Over the past few months, my social media feeds have been almost on fire with the name of one band more than any other: Brutai. The culprit is Miss Lulu Davis, the one-girl whirlwind who is Incendia Music Management. I made the mistake of making her virtual acquaintance and the rest is history. Seriously though, I don’t mind at all because without this, I’d not have heard about Brutai, certainly not until it was too late. As it is, what I’ve heard has piqued my interest to the point that when the opportunity to sit and have a chat with the quintet presented itself, I couldn’t say no.
And so, in the less than salubrious surroundings of an upstairs dressing room at the Camden Barfly (full gig review), I found myself perched against some disused piece of electrical equipment, readying my first question for the guys. As a starter for ten, I suggest that Brutai come across as a blend of Voyager meets Soilwork, meets metalcore, meets pop and tentatively ask whether they agree.
“I like that”, responds Felix Lawrie, vocalist and guitarist with the London-based outfit, in a very friendly, good-humoured manner. “Our music is pretty hard to pigeonhole and I’ve heard so many different genres thrown our way. We just go out and play the metal music that we love and we love all types of metal music. So some songs might be a bit heavier and others will be completely the opposite. We call ourselves ‘metal’ but if you want to pigeon hole us, you can call us whatever you like…as long as the word metal is in there somewhere.”
I find that last vehement comment very interesting particularly when you learn that the background of several of the band is so heavily intertwined with the world of pop, quite impressively as it happens. I invite the chaps to fill in the blanks and Felix instantly obliges.
‘My family is in the pop industry’, he casually states, smiling warmly. ‘My dad is a songwriter and he has written songs for Tina Turner and Lionel Ritchie, so you can’t get any more pop than that. My auntie is the singer Lulu, so it’s hard not to have been around pop music from a young age. I was taken to Take That concerts at the age of four – it wasn’t my fault”, he remonstrates playfully with his bandmates amidst snorts of laughter, “I was four!’
“It’s a small world”, interjects keyboardist Alex Lorimer, smiling and pointing in Felix’s direction animatedly, “because my dad played the trumpet on stage with his aunt about 25 years ago and then we end up playing together in a metal band.”
The inevitable question about the origins of their love of metal looms large and I succumb.
“It was a natural progression”, Felix replies matter-of-factly. “I used to be into rap music – Dr Dre and Eminem mainly. Eminem got me into Limp Bizkit, Limp Bizkit introduced me to Korn and Korn led me to Metallica. I was introduced to the guitar at a young age but when I first heard Metallica, I was like ‘OK, I’m going to learn every single Metallica song known to man and play every day’. That’s how it started with metal for me anyway.”
Alex then offers his thoughts on the subject.
“If you end up playing metal, you have to understand music. People who don’t, just think of it as noise. If you are brought up in a musical background, even if it’s not your cup of tea, you can appreciate it. We all came from different musical backgrounds, playing different instruments…like the clarinet”.
That last comment is delivered with a certain amount of quiet reluctance which means that I already think I know the answer Prior to seeking clarification of the culprit.
“Me, can’t you tell?”, quips Alex with a rueful smile, before turning back to the original question once the laughter from around the room dies down finally. “But everyone understood it, got it and it brought us all together.”
“We really can’t complain”, offers Felix when I ask him whether he is pleased with the progress of Brutai to date, particularly in light of the fact that a debut album is yet to be released. “Because 10,000 views (for the song ‘Deep’ – see below) in a couple of months is more than we ever expected”.
After a quick prompt, Felix goes on to explain his reasoning for the comparative success.
“I think it’s more of an accessible song, it’s catchy and so I think it reaches out to more than just metal fans. People will come up to me who don’t like metal and tell me that they really like my tune. It has that kind of longevity and catchiness and our manager”, he emphasises, looking in Lulu’s direction pointedly, “getting us on the playlist on Scuzz TV probably helped as well. It’s just being spread around really well.”
Naturally the topic of conversation turns towards the debut album. At this point in time, there’s no news about a release date and I make a failed attempt to get some kind of exclusive.
“I really can’t say”, Felix shrugs to my gentle prodding. “It’s all finished and it sounds great. We’re thrilled with how it sounds. Our hard work has ended now, so it is the turn of our manager to ship it around to see if we can get any support from any labels. We’ll see how that goes but after that, we’ll be more decisive about when it is going to get released. So it is a bit up in the air at the moment and will be for the next month or so.”
Sensing that I’m a beaten man on this topic, I change tack and ask Brutai to explain a little more about the writing process. This time it’s Alex who leads the reply.
“All the tracks on the album generally have very different identities. If you knew us as musicians, you’d be able to tell who wrote this or that part. We all have our own sounds and we pull them all together. Everyone comes up with ideas or song structures and then we take those basic ideas and develop the songs together from there. And then myself and Felix will do the vocals. Everyone has their own signature sounds and these all come through in the songs.”
Felix nods his agreement.
“It all starts off as an idea from the three of us, me, Henry (Ryan – guitars) or Alex. And then, as a band (rounded out by drummer Mathieu Bauer and bassist Christian Sturgess) we piece everything together and turn them into a song. Personally, I am a really big fan of structures and the way in which songs piece together. I like general straight-forward structures but also stuff that’s a bit more out there but which still makes sense. That’s the key for me. But I’m also a big fan of the riff.”
“If it goes too far”, offers Henry for the first time, “then we will rein it in and make it a bit more straight-forward but if one song has elements of technical metal we will try to give it a big hook or a chorus. So there are a lot of different elements and sounds on the album.”
Dare I use the dreaded ‘prog’ word? My reticence was, as it turns out, unnecessary as Felix agrees to a certain extent.
“I definitely don’t mind us being called progressive because I think we’re a little bit progressive in the way that we write music. Not necessarily the style of music that we play but in the way that we think.”
I’m keen for Brutai to make themselves sound as intriguing and irresistible as possible to those music fans out there that have yet to give them a try. Or worse, to convince those music fans who have not even heard the name Brutai. I therefore invite the gents to come up with their most snappy description of their music in ten words or less. The answer is a slow and laboured one but involves the entire band. Eventually, as the unofficial spokesman, Felix ventures “Groove, riffs, hooks, a bit of dirt and atmosphere” before Henry offers some kind of clarification as to why they found it so difficult to reach an answer.
“I find our music really musical. It sounds silly to call music musical but there are some albums and some bands where everything sounds the same. If you listen to two songs off the album you know exactly who it is. We try to keep things different with more variety I think.”
One word that I personally feel is missing in that summary is ‘fun’. The minute I raise this, it is leapt upon by Felix.
“You can’t take yourselves too seriously and fun is what we’re all about too. The lyrics might be serious and the music might sound dreary and gloomy but a lot of the time it sounds fun and we try to have fun on stage. For me, metal music has always been fun and it always makes me smile.”
As a final question, I ask Brutai whether they, as a band, have any longer term ambitions or goals for the band. The answer is rather predictable but it demonstrates that the band have wise heads on their shoulders.
“You’ve got to just take things a step at a time”, replies Felix. “Our main goal from the get go when we started doing this seriously about three years ago was to create an album that we are all proud of. It took us a good year to write and then about nine months to record because we all did it sporadically. We did it ourselves, we all have jobs and we didn’t want to be rushed. We finally got there so if it all ended tomorrow I’d be very happy. Of course I hope it doesn’t end yet and we’ve got high hopes for Brutai, but you never know what might happen.”
And with that, the sound of the first band on the bill rumbles through the floorboards signalling that it’s time for us all to head downstairs to witness a little live music.
Interested to hear more? Then check out video for ‘Deep’ below or head to the Brutai Bandcamp page right here: https://brutai.bandcamp.com/album/brutai