"It’s super important that as a band we’re able to talk to each other about what’s going on and how we feel about everything"
BRUTUS have just released 'Live In Ghent' via Hassle Records.
A very special hometown recording captured both sonically and visually, it's a perfect representation of what makes the band so special. Compelling, dramatic and emotionally poignant, the record was never supposed to see the light of day. But because of the complete cancellation of all touring plans in 2020, the band felt like it was a suitable way of filling the void.
We jumped on the phone with bassist Peter Mulders to chat about its origins, what he remembers from the show and how the band's relationship has changed over the years...
So where did you stumble upon this recording? Was there ever a plan to release it?
"No, not at all. We have had the same sound guy for the last six or seven years. He’s been there since the beginning and he grew with us, both with his equipment and with his skills. So from the tour that the performance was recorded on, he had a brand new mixing desk with a computer that could record the shows. We can’t take that desk to every single place that we play, but every single show that we play when he has that desk he records the set. Sometimes he doesn’t even tell us, he just does it. So we actually have more than one recording or our shows, there’s maybe 10 or 20. Maybe there’s a show in Prague or maybe a show in Berlin or wherever.
For this show in Ghent our friend Hendrik, who is a video guy, contacted us. He had been asking for the last couple of years whether he could come to a show and record us. Sometimes it doesn’t work out because you have to set up cameras and everything. But because this was out own show and we could take our time, we were able to give him the space to do his thing.
We never looked at this like we could release the whole set. We would take a few songs we like and we could get the video for Hendrik and release that. So we did that for ‘Fire’ and for ‘Sugar Dragon’, because they were our opening and closing songs. But it was when lockdown hit that we thought of doing something more with it. At that point we were pretty depressed because our whole year had started to float away, so this felt like honey for the soul and some patching on the wound. Like, ‘Look what we have done?’ We thought that we were too young to do a live record really. But the labels were super into it and that’s that."
It’s amazing how something as amazing can form from those little ideas. It’s a bit the same as how you make music together. A small spark can start a fire…
"Yeah, we do the exact same thing when it comes to writing songs and making other decisions for the band. We listen a lot to our gut feeling as a band. It’s not that we don’t plan. You have to plan a lot if you want to grow and do things in a way that works. But this just felt really cool. In a year where there’s no live music, why not?"
What memories flood into your mind when you think of this show? What was it that made it feel so special?
"It’s not the same for Stijn and Stefanie, but for me during the second song I had a really bad feeling. I kept thinking, ‘This is not good’. When I look at the show now, I can see that I started to focus really hard. Sometimes I can be a little bit too loose when I’m on stage and start jumping around. I’m not in The Dillinger Escape Plan. I can’t do all of that and still play a perfect show.
"So at this show I was almost frozen. Because it’s a hometown show I wanted to play good. The full band wanted to show everybody why we are doing this. We are away from home so much and we dedeicate so much time to the band for writing, practicing, touring. When you’re family and your best friends come to the show, you want to show them why the fuck we do all of this. So that’s where I tried to play as good a show as I can. When I look at Stefanie in those videos, I can see that she had the exact same feeling. That was the whole vibe of the shows and I really think that stands out within the recordings."
In this time of reflection, and with this performance in mind, how does it feel to see how far Brutus has travelled? Was this where you expected to be?
"Not at all. We had no idea. We talked about this when all of the shows and festivals started falling away where we had a moment to go, ‘What the fuck have we done the last five years?’ Because we were writing at the same time and talking in between, you could feel it in the music that we were producing. You feel a different energy and a different vibe. This desolate feeling was reflecting on us as people and on the music. It’s also not been bad to be at home for half a year now. We’ve had a lot of time with our families and enjoy our little bubbles. After these six or seven years of pure band, it’s good to recharge.
"A lot of people have said how this period is a good time to be creative, but we’ve really struggled just because of how much the world around us has fallen apart. But the important thing is that we talk about it. It’s super important that as a band we’re able to talk to each other about what’s going on and how we feel about everything. Then you can try and write a song about it and then move on."
That connection that you have the camaraderie comes from all of those miles that you’ve travelled together…
"It’s a lot like a relationship. When you’re having a hard time, it can go one of two ways. You either split up or you can come closer together. I think that I’ve seen my band more than I’ve seen my girlfriend in the last two years, and it’s the same for the other two guys. It’s not all happy joy all the time, but it’s what brought us together and it’s how we try and survive the hard times together."
Brutus has always been about pushing yourself as far as you can go to create the best art. The minute that stops being exciting is when you will stop…
"Absolutely, we can only make the best of what we have and how we feel. When we were writing ‘Nest’ last year, we had no idea what was happening or what we were doing. We were touring and writing and touring and writing. It was only after it was recorded and mastered and we hadn’t seen each other for a month that we could truly see what we had done and created. That’s always a really crazy feeling. You’re also going to learn from it as well and that creates another different dynamic now as we move forwards."
What do you feel is the biggest change that has occurred in the band since you first started making music together?
"I think we have become a lot closer as people. I think that’s normal just as friends, I don’t think it’s really a band thing. I think that on the first album that we made, you can hear in some of the songs that they are more eclectic. It’s called ‘Burst’ for a reason. It’s such a mixture of stuff and that’s because we couldn’t really talk about what we wanted to do. We just tried to put everything into one song. Then with the second album, we succeeded in trying to make what we actually wanted. I started to understand both Stefanie and Stijn more. We talked a lot more than we actually wrote on that album just so we could figure out what we were actually doing. Now these days we don’t have to convince each other of things. We just agree quicker because we know. We will see what will happen with the third album when we get to it."