The Belle Brigade Bring Magic Back to Rock 'N' Roll
Mon, 07 Feb 2011 20:14:33
Music hasn't been magical in a long time.
There was a pervasive sense of wonder coursing through classic albums from the '60s and '70s. It's ever present in the work of everyone from The Beatles and The Who to Fleetwood Mac and Paul Simon. Each of those now classic acts bent the rules just enough to allow a glimmer of personal whimsy to shine through. However, one modern act is about to shine brighter than anyone else on the horizon.
There's no lack of wonder on The Belle Brigade's self-titled debut. Due out on April 19, 2011, the Los Angeles duo of Ethan and Barbra Gruska conjure a myriad of emotions via a soundscape that's as inviting and warm as it is epic and massive. The Belle Brigade certainly nod to the old school, while imbuing their own soft sonic touch. There are elements of folk, classic rock, and even R&B, but it all comes through a vibrant aural kaleidoscope of the Gruskas' own design. This is one of the most elegantly lush and brilliant debuts of 2011, and it's bound to be remembered as a classic.
The Belle Brigade's Ethan and Barbara Gruska sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about the making of their debut, the stories behind some of the songs, favorite movies, the albums that shaped them and so much more.
Check out the interview below!
Was your intent to bring your separate identities together under one banner?
Barbara: Subconsciously! I'm really glad that it came out like that. Anytime we write a song, we want it to be true to ourselves. That's what a collaboration is. I'm really glad that came across.
Ethan: We're similar too.
Barbara: We have one personality.
Ethan: When we get together, we have a mutual personality that comes through. It's something lucky about us being related and working together.
Barbara: I like that—a mutual personality [Laughs].
Did you have one complete vision for the album or did it come together song by song in the studio?
Ethan: It turned out totally different from what we were expecting it to be. At first, the idea was to be '70s-sounding and really organic with lots of space. It doesn't have much space; it's very bombastic and lush. It's like riding that wave. The course of the process was going with it, letting it change on its own, and trusting each other.
Barbara: It's like we always had a vision for where we wanted it to go, but the vision kept on changing. However, we were staying true to what we wanted. By the end of it, it just took itself to where it landed.
Is it important for you to tell stories with your songs?
Ethan: Lyrics are important to us. We spend a lot of time together.
Barbara: Going on walks…
Ethan: We used to walk around the lake in Echo Park, go get lunch, and try to write together. That's what we spend the most time. The music is way easier. It flows a little bit better. The lyrics are tough. We get weird about it [Laughs]. That's one of the more important parts of it to us.
What's the story behind "Fasten You To Me?"
Barbara: That's the first song I ever wrote, and I wrote it about Ethan. He was like 15, and I was about 21. I'd just been playing drums today and not really writing seriously. I wrote my first song, and that's what I wanted to talk about. My brothers are the most important things to me, and that just came out. We recorded it one night up in Malibu. I think it turned out really pretty, and it's a nice way to come down from the excitement of the record.
Can you delve into "Sweet Louise?"
Ethan: That was one of the first things that we did with our producer Matthew Wilder. I had this friend at Cal Arts. We were sitting in a circle of friends. He came up to us, sat down, was quiet for a second, and said, "So, did you guys hear about me and what I did?" I thought, "What a way to start a conversation!"
Barbara: Dewey Cox don't you write a song about that [Laughs].
Ethan: I called Barbara to tell her because I thought it was funny. She said, "Great, let's write a song about that." I wrote a little bit and we finished it together.
What fosters the visual sensibility you have? Is it reading or watching movies?
Barbara: I really love reading. I also love watching movies. Ever since I was in high school writing essays for English class, writing visually was always a big thing for me. Writing with Ethan helps me stay focused and grounded. Visuals are definitely important, but it's also important not to let them get too out of hand.
Ethan: Ditto [Laughs]. That's nice…
If you were to compare this album to a movie or combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
Barbara: Very cool question! If this album was a movie, I kind of just want to say Kill Bill Vol. 1. That's the wrong answer [Laughs]. I don't know why that came to mind. Maybe The Wizard of Oz…
Ethan: That's a pretty good one!
Barbara: It's like a journey. It grows, gets really colorful, and comes back down.
Ethan: It has a lot of different personalities too. There are shifts in the record. The first few songs are more epic and lush, and then it gets more groove-oriented. There are different voices speaking out. The Wizard of Oz is cool!
What artists shaped you?
Ethan: All of them are from when we were kids—for me at least. It's Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, John Lennon, and Stevie Wonder. Paul Simon is probably the biggest one lately and during the process of making the record.
Barbara: It was all eras of Paul Simon too. Also, Michael Jackson big time! We love lyric-based music but we also love funky music and dance music. I could walk around with James Brown in my headphones all day every day and be fine. I'd be very happy! I couldn't not dance [Laughs].
Ethan: It was lots of stuff that Barbara listened to and everything my dad brought into the house. Our dad is a musician, producer, songwriter, and composer. His musical tastes and hers shaped mine.
Barbara: We have a cool dad!
Have you heard The Belle Brigade yet?