Amplifying Dissent with Many Rooms
We talked to Brianna Adams fka Many Rooms about motherhood, the insincerity of social justice as a marketing tool and other obstacles in the music industry today.
This interview is part of a series discussing mandates, restrictions and censorship with musicians and music fans—read more of these interviews here.
Brianna Adams is a singer-songwriter, mother and generally based person on twitter. Her solo music, formerly under Many Rooms, is absolutely stunning and inspiring — combining haunting vocals with ambient guitar. Her debut album There is a Presence Here was well received by critics, which she released in 2018 prior to cutting ties with her label in 2019.
You can find Brianna's recent work on her SoundCloud:
Music For All: I've been so disappointed by record labels completely dropping the ball with essentially the only thing they were tasked with — supporting the musicians they signed contracts with. What was your experience working with a label in this era of excessive self-censorship and pressure to align 100% with progressive ideology?
Brianna: I guess you could say I technically dropped my label, not the other way around, but if I hadn't they would've dropped me in due time. It was pretty complex and there were small issues that sort of crescendoed into one week where it all fell apart.
I had — what I believed to be — a great relationship with the two guys who owned my label, a small independent one they started because they, in their words, “don’t want to be a label of suits that screws over bands with big complicated contracts.” But it turned out that without the proper boundaries agreed upon between both parties, the relationship can get unhealthy.
Both of them are in relatively well known hardcore bands that project a Marxist/anarchist aesthetic. If you visit their socials, one of the first things you’ll see is an icon of a vinyl slicing into a police car. Using the popular slogans of the 2010’s brand of punk lib — including, but not limited to: Black Lives Matter, ACAB, punch a nazi, trans rights, etcetera.
However, I got to see from a unique perspective how those concepts were utilized as marketing tools. It was even talked about casually, as if it’s no secret, as if they were playing caricatures and had been playing them so long they’d just allowed the lines to blur. I was instructed on how I should present myself ideologically. I was outwardly Christian and, in the beginning, had dedicated my music career to ministry and being a witness to the love and grace of Yeshua. But our entire relationship was peppered with their influence for me to “tone it down.”
We went on a tour together once, and they challenged my faith every day, giving me book and podcast recommendations and asking questions about things like the story of Noah’s Ark and laughing at my genuine responses. I was stubborn and always went head to head with them, but their words still got to me and inevitably, planted seeds of doubt in my psyche.
So over the years I became gradually quieter about my more controversial views and tried to be “open minded.” In time, a growing audience & growing income slowly chipped away and led me into a progressive, new age Christian identity that better fit the community I was reaching, but I had become a caricature as well.
I still felt the same convictions, but smothered them. I wanted people to like me and think I was cool, come to my shows and buy my stuff so I could keep doing it. And I felt justified in my intentions, that I was practicing grace to people I wanted to reach by being quiet about what might offend them. The lines had started to blur, my personality just another way to market myself.
Then I got married. Which changed everything, and transformed me. My husband is a highly rational and intelligent man; he loves the Lord as well. During those first weeks of our budding relationship when we’d talk for hours on the phone, he’d ask me questions. He’d make me ask myself questions, and answer them honestly.
In those months of us growing close, I peeled back the layers of intellectual dishonesty and found my true self there, still waiting. So we got married in the winter of 2018, and love had woken me up and emboldened me, because my relationship with the Lord was new. I wanted to say truthful things, things I had been suppressing, knowing that it might alienate people.
I started posting about the nefarious side of Planned Parenthood and the harsh reality of abortion. I shitposted about wokeism and the contradictions in my peers' beliefs. I also prayed to God that he would remove anything that was hindering my life and He answered, very swiftly.
Within the first week of my first ever European tour, I fell out with one of the label owners over something I had said on Twitter that hurt his ego, and he wanted me to work strictly in communication with the other owner. I took that as a sign and opportunity to remove myself from the label altogether, which I’m not sure they were expecting. I also found out earlier that week they weren’t fulfilling our contractual agreements and withholding a lot of money from me, either assuming I was too naive to ever find out (which I would’ve been, if my more educated tour mates in Europe hadn't informed me) or writing the contract without fully understanding the jargon, I’ll never know.
But I find the irony rich that they believed themselves to be billionaire hating communists while exploiting me and keeping what was rightfully mine to themselves. They still own my masters and rights to my old music and I’ll probably never get them back. The Internet cancelled me around the same time, which really just means I shed hundreds of fake friends — and a few thousand followers. I knew it was a good thing, but it was a painful experience that I still find myself grieving and processing some days. That tour [in Europe] was a nightmare, I lost weight and cried myself to sleep, even had a demonic sleep paralysis experience.
I knew even then I was being stripped and cleansed and refined; the unnecessary weight was being cut off. All of this happened in November of 2019, right before Covid and right before the touring industry imploded as venues shut down. I’m glad that I didn’t have to navigate that world during those times when division became more pronounced and advocating for a side was all but demanded from fans & music workers alike.
Since then I’ve released a few songs and covers independently, which I find I prefer over deadlines, quotas and ideological demands. The timing of these events and my life since then is a testament of all things working for the good and the glory of God!
I've been having the hardest time lately because I can no longer listen to so many musicians I once loved without getting this awful sinking feeling in my stomach because I'm not welcome at their live shows. I'm a huge proponent for free speech and listening to art that's not ideologically aligned with my own, but when so many musicians now believe that music should be segregated or restricted, it has completely broken my heart. Do you have any advice for separating the art from an artists penchant for authoritarianism — do you think its even possible to do / worth doing?
I’d have to concur that events of the past two years have significantly affected my relationship with music, not just as a career or hobby but also as a mode of catharsis. I have a hard time articulating it because Covid and political events are not the only contributors; being immersed in music for so long naturally manifests an impossibly critical and jaded view.
I was already growing disinterest in modern music before everything “happened.” Now the propagandic undertones seem to be more pronounced, which I feel is increasingly unavoidable. Musicians can’t stop talking, and maybe that’s an added issue to the problem; any artist can go online and prop up their ideologies opinions and beliefs for anyone to read.
Knowing how an artist thinks used to be accessible only via subjective interpretation of their art, now their art is largely a commodified avenue to showcase what they think. That, on top of the easy access modern technology provides for anyone to make music overcrowding the market, I’ve defaulted to sticking to the oldies.
I’m not sure I have a concrete answer. Just that it's subjective and impossible to control whether or not you, as an individual, can stomach listening to music in spite of its creator. The reaction is pretty intuitive and I suspect our conscious minds have little to do with it. There are bands I used to listen to that I’d say are “cucked for the regime” that I can no longer listen to, there are some that I can (but it’s rare).
What I do know for sure is this; what you enjoy is nobody’s business.
Have you been able to find like-minded musicians to collaborate with?
I have a few close friends in music that stayed loyal through what I’d call the Many Rooms Exodus of 2019, and we share stuff with each other sometimes, but I don’t really do well “collaborating” (never have), I’m too neurotic.
I support them in all their endeavors though, like me they’ve found other means to release music independently outside of the industry's ideological monolith. I've also provided a few originals for my friends’ experimental catholic podcast THE HOLY AGONY, I’d consider that one of my most prideful contributions in the last decade. I highly recommend giving them a listen as they address similar issues to your publication albeit through a spiritual artistic lens.
The free thought creators are out there, I’m thankful that the internet has brought me to many of them.
I've noticed some patterns with the musicians I've spoke to that are willing to stand up for personal choice and the importance of music — many share a focus on family, faith and physical & emotional health. I feel like it might be easier to see the healing properties of music in seeing how children respond to it — has being a mother changed the way you think about the importance of music?
In so many ways. I didn’t know this until getting pregnant myself, but the mother's brain changes drastically in pregnancy and then in childbearing, we lose grey matter to accommodate the instinctual knowledge that protecting and nurturing a child requires.
This includes sensitivity to perceived threats, and while most would associate the term “threats" with physical danger, I’ve noticed my awareness of the physical, psychological AND spiritual forces in our environment has increased acutely. I am more suspicious of all forms of entertainment, carefully examining it for content that could be absorbed by my child’s developing brain and pose negative cognitive consequences.
What is being said, sung, or performed in front of her will be automatically downloaded into her subconscious at least until she's five years old. That’s a huge responsibility! All this to say, it feels strange to play emo and hardcore/punk music on the speakers while I’m doing the dishes or cooking dinner with a baby in my arms.
I like wholesome, heartwarming songs that give the listener a little glimpse of heaven, because I’d like my baby to associate music with the heavenly things. My relationship with music and entertainment used to be masochistic and exploitative. I loved shock and sadness, I loved to explore how deeply I could be affected and immersed in something, sex and gore and fear barely bothered me at one point in time.
But seeing everything through a mother's eyes makes that stuff almost unbearable to me now. As I’ve matured, I've learned that what you consume and absorb affects your body, mind and spirit whether you want it to or not. Maybe that’s why those individuals with a strong foundation in faith and family have a healthy relationship with the arts too. All flows from one another.
Thank you for reading!