Brutai hit the Dogtooth Stage at last month’s Download Festival as one of the festival’s bright new prospects. Their debut album, Born, released at the end of 2016, gave us a glimpse at the musical proficiency and open-mindedness that has propelled the band to the forefront of the new wave of ‘Modern Metal’.
Vulture Hound‘s Katia spoke to Christian Sturgess, the magnificently bearded bassist for the band, a day before they played Download for the very first time, to talk about the band’s rise and the importance of musical eclecticism…
Describe how it feels to be playing a festival like Download?
I think I can speak for the rest of the band that it’s been something that we’ve always wanted to do, since we were young teenagers, coming every year, attending and now to actually be playing at Download… It is just brilliant! It’s truly special for us and it has not really sunk in yet. We actually found out that we were going to play Download back in January whilst we were on tour with Devil You Know. We’ve had a few more shows since then and we’ve just been doing regular rehearsals to keep ourselves topped up. We had a production rehearsal a week ago and that went really well, so I think we are all set now. We just need to do it…
Do you think that you’re going to have a little bit of nerves as this is a rather huge thing to be happening to you early on in your career?
I think that it’s one of those things where it’s different for every person in the band. I know a couple of them have been nervous for quite a few days now. Myself and Matt (Bauer) the drummer tend to get the nerves once everything has been set up and we’re waiting to go on stage – that’s when it will hit. I don’t really know what’s better – to be worried a few days before or just before you get on stage. I think it’s natural to get nerves – everybody probably does.
How was the band formed?
The band in its whole inception was formed about 6 or 7 years ago by Henry (Ryan, guitarist) and Felix (Lawrie, vocals). Then it went through different line up changes. Myself and Matt have been in the band for about 2 years now. They had been going for quite a few years and were school friends but we’ve luckily just been able to slot in and we’re all really close now.
When you were a child, did you ever envisage that you might end up in a band, is this a dream come true?
When I was a youngster I was more into art and drawing and stuff like that, but for my 14th birthday I got a guitar, something to learn through school – but I never really carried on with it. I remember hearing Deftones for the first time, hearing the bass, not knowing what it was and thinking, “I want to do that”. So I got my first bass when I was 16 and the rest is history! My parents say that I pretty much ended up where they thought I would be, as I really liked tinkering on the piano when I was really little. So yes, I knew I was going to do something arty but I did not know I would be rocking out at Download one day!
How did you meet the rest of the band?
In 2014 I got an email from a friend of a friend of one of my old drummers, saying, “their manager is looking for a bassist and I’ve put you forward for it, would you like to do it?” So I just took the plunge and said “yes”. I think their previous bassist was having a second kid, so I stepped in and started playing more and more with them and they asked me to join.
So, what’s the day job? How easy it is to combine it with your music?
My day job is to do with graphic design but we do treat the band as a business as well so it can get tricky managing both things, but this is I think where we all want to go. We’ve done so much in such a short amount of time. Since the album’s come out, it’s been received really well and has had very positive reviews. At the tour in January, with a few videos out, it went up to 30.000 views, which is crazy. So yes, it just kind of spiralled over the course of the past year, so we want to carry on the momentum.
What would you say are your main influences?
There are so many different types of musicians and it would take me a long time to list them all. My main influence is a musician named Michael Merritt. He’s quite big in the jazz world. He mainly goes out and performs solo now. He’s an absolute master of the instrument, but I also like how he writes songs. He’s proficient in many other areas. When I met him, he was the most humble, down to earth spiritual guy. He’s just a real influence to me, to try and keep me level but also to push forwards, not only with the band but also with what we individually do as musicians and I think that is important.
What strikes me a lot about the new metal bands today is their open-mindedness. Amongst the Metalhead community, it used to be frowned upon to say that you listened to anything else than metal but nowadays, people seem to be less sectarian. And I can certainly see that Brutai is musically very open-minded!
Yes, that’s true. Our drummer, Matt, comes from the jazz background. A lot of his flare and the way he plays the drums is influenced by jazz. Nowadays with the way that metal has got more technical, pushing the boundaries of musicianship quite a lot, you tend to gather influences from other areas. Felix, who is the lead singer and who plays rhythm, and Alex who’s keys and backing vocal, are both influenced by the pop background. Felix’s auntie is Lulu so he’s grown up around pop, so when it comes to writing heavy music that feeds itself into how we write. I think it’s important to have different influences. On the drive up here, we listened to metal as well as Smooth Radio. It’s just a balance really.