It was a freezing evening in Norwich when I went to meet BRUTAI at Norwich’s Waterfront venue. The second day of supporting DEVIL YOU KNOW, ONI and WEARING SCARS on their UK tour, Felix Lawrie and Henry Ryan (pictured) seemed quietly excited yet composed as we sat down to talk about the tour and their debut album Born, which was released last November to rave reviews. Chatting about the bands featured on the walls of the venue (just what did happen to SHADOWS FALL?!) the guys were polite and relaxed as they settled down to chat.
So it’s the second day of the tour, how’s it going so far?
Felix (vocals and guitar): It’s going as well as we could have imagined really. You have the first day nerves and getting introduced to everyone. Then getting to grips with what everyone’s bringing, who’s going to be on stage and what time. It’s sort of an introductory thing the first day and with the first show, your mentality can only be “ok one down, on to the next one”.
Henry (guitar): I think for me after two or three shows of the tour it starts to get a lot more comfortable. I mean, when was the last gig before this?
Felix: Probably December?
Henry: Yea so we’ve had a little bit of a break so it’s always the first gig with a bit of edge to it.
Felix: Getting into the routine of everything as well, living together for the next couple of weeks.
Yea, in your motorhome! Tell me about your motorhome…
Henry: It’s the second time now. We find instead of going for a van and accommodation separately, we thought we’d sleep and travel. We’re not in the position to have a tour bus.
Felix: It does actually save quite a lot of money and it’s actually quite financially viable doing it this way and also pretty cool. You got all your gear and you turn up in your motorhome and people are like “what are those gypsies doing? Ah no, it’s Brutai!”.
Henry: Yea, we’re like a caravan club basically.
Felix: Yea caravan club!
And you can cook in there…
Henry: Yea! Fairly basic cooking in there.
Felix: Alex (Lorimer, keys) is the resident chef, he’s taken it upon himself, prepping a lot of food. I think they’re actually having dinner right now.
Henry: Quick bite to eat, yea.
Is this your first full UK tour?
Felix: I’d probably say the biggest one definitely.
Henry: Definitely the biggest.
Felix: We’ve done headline runs, like small weekenders. We did a five day tour with the guys from Centiment, who are the guys from InMe in their metal side project. That was the first time we did the motorhome and that was our first proper tour I think and this one is our biggest one. Big American bands and Wearing Scars, they’ve played massive stadiums. It is our biggest tour, definitely.
Let’s talk about your album. I remember hearing the EP, back in 2013 and when I listened to Born it sounded like Brutai but it sounded more focused and a bit more mature. How did Brutai grow as a band between the EP and the album?
Felix: Well I think you’re probably talking to the right people because we’re the only two members remaining from the EP. The EP was a bit of a weird one because at the time the only official members of the EP recording process was myself, Henry and our old bass player Mike. I think Mike had to leave and we didn’t even have a drummer at the time, we actually hired a session drummer and his name was Mike Pitman and he played in a band called Xerath. He sessioned for us and did the EP, was received well and we got a full line-up. We got Alex involved, our keyboard player, and he brings a bit of a pop sensibility to the writing. He’s been our best mate, we all went to school together you see.
Henry: I think in terms of the difference between the EP and the album musically, there’s obviously the influence of the new members. I think ever since we started this band, the older you get and the more serious it becomes, it means people have to be committed to it so we have had, when we were younger, we had members come and go because they couldn’t commit fully to it.
Felix: We’ve had our fair share of drummers. [laughs] We’re settled now! We’re settled now.
Henry: So we got to the point where everyone’s committed to the band and everyone has an input into the writing process and how the songs sound, then you will naturally have a progression in the music.
Felix: With the EP I think it was more a focussed thing, it was more of a studio project between myself, Henry and Mike at the time.
Henry: Quite rushed.
Felix: Yea a little bit rushed. A little bit rushed I’d say.
Henry: Because it was in the studio.
Felix: Yea and this one, with Born it was a longer process because we demoed songs, we had a couple of songs written after the EP came out. So it was a slow burner, the album. But we had a sense of direction we wanted to go, we wanted a bit more melody involved and it was a lot easier with Alex in the band and Matt’s (Bauer, drums) got his very own style of drumming as well. He’s not your traditional metal drummer. He can play metal. We always set ourselves out that we didn’t want a great metal drummer, we wanted a drummer, a great drummer that can adapt to metal. So Matt brings his flair, everyone has their moments to shine on the album and we think it comes across quite well.
Listening to Born, you have loads of different metal styles you can hear, so what were the main styles you were drawing from when you were writing or is it a bit of everything?
Felix: I think it’s a bit of everything. It all starts with an idea right, it starts with like, Henry sends me a quick demo “I’ve just spent 30 seconds writing this riff!” and that’s like, that’s pretty sick! So it starts with an idea from probably myself, Henry or Alex, albeit a keyboard line, a little vocal hook or a riff. It was mainly riffs with the way it starts off. Then we bring it to the table, then we spend a bit of time and go off and develop those songs, and for Born it was a bit of a slower process. We’d spend more time on the structures and actually writing the songs themselves sometimes, so piecing things together at different times really.
Henry: The album is quite varied, some of the songs are, strange to say, more poppy influenced songs, so they’re fairly simple structures compared to some of the other songs which are not simple at all. So there are definitely different elements, but the idea for us is we wanted them all to work together and not be too much of a difference.
Felix: I’d probably say as well, for each of the songs you’ve got someone who personally headed the idea so they’re kinda like, in charge.
Henry: Of the direction.
Felix: Yea in charge of the direction and we develop the ideas together like team leader for the song. For example track 8, Over Now is actually a really old song written by Alex ages ago.
Really? Because that’s the poppiest song.
Felix: Exactly, haha exactly.
Henry: If you heard the first verse of that song…
Felix: Oh my god, bless him, it used to be a break up song when he was like, 20.
Henry: [sings] It was a love song.
Felix: Haha, yea it was a love song when he was like 20. I always thought it was a great song, I wasn’t too mad on the first batch of lyrics because they were a bit too soppy, let’s just say. But then it was like, this is a great song, you know the vocal hooks were there, it’s got some really cool atmospherics, he just came over to my house one day and we spent a whole afternoon just trying some riffs out and chop some things together. New middle eight, change the lyrics a bit [laughs] and then it was like, boom, there you go. But it’s still Al’s song, but we all wrote it together but he’s the team leader on that one I’d probably say. Everyone’s a team leader for each song.
I was thinking about, every time I listen to the album I always get a new favourite…
Felix: That’s good! That’s good.
…so first time it was Lucidity…
Felix: That’s Henry’s.
And then it was Over Now and currently it’s Dear Emily.
Felix: Cool that’s my one. [laughs] You got one from each!
Haha! I did not plan this!
Henry: I think we’ve all done that at some point, when we listen back to it, it takes a long time to adjust, you lose perspective because obviously you play it so many times in the recording stage. When it’s finished, and when it’s mixed and mastered, it sounds different. So it takes you a long time to adjust to listening to it back. And I think we’ve all been close to having different favourites at different times. I don’t know what that means but I guess it’s a good thing.
Felix: Obviously when you’re in the writing mode and the recording mode, and even listening back to mixes constantly, you’re absorbed in your songs. I like to take long breaks from listening to it. And then the odd time I’ll go back to it and chuck on the album again and be like, “that’s a really cool part” or “that’s my new favourite song”. Yea the favourites change a lot.
How involved are you in the production of it? With your next album would you like to get more involved?
Henry: The next one is still up for discussion, it was definitely an advantage for us to record Born with guitar, bass, vocals, keyboards, everything apart from drums at one of our houses. So that saved a lot of money and then we could be a lot more relaxed actually recording it and not have a time limit and spending extra money for going over. So that is definitely an advantage and having a quality producer like Matt Hyde who did Born, can make it sound like a studio album. You do hear about bands spending an insane amount of money on albums in the studio and compare with others and you think, well fair enough it’s a lot of money. But having a studio album has its advantages because if you go to a proper recording studio then there are certain things you’re never going to have in your house.
Felix: None of us are rolling in the dosh so we were very cost effective but you know, we spent a good amount of money into the record, invested quite a bit of our own money into it but when people hear it they’re probably wondering how much it cost. We were very diligent with our savings.
Henry: To answer your question, it has its ups and downs, we do like recording at home but maybe at some point we’d look at doing a full studio album.
Felix: If the opportunity arose I’d absolutely love to, but it just depends on the circumstances, who it’s with, where it is, how much it costs. Do we go in with no ideas, do we bring stuff on the table? It’s very circumstantial. I’d love to do a studio album at some point because I just think you probably, forgive the pun, but you’d probably give birth to a different type of album, so yea and a different type of album would be born…
Ok, so this year you’re already on this tour and you’re already set for ProgPower Europe, any other big plans? Or is there anything in particular you’d like to achieve as a band?
Henry: We’d like to do a lot more festivals in the summer, there’s a couple of things we can’t announce right now.
Felix: Is there?
Felix: We’ll try and make arrangements around ProgPower, we’d like to do something in and around Europe if it’s a possibility.
Yea, have you played Europe yet?
Felix: Yea, we’ve done Euroblast and we’ve done shows in Hamburg before…
Henry: We’ve played Ibiza.
Felix: Hard Rock Hell Ibiza. So we’ve done a few places in Europe before, but we’d like to do some surrounding European shows, I think that’s a personal target for the band, is to branch out to Europe, get some good festival slots and also do small headline runs. I don’t think we’re at the level to do shows all around the country doing headline runs, so we’re happy to get on bigger tours opening second supports. We want to do a headline run, but probably not 20 dates up and down the country.
Cool. Lastly, just what does Brutai mean?
Henry: We haven’t explained this in a long time [laughs]
Felix: [laughs] I mean I wish there was a great story, there really isn’t.
Henry: It’s named after a cat, let’s just get to it.
Felix: I have two answers, there is one that is true. And there’s one that sounds a lot better, and I’ve only discovered this recently actually. The name Brutai came about because at the time, probably about 10 years ago when me and Henry first started writing music together, we were a different band. We played different types of music, it was a lot heavier, it was a lot more kitted to the word ‘brutal’ and so ‘Brutai’ was just a play on the words and we just grew accustomed to the name and got a little following round our local circuit. So we just stuck to it, we changed our direction and changed our sound and matured but we just liked the name.
Henry: Yea it’s a cool word.
Felix: Do you want to hear the fake answer? Well, haha, there is a Shakespeare play…
Wait, wasn’t this heard on EastEnders recently?
Henry: Oh god.
Felix: [laughs] It was heard on EastEnders recently. There is a play with Julius Caesar, with a phrase when Julius Caesar is about to be murdered by one of his friends and the last thing Caesar said to his friend Brutus is “And you Brutus” which translates into Latin as “Et tu Brute” so, that’s a much better answer.
Henry: That’s a better answer!
Felix: So I might start using it, this might be the last time I use the real one.
Henry: Could be! Named after Shakespeare. Really intellectual.
Felix: It does sound a bit more intellectual doesn’t it. Named after Shakespeare. Named after a quote by Julius Caesar saying to his friend [posh voice] translated from Latin.
Henry: [laughs] Latin yes.
Felix: We used to play ‘brootal’ music so now it’s Brutai. And I used to call my cat Brutai as well. So the false answer might be making an appearance more. It sounds cooler!
Well there you have it. From motorhomes to Shakespeare, Brutai has it covered!