which is loosely improvisational and dynamic, translates into our recorded songs. While the songs had their structure going into the studio, a lot of the guitar, flute, drum, and overdubbed parts were improvised during recording.”

Large Brush Collection © Syd Fuller
Large Brush Collection © Syd Fuller

Active listening and a collaborative spirit contribute to Large Brush Collection’s standing as a unique beacon of traditional and alternative folk – their mellifluous songs a melting pot of eclectic and comforting sound.

“I write on electric bass primarily, and it is not really an instrument often used in this chordal, textural way,” Predey explains. “Bass takes the role a guitar would have in this type of music. Guitar takes on a more ethereal, textural role to build soundscapes along with Gaby’s delay-drenched flute. I think my favorite thing is how dynamic it can be – how we can play with the intensity to follow the emotion of the songs,” she smiles. “The emotion leads the way, but the performances, the dynamics follow the emotionality. I think that’s my favorite thing about how we approach our songwriting.”

Predey’s introspective and thoughtful lyrics find her candidly reflecting on past and present experiences – unpacking little moments so as to better process them, and in turn, understand who she is and where she fits in the world around her. Album opener “To Be Somebody” starts from a place of unease and lacking a feeling of groundedness – a sensation she ultimately embraces in the record’s cathartic finale, “Forgiveness Is A Gift We Give To Ourselves.”

So much fear in being alone
So much anxious energy
I can’t understand it
Until I come back home
Can’t seem to shake these feelings
I always wanted to be somebody
Who could treat their life like a game
But I can’t – I can’t – I can’t, oh I can’t
Understand why I can’t be that way
I don’t think I’ll ever play
No, I don’t think that I’ll ever play
To Be Somebody,” Large Brush Collection

In between those two bookends lies a wealth of vivid storytelling and wondrous sound. Large Brush Collection explore the effects of conflict on an individual in “Arm’s Length,” a song that vacillates between spaces of gentle acoustic light and meatier, more intense moments of churn.

“Conflict has always been really hard for me, especially ones that can’t be resolved,” Predey admits. “Arm’s Length” deals with the feeling after you’ve had an argument with somebody, and you’re so ungrounded and frustrated because it feels like this is the way that it’s always been and it’s not going to change. A heightened state.”

“And then there’s this other voice that comes in to defuse the tension; the line, ‘Your voice carried me back to where you’d kept me, boiling over on the stove…’ Connection is the key to break out of some swirling pattern of thoughts.”

Large Brush Collection's Nora Predey © Syd Fuller
Large Brush Collection’s Nora Predey © Syd Fuller

Large Brush Collection explore communication breakdown and discord within the shuffling, shimmering folds of “Better Be,” a song about not being on the same page with someone, and people are talking past one another rather than talking to and with each other. “As friends in my life have gone through breakups and difficult moments, it feels like there’s so much of that piece where we’re not getting one another,” Predey shares. “It was written from a place of experience, but it’s also a lens through which to view other people’s conflicts.”

Whereas many of these songs paint in larger brush strokes, the urgent and aching “Tell Me Again” stands out for its particularly intimate and visceral imagery regarding Predey’s relationship with her mother. “At the time it had reached this sort of equilibrium… of superficial conversations,” she recalls. “In the event that anything emotional or real needed to come up, she would retreat into this really defensive place and repeat the same things over and over again… Every time I’d asked for anything emotionally or any time the conversation would get a little dangerous. The chorus is me going, ‘This is what I want to say to her, but I know I can’t say it… she’s just going to put up a wall.’ The verses are me trying to empathize with how she got to the point she’s at, and trying to put myself in her shoes. Knowing her emotions are very real to her, but seeing how trapped she is by them. There’s a lot of empathy for that, and for her experience.”

Off Center closes with a cathartic exhale: “Forgiveness Is a Gift We Give to Ourselves.” That inner ache caused by unresolved conflicts and issues with loved ones subsides into a calm acceptance as, over charged electric guitars and glowing flute pulses, she sings, “I’m more secure now than I’ve ever been… remembering forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves.

“I was thinking about what a pattern of holding onto being hurt and how stuck I had been feeling for a long time. I realized I was attached to the way I wanted things to go – feeling like things would need to change in order for me to be free from a lot of pain. The song is sort of this realization that that’s not realistic; we can’t control what other people are doing.”

“In the time since I wrote it, I feel it’s become an affirmation for me to be like, ‘What am I dwelling on here?’ It’s been this gentle reminder of like, ‘Is that really serving you? Is holding onto these feelings really serving a purpose, except to just make it worse?’ The realization is, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Large Brush Collection © Syd Fuller
Large Brush Collection © Syd Fuller

Predey hopes listeners will come away from Off Center with a recognition that life will throw a lot at us, and it can be hard to feel the ground and find good resolutions to our problems, but it is possible.

“It’s a hopeful record,” she smiles.

“Being able to see other people’s perspectives, to me, feels like the most important thing,” she adds. “We’re never gonna make anything better by just writing people off.”

Rooted in folk tradition but by no means traditional, Large Brush Collection are a bright and fast-rising presence in Austin’s bustling music scene. Dynamic, emotive, and intricate, their debut album is a beautiful exercise in human connection and forgiveness – of letting go of tension and learning to let the light in. It’s a lesson we could all benefit from, told through some of the most enchanting and intentional folk music being made today.

I’m more secure now than I had been
push away, pull you in
twist the knife, meet again
wound so tight, wounded
remembering forgiveness is a gift
that we give to ourselves

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:: stream/purchase Off Center here ::
:: connect with Large Brush Collection here ::

— — — —

Off Center - Large Brush Collection

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? © Syd Fuller
cover art © Alexandra Li

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