Catching Up with Brutus

BRUTUS_EVAVLONK_BAND_GREATWOMENMUSICIAN

Words: Jasmine Bourgeois
Photo: Eva Vlonk

Brutus is a true powerhouse. The Belgian trio is fronted by vocalist + drummer Stefanie Mannearts, guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden, and bassist Peter Mulders. Since their 2016 debut, they’ve played with some big names in the goth rock scene — Chelsea Wolfe, Thrice, and Russian Circles, for starters, and have also gotten some high praise from Metallica’s Lars Ulrich. Nest — coming out March 29th via Sargent House — is the newest release coming from the group.

I listened to this album on repeat, totally mesmerized. Stefanie’s drumming is killer, and the whole energy of the band is totally exciting. It’s powerful and dynamic. As a whole, the album paints an accurate portrait of the band — heavy, but elegant. There’s something liquid about the way they play. There’s a refined ebb and flow.

Stefanie’s musicianship is undoubtedly a huge part of what makes Brutus so stellar. She manages to weave in and out of heavy screams and softer melodies, all while keeping complex beats; and she makes it look easy. Their sound is heavy, but it brings something else to the genre — a lighter feeling; something softer, but certainly not delicate. Just palpably raw.

Nest is only the second album from Brutus, but you’d think it was their fifth. If this is just the beginning of their career, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for what’s sure to be a long career ahead of them.


TTM: Stefanie — How long have you been playing? Have you always been a drummer, or did you start with other instruments?

SM: I’ve been playing the drums since I was fourteen years old. I initially started playing the piano at the age of six.

TTM: How do you sing and drum?! That’s so hard to do, let alone with how complex both your vocal range and your drum parts are.

SM: I had the chance to practice a lot. Peter and Stijn were very patient with me because I never did it before. I am not going to lie and pretend it is easy. But practicing helps. The hardest part in the beginning is to control your breathing. Step one is getting through a song. Step two is singing good. What does it sound like, what about the pronunciation, what about the timing, what about the key? But it is the same with every instrument. You have to get past the first famous “10000 hours”.

TTM: For Stefanie — What’s your kit set up?

SM: Currently I am playing on a Gretsch U.S.A. Cherrywood kit.

  • My bass drum is 22” by 18”.
  • My first tom is 12” by 6,5” with a uneven five-lug-system.
  • And my floor tom is 16” by 18”.
  • My snare drum is a Ludwig Classic Maple. Also 6,5” deep.
  • For Hardware I prefer DW 9000 or 6000 Series

All my cymbals are Sabian.

  • Hi-hats: HHX Legacy groove hats 15”
  • Crash: HHX Legacy 19” crash
  • Ride: HHX Legacy 22” Heavy ride

TTM: Your first album BURST garnered a lot of attention, and you’ve been pretty busy touring and working on your new album since. Was there any new sound or style you guys were trying to play with on Nest?

BRUTUS: We did not write the new record with the idea of changing our sound or trying to play a different style. That being said I do think we’ve put a lot more effort in broadening our sound a little bit. The writing progress was slower, we’ve put more time in the arrangements and also talked a lot about it. That may sound weird, but our debut album ‘Burst’ was also a “burst” of all kinds of things that were in us, it’s a recording of the first songs we wrote, almost how we got to know each other and our band. With ‘Nest’ a lot more was happening in our lives, we came closer and we really tried until it was exactly the way we wanted it to express exact that feeling we want it to express. Dynamics were also really important while writing, not everything full force all the time.


TTM: I’m curious how you all go about writing — do you try to follow a “theme”, or do songs come together more sporadically?

BRUTUS: While writing for ‘Nest’ all the songs were written by the three of us while playing in the same room. We get inspired by each other and the the emotions we are feeling at the time of writing. The songs generally cover about everything that happened to us in the time between the release of our first record ‘Burst’ and when we finished the writing ‘Nest’. About the dynamics between the three of us, shaping up as a band, going 200% and along the way don’t try to forget our loved ones and family at home. But it was only after finishing the record we realized there was a general ‘string of emotions’ in the songs. It was really surprising to us and nice to see how much we were on the same page considering where the songs came from and what they mean to us. So there is a theme in the album, but we did not intentionally wrote the album for it.

TTM: You’ve played with some other pretty killer bands in the last few years. What are some of your favorite gigs, and who do you want to play with in the future?

BRUTUS: To be honest – one of our favorite shows was a hometown show in Ghent in June 2018. It was a single date, pushed in between the tours with Russian Circles, Thrice and Chelsea Wolfe. If you are on tour, you are in some kind of bubble, away from everybody and it’s just the band and the van. You also support these great bands, so most of the people in the crowds are new to you, and you to them. So this Belgian headline show was added last minute, in the middle of the tours, it pushed us out of the bubble a little bit. All our friends, girlfriends, (yes, our nest …) were there to check us out. So it was like we had to prove why we do all this, why we are away so much and what our band is all about. We got massive good reactions and we loved our show. And it was a perfect summer night on a really cool location that was not used much for live shows … Good times!


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