"Writing music is what we love so much" - Interview with Brutus

03 de Abril, 2023 EntrevistasJosé Garcia

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All the way from Belgium, Brutus have been slowly but reassuringly become one of the most thought-provoking and tear-inducing punk/post-hardcore acts in present day. They've been around for almost a decade now, and have released a bunch of records that have swarmed the world with their melodic, intense and emotive performances. They are a trio that might be best known for having a drummer that also sings, but while that in itself is something really amazing, what's taken the band overseas and reaching a whole new wave of listeners is their sound. Layered, complex and painfully vulnerable, any listener can certainly relate to what Brutus have to say. Their live shows, equally high-level intense, takes their album trademarks and ramps them up to twenty. Unison Life, their most recent output, shows the band in the prime of their creative depth.

Having the trio return to Portugal, at one of the year's best festival line-ups, more precisely at Amplifest, was a blessing. Both on the stage and off it, the band was nothing less than warm and embracing. Having met up with both the bassist and guitarist, Stijn and Peter, we took the chance to talk about how the band survived creatively during the pandemic, Unison Life and more.


Last time Brutus came to Portugal was back in 2019, at Rodellus. It’s been a while, but now that you’ve finally returned, do you feel like everything lined up at the right place and time? And how do you feel about being part of the experience that is Amplifest?

Stijn - Yes, because we have a new record coming out in two weeks, 21st of October. So this is a one-off show for us, we're not touring right now and we're gonna go on tour soon. But this was awesome. Such a nice festival. Just to come over here to Porto to play this festival is nice. Really nice!

Peter - It couldn't be better. We've had so much preparation for the album, like press and videos and all the things that are not playing live, because the touring comes later, and now just doing this show is very cool.


Your new album, Unison Life, is out in just a few weeks! Can you go over what has inspired this record’s conception and how it compares thematically and soundwise to previous projects from the band, such as 2019’s Nest?

P - Yeah. You have two things: the music and the lyrics. And the lyrics are Stefanie who writes all of them. I think, if we look at Stefanie's lyrics, a lot of times they’re about personal relationships, and that hasn't changed in Unison Life. It’s about how she feels about stuff, about trying to live the perfect life that doesn't exist, because sometimes you have to lie, or fight, or argue. And Stefanie doesn't want that. That's why she wrote lyrics about it.

S - For this record we had a lot more time to write the songs. There were a lot of moments where we just took a lot more time to talk about what we wanted. We also had more time to experiment with instruments and sounds. Everything was out in the open. We also worked – well, not harder – but we kept working on songs to get…

P - Deeper...

S - Yeah, to really get to a point where the three of us were like "Now it's the way it's supposed to be". So, for some songs, we had like 8 versions...

P - ...Because of the pandemic we had so much time and we had no date for recording whatsoever. It was almost a year and a half in which no one knew when it would all start again. So, we kept writing, and trying, and writing, and trying, until the moment that we had a date to record. Then we started finishing songs.

S - I like how you put it, that we went a lot deeper into the songs... That perfectly sums up how it felt…


So, in a sense it (the pandemic) actually helped to shape the record. Even though it was a really shitty moment obviously, not all was lost...

P - Yeah. We lost a lot of shows. We lost a month of touring in the States. We lost cool supports. But we never talked about it anymore. It's just that it is what it is and now we just want to focus on new music and putting out the best music we can with the time we have. But it wasn't always easy because it's not like we practiced for 12 months. Sometimes it was just talking, because times were so dark. We had no idea when we could play live again and it was really weird to be in a band. There were no bands anymore. I mean, there were bands but there were no live shows anymore. It was so weird.

S - I remember it was very healing, I think for all of us, to know that the next day we'd have a rehearsal and even if we just played for an hour and talked for seven, it was so... you could go home and feel like you did something.

P - Yeah. 'Cause writing music is what we love so much.


Your first full length came out in 2017 and only five years later you’re already playing some of the biggest stages in Europe. Tell me how has the journey been so far? Do you guys ever feel overwhelmed by how fast everything has been happening?

S - Yes, but... I think we have an awesome team of people that we travel with. All these people help us a lot with the stage. It's not just turning the amps up and everybody just goes. When you play a bigger stage, there's a lot more you have to prepare for.

P - Yeah, and you have to play longer!

S - (laughs)

P - In the beginning we could play forty minutes and if you did support you could do 30 minutes, but now, as a headliner, you can't do that. You have to play longer. But it's cool, 'cause we have more albums, more songs, and we can pick the songs we want, change it up… I felt it was kinda gradual. It wasn't like a boom. It was 5, 6 years but for me it was step by step. One moment we had a tour manager, another moment we'd have a light guy. It's step by step. It's not like "Whoa, now we have to headline the biggest festival in the world!".

S - I'm very grateful for that. Not that we didn't take our time with it, but it feels right...

P - Yeah, we enjoyed the journey too.


Brutus at Amplifest 2022



With so many styles, influences and genres blended into your music, It’s actually rather fascinating how you can hold all of it together without sacrificing cohesion. During your compositional process, how does the band make sure that all those elements make sense in both a studio and live context?

P - I believe we think about live all the time that we write. At least I am. If we start layering stuff, or if Stefanie is singing and not drumming and the drums have to come in at some point, it all has to work for live. And the studio has so many options: you can record so many guitars and so many vocals. We're always protective about it, which is good. A lot of times we think "Guys, if we can't do this live, we're not gonna do it".

S - Yeah, me and Stefanie, we can lose ourselves in... overdubs...

P - Yeah but in a good way because harmonies are so nice, but we are just three people. During the writing, we always keep in mind that we'll have to play it live sometime.


With the overwhelmingly positive reception of your previous record Nest, can you tell me about what’s on the horizon for Brutus after the approaching release of Unison Life?

P - There's two things...

S - Yeah we have some stuff coming out...

P - We recorded a new song last month, but it's for a project, a very special project for us. But it will be out somewhere in 2023. We contributed to something very cool. One song! But I can't say anything about it. And we're gonna try to write some music for a Flemish movie about climate. It's the first time we try to do that, but it's great ‘cause it's something completely different.


Any artists you were particularly looking forward to on this first weekend of Amplifest?

S - I saw Amenra yesterday. It was really nice. 

P - Midwife yesterday was amazing. I was so surprised by her. It was like she did all the right things. So humble and so natural, just playing the guitar and singing with her phone as a mic. It had been a long time since I watched a full set without going for a beer or just going out. As for bands we can't see, there's so many... Cult Of Luna tomorrow...

S - And Birds In Row... my favorite band...

P - I'm thinking... Cult Of Luna... shouldn't they be here today already?

S - Maybe...

P - Maybe they sleep in the same hotel [as us]...

S - Maybe we should call them for beers...

P - Maybe I should text them... Because we toured with Cult Of Luna and it was one of the best tours we did. But yeah, Birds In Row is playing, next week Deafheaven is playing... So many great bands. The line-up is amazing.


Last one before I let you go: what have you been listening to lately?

S -  There's one thing I can say, even though Stefanie always makes fun of me for it, but for some reason I'm really into experimental guitar music. So like people that just play guitar by themselves and do something really interesting. And also, a lot of Mexican traditional music... I was on a holiday here, probably months ago with my girlfriend, and we went to a fado show at the House of Guitars (Casa Da Guitarra). That was crazy. So ever since then I've been listening to a lot of that. The sadness of it is so my thing! For me it has the same vibe of that dark Americana. It was so beautiful and the singer was insane.

P - In my phone there are a lot of young bands because we're looking for a support band for the UK tour. The one artist I felt I had to listen more of was Bill Callahan. I don't know where I picked it up, maybe in a playlist, but I was like, yeah... That was the last thing I was listening to.


Brutus at Amplifest 2022
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