“We wanted more space, more room, the record had to breathe…”
When Brutus released their excellent debut, ‘Burst’, in 2017, it wasn’t long before the plaudits started rolling in. The Belgian post-hardcore trio had won themselves some famous fans, perhaps most notably, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, who loved the record so much he invited Brutus to one of his band’s mammoth 2017 shows at the London O2. “We had to wait in the VIP bar,” remembers bassist Peter Mulders. “An assistant came and said: the Brutus guys? Are they here? Can you come with us because Lars wants to talk to you!”
“We thought it was a joke,” chips in drummer and vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts. “He was very friendly, very interested. He asked us so many questions and didn’t talk about himself at all. He’s the biggest name, but the drummer in Converge [Ben Koller] tweeted us and then I collapsed.”
And lets not forget Thrice drummer Riley Breckenridge, who after hearing Brutus’ “refreshing and great” first single ‘All Along’, asked the band to support Thrice on their 2018 European tour. When we mention this catalogue of arm-pinching moments to Peter and Stephanie over the phone, they laugh modestly, disbelievingly, but there’s no downplaying the hype bubble that’s currently expanding around them.
Brutus formed in 2014, born from the local scene of their hometown, Leuven. Stefanie and guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden were already bandmates in a punk band, while Stefanie had met Peter playing in a Refused tribute band. And if you haven’t heard their music already, you should be very excited indeed. Together they create a taut and explosive storm cloud of white hot post metal, shimmering shoegaze and jagged punk that’s unique, cathartic, yet blissfully abrasive.
The band developed their sound and wrote ‘Burst’ in Belgium, but to record it, they decided to travel to Vancouver to work with Jesse G, a Canadian producer who had worked with Japandroids and White Lung. Recording a debut halfway across the world is pretty big step to take for any unsigned band, but it was such an enriching experience, the band chose to repeat it for second album ‘Nest’. In September 2018, Brutus headed back to Rain City Recorders studios in Vancouver to work with Jesse.
“It was the one thing we know for sure that would be good,” explains Peter. “We didn’t want to have [anything] stressing us out. It was also closure from the whole Brutus ‘Burst’ adventure. It seemed like a logical step to end it in Vancouver.”
The band approached ‘Nest’ with one goal: to create something bigger, more atmospheric and expansive. And there’s no doubt that they’ve created one of the albums of the year. ‘Nest’ explodes in a metallic shower of razor sharp edges, raw emotion and howling dynamics, executed with lethal and brutal precision, more luscious yet more nihilistic than their previous work. “We wanted more space, more room, the record had to breathe,” says Stefanie. “’Burst’ is cool and I’m very proud of it but it’s compressed, this record had to have more air to it. You need to have white to see the black. More depth more emotion.”
‘Nest’ had been written while the band were touring ‘Burst’ and they had grabbed every opportunity to write and practice, often having to miss out on time with their loved ones to do so. As a result, ‘Nest’ revolves around themes of homesickness, creative ecstasy, sacrifice and guilt, the balancing act between grabbing the opportunities that come your way and considering the impact they have on others. The band got their chance to prove it’s all been worth it, airing the ‘Nest’ material at a recent homecoming show, in front of a crowd packed with family and friends.
“It was a show for everyone we loved and I had a lot to prove, says Stefanie. “For not being there for certain people. For letting people down. For being a shitty friend. We went so hard for this band that sometimes we took things for granted and thought that everyone would understand our choices.”
“We made decisions as a band and sometimes forgot to ask our girlfriends, boyfriends and families what they thought about it,” agrees Peter. “We’re in a band, we tour and play cool shows, but the people left behind give birthday parties and you’re not there. Family members die but you can’t go to the funeral because you’re on tour, or friends get married but you’re the one not there because you have to be in the studio. That’s what the album is about.”
Words: Dannii Leivers