We haven’t had ANY boob signings yet!!!
Brutai have been bubbling under in various incarnations for a good few years, and embarked upon their first full UK tour supporting Centiment last week; MR’s Ian Savage caught up with vocalist/guitarist Henry and guitarist Felix on their improbably jam-packed tour bus before the Birmingham show to talk metal music, video games and bus rules.
For those unfamiliar with Brutai, can you give us a brief potted history of the band?
Felix: Well, it all started with me and Henry, with a pipe dream when we were about twelve years old, we were listening to Megadeth and Metallica and learning to play guitar together, then we got to about sixteen and started taking things a bit more seriously, started writing our own music…and about two years later we started getting into progressive metal, stuff like that – shaping the sound into what we do now.
In terms of a genre, we’re kind of like…along the lines of a metalcore band, but we do have influences from a lot of different types of music; tech-metal, progressive metal, even some death metal, and we’ve kind of honed it into our own sound – we do like a bit of electronic stuff in there as well, to build atmosphere and stuff like that. If we had to pigeonhole ourselves into a genre it’d probably be progressive metal.
Do you think that you’ve kind of got to get those different elements in there these days to create something fresh, to stay relevant?
Henry: Yeah, it’s kind of got more popular, that sort of tech-metal, for want of a better term; there’s a lot more clean vocals in stuff these days, especially in more established bands, and if you want that viability…if you’re just screaming all the way through you scare off a lot of people who’re kind of wary of that sort of thing. Having clean choruses and stuff…we’re big fans of melody and harmony so it’s quite natural for us, and it does help with appeal too.
F: Yeah, we never shy away from…there’s one of the songs we’re playing tonight where there’s a couple of lines screamed and everything else is sung, but we’re planning on having a much heavier song on the album where it’s mainly screamed; we never go for a certain percentage or anything like that but we probably aim for mostly singing…
…the way that bands like Fear Factory used to do it?
F: Yeah, so then you can have the catchy choruses and stuff too.
H: I mean, it’s difficult to categorise as a ‘sub-genre’.
Well, the tour is billed as ‘gamer metal’ which is one of the more niche sub-genres I’ve come across…
H: *laughs* Yeah, Centiment have bought that around, it’s kind of their thing – they’re a tech-metal band, but a lot of their songs titles are based on, like, Megadrive games, and for the whole tour they’ve bought a couple of Megadrives and TVs for people to play at the merch desk! And they have songs with samples [from video games] and stuff like that, that when I hear them it takes me right back…it works, it’s really cool.
How difficult is it to do the electronic crossover thing live?
F: Well, until about a year ago we didn’t have a keyboard player, and me and Henry have bought along a friend we knew from school, Alex, which allowed us to have a lot more electronic stuff actually being played live – and we still have a lot of layers that’re being played from a backing track. It gives us the option to explore a lot more of that, and he’s a really valued member of the band…
H: …yeah, he does a lot of backing vocals and stuff like that, and I was the only singer before – I was doing all the singing, all the screaming, but now Al will do the odd main vocal which definitely helps me…he’s a good singer too, but don’t tell him that *laughs*
Who do you think the live show is most difficult for, out of the five of you, just in terms of keeping it all together?
H: I reckon it’s probably between me and [drummer] Matt…
F: …yeah, because some of the drumming’s really difficult, and Matt’s a new addition to the band too – we even did a few gigs without a drummer, to a backing track, because we didn’t want to turn down gigs…
H:…no, it was just one gig we did, and we had a drummer at the time, but he was from Spain, and he couldn’t get back from Spain in time! Luckily we had the raw tracks of the drums from a recording, so we played them through the PA with just the four of us onstage…and it was a little bit weird, but it still sounded good!
F: But yeah, I think Henry’s got a hard job, playing those riffs and singing at the same time…
H: Yeah, that is a ballache *laughs* but it’s the same in any kind of music, the more gigs you do the easier it gets; I’ve noticed even just this week, it gets a little bit easier every day.
And this is your first ‘proper’ tour; how’re you finding road life?
H: The thing that I was a bit apprehensive about was the singing…I mean, it’s not like we’re doing a headline set, but having to sing and scream five nights in a row, I was worried about how well my voice would hold up. But doing the right kind of warmups, keeping myself hydrated, it’s actually been better than I thought it would be; I’m feeling pretty good tonight. Stepsils, green tea with honey, all that stuff – I feel like I could do this for a few more weeks.
It’s probably because we didn’t party so hard last night too, we all had a good night’s sleep *laughs* – with it being our first tour we’ve been making sure that we enjoy ourselves…we like to have a drink and we’ve been playing at, like, uni venues – the first date in Newcastle there was a £1 drinks uni night right afterwards downstairs, so you can imagine, the first night was pretty hardcore. And then Glasgow, York, all student venues…we needed a night off last night!
Okay, I must ask about the bus rules [published on the band’s Twitter account] – ‘no shitting’?
H: *laughs* yeah, no shitting on the bus – we’ve managed to abide by that rule, it was instigated and enforced by our manager Lulu…
F: Rules 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7 are “no shitting in the van”.
H: And “PS: no fucking shitting in the van”. We’ve done our best to abide by that, it’s been very tempting…and trying not break rule number 8 has been hard, “no trying on Lulu’s clothes while she’s not looking” *laughs* we’ve probably had more trouble with that than with the ‘no shitting’…but at least number 10’s been very easy to do, “Let’s get fucked”. *laughs*
On the ‘gamer metal’ tour tag, then – do you guys play at all?
F: I don’t, really.
H: I was very heavily into games when I was a lot younger, nowadays not so much – I’m prone to the odd game of FIFA, that’s about as far as I go. My little brother’s always telling me about the new game that he’s playing, and I’ll always look at it because the graphics still blow me away, but as far as being a ‘gamer’ – I don’t have the time for it!
So Centiment have got the Megadrives at the merch stand, Brutai have ‘free kisses and boob signings’ – who’s doing more custom?
F: We haven’t had ANY boob signings yet!!!
H: It hurts, it hurts.
On a slightly more serious note – the music industry seems to be in a bit of a state of flux at the moment, with the whole Spotify / Bandcamp / Pledgemusic going on; where do you guys see your place in the whole thing?
H: I think everyone now’s got a different idea about how best to go about things, but I guess it comes down to if you write good songs, and play well live, and get out and get seen, you will get recognition for it – you can use social media to your advantage as much as possible, but that won’t do it on its own. It’s still all about music, and it’s all about live performances, so we just aim to write good music and play it well live. I mean, if at some point we get backing or help from a management company or distribution-wise or whatever else that people can do for you, that might help to take it up a level, but for the time being all we can do is concentrate on our music.
F: For us, because we haven’t released an album yet – I mean, me and Henry have been doing stuff together for over ten years, as Brutai it’s only been going for about two – we haven’t put an album out yet but all of our music’s up on our Bandcamp, going for free, just to get our name out there. But we want to have the album ready for early next year, and we’re investing a lot of money in it so we’re not going to be able to give that away for free; we’re hoping to get some good tours here and there, and you can make money back off touring if you sell a lot of merch…that’s the way it has to be.Everyone has to be self-funded [at this level]…
H: …I’ve seen so many talented musicians quit because of this issue, because of financial troubles; you know, with illegal downloading and stuff like that. There are benefits to it, and I’m happy to give some stuff away for free, but there’s so many great bands who’ve been crippled by it.
Just to lighten on the finishing straight, back on the ‘gamer metal’ thing…Sonic or Mario?
Both: Ooooooohhhhhh…*intake of breath* *long pause*
H: For longevity, I’d probably say Mario. I’ve played more Mario games…if you gave me a series, or a franchise, I’d go Mario, but just a single game, Sonic. Man, ‘Sonic and Knuckles’…I used to love that game!
F: Ah…Mario on the Nintendo 64.
Streetfighter or Mortal Kombat?
Both: Streetfighter! *laughs*
Brutai’s debut album will be out early in 2015.