November 27, 2019 Interview – Peter Mulders & Stefanie Mannaerts of Brutus
Grown tired of the same old, same old when it comes to music? Well look no further than Brutus to peak your interest. A trio out of Leuven, Belgium forming some 5 years ago, since that time they have released an EP, their 2017 debut LP Burst, and their most recent work out in March of 2019, Nest. A melting pot of styles that mix Post-Rock, Post-Metal, along with some Alternative Rock vibes, Brutus is impossible to pigeonhole.
Touring with Sargent House labelmates Chelsea Wolfe, as well as Russian Circles, they have also acted as main support to Thrice through Europe, plus recently came off a critically acclaimed mini tour of the USA this fall. Uniquely their own thanks to the enchanting guitar work, atmospheric, yet aggressive songs structure, and haunting vocal stylings of Stefanie Mannaerts, Brutus is a force to be reckoned with. Still out on the road in support of Nest, Bassist Peter Mulders and Drummer/Vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts recently took the time to chat about what makes Brutus who they are, their visit to the US, future plans, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – Brutus came together back in 2013, and since then you have released two studio albums and toured consistently. Briefly tell us, how did Brutus come to be?
Peter Mulders – We are just three people who played in bands in our local scene in Leuven, Belgium. One day the stars aligned and we decided to play together and see what would happen. We tried to find a vocalist but we failed, and then Stefanie tried to sing while drumming and we liked it. That’s how we started a band.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool, and the results have been wonderful. Brutus has an extremely interesting sound that combines various forms of Rock and Metal. What inspired the band to take the direction they have musically?
Peter Mulders – I think the inspiration was mainly our own personality and personal taste. We all respect each other a lot in who we are and what we do or like, so if somebody brings stuff to the table we try to work with it. If somebody has a feeling he or she wants to translate in a song, let’s discuss. We don’t look to genres like that. It may sounds cliché, but it’s like that. (Smiles)
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like it is a very collaborative effort. The band’s most recent album, Nest, takes things to another level with magnificent sonic landscapes. What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
Peter Mulders – We wrote the songs in our rehearsal space like we did with Burst (2017). We also used the same process: making recordings with our phones, take them to a little local studio in some kind of pre-recordings. When we have 11-13 songs, take them to our man Jesse Gander in Vancouver to record the full album – only the time-frame was different. For our first album we could pick songs from the first three years of our existence. We used some old songs, wrote some new, but for the second album we started from scratch. Everything is “new.” It’s a different way of looking at it, but it was cool too.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. Nowadays it is so hard to find new music of any kind that is unique, but Brutus has that! Is this something you are self-aware of, or do you just focus on being who you are and letting everything else fall into place?
Peter Mulders – Yeah, to be honest it’s like that. Just focus on who we are and try to make honest music that’s close to our soul and heart, and whatever happens happens. But we are not stupid – we do feel we are doing something ‘special’ in some way, because we can do all these cool things, play so many shows with awesome bands, and travel the world making music. That’s just awesome, so we must be doing something. We try not to look to it like that: take nothing for granted and just be honest with each other and the music we play.
Cryptic Rock – You certainly are doing something right for sure. Beyond the musicianship of the band, perhaps the most striking aspect of Brutus’ sound is Stefanie’s voice. Stefanie, tell us, how did you develop your vocal style? Furthermore, is it a challenge to jump from more raucous screams to the more angelic vocals like you do?
Stefanie Mannaerts – For me it is weird to talk about my voice. I am still searching how my voice sounds or in what way I could try to evolve. Being in Brutus, it is the most specific my voice sounds, because it is with lyrics and I am the singer of this band. If I sing alone or record stuff, it is totally different. I’m still trying a lot of stuff – it’s too vague for being lead vocal-lines for a band, but it helps me finding feelings that I search for in songs.
Cryptic Rock – Well your voice is truly unique and the approach on the songs really stands out. Brutus essentially creates a wall of sound, yet you are only a three piece. Are people often surprised to find out you are only a three piece band? Also, how shocked are they to find out that not only is Stefanie the vocalist, but doing it all while drumming as well?
Peter Mulders – Well yeah. Since the first shows we played five years ago, it’s a thing our band has a singing drummer; I think by now people who know us or come to a Brutus show do know we have a singing drummer. Only at big festivals when people show up that don’t know your band – it sometimes happens they are surprised. But after all, let’s not forget what an amazing job she does combining those difficult skills. Every show there is a moment where Stijn and I are still surprised about her talent. Thank you, Stefanie! (Smiles)
Cryptic Rock – It seems like you three have a really good chemistry going on. The band has spent a good deal of 2019 touring Europe, and will be further touring Europe with Cult of Luna, but you recently visited North America for a mini tour. How excited were you for the US tour?
Peter Mulders – Yeah, we were super excited, of course! Going to the USA to play music – that’s crazy. When we started this band and somebody would have told us we are going to play at the Deftones Festival? Oh my god, a joke that would not have been funny at all! (Smiles) And Cult of Luna is one of Stefanie’s favorite bands, so we are really looking forward to that tour too.
Cryptic Rock – That is fantastic, and American fans are looking forward to your visit. Now two albums in, where could you see Brutus going from here?
Peter Mulders – We have no idea. Luckily, we have no idea. We will take it song by song and album by album. Our goal is to play good shows and make good albums, so that’s where we want to go.
Cryptic Rock – The unknown can be scary, but also very exciting at the same time. Seeing how eclectic the band’s sound is, could each of you shed some light on some of your musical influences?
Peter Mulders – It’s all different for the three of us. In short, you can say Stefanie is more Dark Metal and Electronic music, Stijn is more Country and melodic stuff, and for me it’s very wide but my roots are in pure Punk Rock. And in some way we all take some stuff into Brutus, but we also learned to widen our eyes and ears for other stuff people in the band like. It’s really refreshing if somebody brings stuff to the band you don’t know yet. If I think about it, Stijn and Stefanie are my biggest inspiration.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, it seems that you have all sorts of different influences. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, what are some of your favorites and why?
Stefanie Mannaerts – I like the suspense in Twin Peaks, the weird vibe of old Stephen King movies or very old stuff like Death on the Nile (1978) or Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). What all these movies or series have in common is that the director takes to time to create a certain atmosphere. I am totally not into gore movies or anything, because it goes too fast and there is no connection with any of the characters or music.