Brutus is one of the most interesting and unique bands in the heavy metal genre today. This Belgian band have become known for their high energy live shows, beautiful, yet brutal songs all coupled with the fact that their lead singer Stefanie Mannaerts also plays drums as good as anyone in the genre. The band most recently released their third studio album “Unison Life” to critical acclaim and have been on tour with hardcore metal giants Converge. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with them before a sold out show at Nashville’s Basement East to discuss the future of the band, their proudest achievements and how they are feeling about their latest release.
Brutus is Stefanie Mannaerts (vocals, drums), Peter Mulders (bass) and Stijn Vanhoegaerden (guitar)
Your album “Unison life” was released last October, how has the reception been to the new music so far?
- Stefanie – Great!
- Peter – Really great, we are very happy with it, the fact that we are here touring is really good!
Do you feel that at this point in your careers, things have gotten easier and the pressure has been taken off of you now that you have a few albums released and you have toured the world?
- Stefanie – For me the pressure is more and more with each record to be honest. The first record felt like, la la la, we are friends and we are making music but it’s gotten harder each time.
- Peter – We always want to make better albums and better songs. It’s fun but it gets more difficult. It’s not like we are at the point where everything we do is okay, as things keep going we feel more pressure each time. It’s not a bad type of pressure, it’s actually very positive pressure. We just want to do our best and we push ourselves for that.
With the amount of time you had to work on your last album, how do you know when a song is done?
- Stefanie– When you leave the studio? Haha! I think you feel it. When you keep writing on a song, it means that someone hears something that isn’t right. When you keep working on it, it can feel like it’s not going anywhere and maybe it doesn’t belong on the record.
- Stijn – You sense it. It’s the energy in the room. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way but sometimes people can say something sounds really cool but it never goes anywhere. You might have to put it on hold for a few years and revisit it at a later time. When a song is done we all just feel it at the same time.
When artists are writing albums, oftentimes there are many songs that don’t make the cut. Do you think there will ever come a time when you release a B sides and Rarities type album?
- Stefanie– It’s too soon for that now.
- Peter – Maybe just a 7 inch album with an A and a B side haha! We have one song from Nest that has never been put out and probably two from Unison Life that we could release someday.
- Stefanie – At this point, if a song hasn’t made the cut for the album, we don’t really see a point in releasing a B side. I think maybe in 20 years we could have enough songs together.
I know you guys are influenced by everyone from Moby to the Cranberries, do you ever see yourselves doing music completely different than you are doing now? Do you think you will always want to make music with an aggressive edge to it?
- Stijn – Aggressive music can also be quiet for us. We have had this discussion a few times in the past amongst ourselves. If we ever do that or have it in us to do that I think there will always be a point where we go back to the harder stuff. I don’t know.
- Peter – I would love to do it. Maybe something without drums. Time will tell, it has to be fitting for what is going on for us at that point in our careers. I don’t think all Brutus songs in the future will always have heavy and loud elements.
- Stefanie – I am not really a concept person so if I were to say “Now we are going to make a soft listening record” it probably won’t work. We can only write what we feel at the moment. We have done that before and we ended up writing the hardest songs we have ever wrote.
- Stijn – For us a good song is a good song. Instrumentation isn’t everything. I noticed that with the last record, we wrote some songs that I never expected us to write that way. I think in the future it might even get more extreme.
Is there a particular moment in your career that you are most proud of so far?
- Stijn – That’s a good question that has no simple answer for me. It feels like when we started the band, every year has had one or two moments that for me felt like the next step up. I thought “wow, I never thought this would happen”. It could be playing a massive festival in Mexico or the first time we played Belgium and sold the show out. Sometimes it feels like the best is always yet to come.
- Stefanie – For me I always connect the best moments with the songs we write. Like, I have two points in our history that feels like birth, first baby and then second baby. We do cool shows and all that stuff but the feelings I get for writing certain songs have the best moments for me. When we wrote War, I felt like…if we can write something like this maybe we should keep doing this more. I felt so much more connected with the band after that. I thought, maybe we can do this until we are 65.
Is there anything you would change about the choices you have made so far?
- Peter – We never set high goals so we never get disappointed. I feel like we are growing very naturally. We played two years in Belgium before we did anything else and then we naturally branched out. We needed every step we have done to become who we are now. I wouldn’t have changed anything.
You recently played Welcome to Rockville, which is a massive music festival. Do you feel as a band you connect to the crowd more at smaller shows or do you prefer playing in front of larger audiences?
- Peter – I think you need both. When you are playing a smaller club show you know the crowd is there to see you. When you are playing a big festival you have to push harder to get the attention of people who are there to see a lot of different music.
- Stijn – Even if people feel farther away at festivals, I still feel connected to the audience. Sometimes you just focus on one person and it feels more personal.
- Stefanie – I try to make the room smaller. That’s the hardest thing to do but sometimes we can do festivals that have felt like there are 50 people there. It’s our job to make them feel like it’s a show just for them.
If you were given a box of all the things you have ever lost, what would you look for first?
- Stefanie – Like really lost? I would pick my grandmother
- Stijn – I would say the same type of thing but that’s really heavy! I think for me it would be something a little on the lighter side. I had mixtapes of songs that I really loved from when I was 5 or 6 years old that I wish I still had. I also used to have a cassette tape from my first band with Stefanie when we were 14 years old. There were conversations on that tape where we were making fun of each other and working on songs. I wish I still had them.
- Peter – I had a CD of a heavy metal band from when I was younger that I can’t find. I don’t remember the band’s name and I wish I still had it. I used to play it all the time when I was younger but can’t remember much about it now.
What does the rest of the year hold for you?
- Peter – When we get back home in June we are pretty busy and we have a bunch of touring and shows coming up in the fall.
Thank you guys so much for taking the time to chat with me today! Check out the links below for more on Brutus!