Interview by Parisa Eshrati
I had a chance to sit with the fellas of Et Tu Brucé at The Driskill Hotel on March 19th before one of their SXSW shows. We got to dig into some of their newest tracks, the recording process for the new album, Spinal Tap moments, and much more.
Let's just start off with a quick introduction - your name, what you do in the band, and maybe an album you've been really into lately.
Craig Bruce: I'm Craig, I'm the drummer in Et Tu Bruce. Current favorite... this is a challenge, but lately I've been revisiting Harvest by Neil Young and gang at the moment.
Siôn Hewitt: I'm Siôn, and I'm the guitarist and occaisonal backing vocals for Et Tu Bruce. Listen to a lot of music, but I've been going through the backcatalog of Radiohead, like The Bends, which is 20 years old so I've been giving a listen to that.
Jamie White: I'm Jamie, I sing and play the guitar and today I've been listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash's Deja Vu.
Darryn Bruce: I'm Darryn and I'm the bass player. I've been listening to the first two Iron Maiden albums.
You all just released a new self-titled album and I really enjoyed the weekly album previews you posted on your Facebook, and I'd like to go a little bit more in-depth on some of the tracks. "He Shakes His Head", the sixth track, is the only song without cymbals or drum fills. Could you maybe tells something about the production behind this one and why you decided to strip it down a little bit more?
Craig: Sure, not having cymbals or drum fills just came naturally. I thought it would overcrowd the song. The feeling was there from the start, I just knew it. I just had to stick to that all the way through and the song just did the rest itself. Didn't want to overcrowd it. It works, I'm pretty happy about how it turned out.
Jamie: It works, and it sort of allowed the other parts of the track to come through which is something that's sometimes easy to forget to do--you try to make a wall of sound. Sometimes you just try to take a few things out and it makes it sound more clear.
And the song, "Naivete and Knowledge" is the first song written by all of you guys together. Do you foresee yourselves working collaboratively like this more often now?
Siôn: It's an interesting concept, isn't it? I've only officially joined the guys about a year ago now, so it was quite nice for me to get more involved in the songwriting process. It happened quite organically, it was in the studio, we just tried something out, and it built from that. You know, we've got a good songwriter in the band, obviously, its worth experimenting and seeing what happens next.
Jamie: I think we will. I think we've all collaborated quite a lot with each other before, just never at that early stage of songwriting. I think we do that more now, because it gives a better feel of the band, as a whole.
Siôn: It's that diversity. I think the strength of our music is that every song can be quite different, so that's another way to get that diversity.
The other track I wanted to ask about was "Hey Blue" with that interesting little lyric line that you posted: "From you to blue and all the colors constantly separating and swirling". I really like that, maybe you could elaborate? Is it revealing our connections to colors?
Jamie: Well that song was mostly written at Peppy Castros' house from The Blues Magoos. I didn't really have a lyric at the time, I was just thinking 'hey you.'
Darryn: That's a lie, Jamie.
Jamie: Well, we did have a line, but it wasn't usable. Anyway, just being around Peppy, meeting the Blues McGoos, it came together, it was more natural. It was just the way the song moved along. It was only really completed and written there because Peppy liked it so much. I was planning it out and he came down to me and said, "I woke up singing that song every morning, you've got to finish it here." So we did and it sort of fell into place. It was another sort of defining moment for us as a band.
Siôn: It's turned out to be quite a popular one, hasn't it. It's the one that people always come to us about.
Craig: You don't know which ones they're going to be, you know. I thought it was another pop song. Other people liked it a bit more.
In a previous interview, you discussed some limitations of your last album, but mentioned how the limitations are pretty essential in the creation process. So what were some things you had to work through on this album and how did that contribute to the overall sound?
Jamie: We had to use a very small studio. We had everything we needed, but you can't work at the pace you want to because there aren't enough live spaces, not enough separation. We had to really build tracks when we recorded and produced them. Sometimes you can have a wonderful wall of sound, but when you have to build tracks, bit by bit, you can over listen to it, and you're never quite sure if enough is enough. Luckily, the way we record is we don't just lock into a studio for three months at a time. We go for a week, take everything we have: really hone in on which bits are the most important and which bits are missing from the tracks. So the limitations do shape the album and its the only way we can work with them, I think. We'd like to have more choice and variety, but I think it sounds great the way it is.
You've mentioned how touring in America feels like home to you all. Have you been able to tour anywhere else besides the UK and the US that has given you a similar type of feel?
Craig: We haven't as yet, no. But who knows what's ahead of us this year. We've got a lot more touring around here.
Jamie: I think so, I mean, we are hopeful...we've spent the next year really shaping the album, bringing Siôn on guitar, which was a big change for us. Now that's done, we're desperate to get out there again, find someone to go out on the road with and just playing to a lot of people.
One last question. In all the time that you've toured, what would you say are some of your most This Is Spinal Tap moments you've had?
Siôn: Most days, most days.
Jamie: I did get lost in Mississippi, back stage. I wandered around for ages, I had to get the janitor the person who was looking after the basement to point me in the right direction. I think most days with Craig is a Spinal Tap moment. There are some lovely pictures of him in a hat last night. Do check them out on Instagram.
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