With a record cover, name and logo that looks so very, very Black Metal, you’d think that new Barnsley band Bruja are looking to be contenders for the Barnsley metal crown. Look closer, and bassist/vocalist Del, looks like she’s been pulled straight from a psychedelic doom band, Purson or Blood Ceremony. In fact, they actually have more in common with the 90s grunge and alt-rock scenes than anything else. And I’m more than happy to say that there is not a whiff of Nirvana wannabes about them. The scene doesn’t need endless bands sounding like Nirvana, just like we don’t need a ton of bands ripping off Arctic Monkeys. Bruja is bringing something new to Barnsley music scene. No demos. No singles. Bruja are straight in there with an eleven track album. I caught up with Bruja, Zach Duvall (Drums/Vocals), Lewis Naylor (Guitar/Vocals) and Del Wadsworth (Bass/Vocals) to find out a little more about them.
Its refreshing to hear a young band say they’re influenced by grunge but then not hear Nirvana in them at all. Instead I hear Pixies and Sonic Youth. Who were your favourite grunge bands?
Well the thing is at our first ever performance we played Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged whole and since then we’ve been labeled Grunge. To be honest we don’t really know what we are but it’s nice to be associated with that genre. Our favourite Grunge bands and biggest inspirations are Mudhoney, Nirvana, QOTSA, Melvins, Foo Fighters, Eagles Of Death Metal, Fleetwood Mac and the list goes on.
The album is quite low-fi. Tell me about the production and time in the studio?
We all really enjoyed our time at Studio 24. We went for live recording because we didn’t want the tracks to be perfect, we wanted them to sound like us if that makes sense? We wanted our album and our live sound to be the same.
Recording a full album is a big thing. Why no short demos, EPs or singles?
We did a full album because we had a lot of material at the time. We couldn’t choose which songs we wanted to record so we just did them all.
Have you played live yet and what are your gigging plans?
We’ve played a few gigs around Barnsley, we’ve also played in Doncaster and Liverpool and recently did a charity gig to raise money for children in need at Mold Alun school in North Wales. We’re playing at the Live in Barnsley festival in June this year and we’re trying to get as many gigs as we can, wherever we can!
Where did the name Bruja come from?
Bruja is Spanish for Witch, it’s just something that’s close to us individually.
Where do you think your sound will go next? It sounds like there are a couple of different directions you could play with.
It’s really hard to say which direction we’re heading. We each have our own style that’s comes through in our music. The new material we have so far is sounding darker than our other tracks and we’re really excited for everyone to hear it.
Odium, opens with Descent, almost an instrumental aside from the male and female whispers. It has a verse that totally sounds like Moby’s cover of New Dawn Fades and the same quiet/loud atmospherics as Filter’s Cancer. Great start! Following is Born Again, which sticks with the haunted hushed vocals, and has an overall sound that hints at some of the same 70s theatrical hooks that Ghost B.C. use. Won’t Last the Night shows off the other side to Bruja. Here, Del Wadsworth takes on lead vocals, sounding like The Vaselines playing Veruca Salt. Her voice is dainty but a delight. It’s a quick and instant grunge pop hit.
Drowning in Fire is the first full clean vocal from Zach and Lewis, and although they’re sounding quite young, the duel effect masks that somewhat and is only really marred by the insistence of using these awful distorted grunts. Not At Your Leisure incorporates more of those distorted vocals, but luckily there are no grunts for the sake of it this time round. Early Therapy and Sonic Youth come to mind.
It’s much of the same throughout the rest of the album and it’s clear that there are two distinct sides to Bruja. The lighter half is early 90s indie alternative pop. Those sung by Del, are really good, especially the fantastic Mental Hold, and Hex is full of those same pop sensibilities that made The Pixies and Violent Femmes loves by so many. The girl/boy Pretty Poison hits the mark too.
On the other side you have the heavier, doomy tracks, which would work so much better if it not for the over use of the distorted and over the top grunts. They really aren’t needed. Beside Your Bones’ Alice in Chains groove would have really benefitted from their removal. The album closes with The Damned, a fantastic gothic lullaby, which makes up for the few false steps that preceded it. Featuring an organ and a baritone vocal, this is a great way to sign off and maybe a sign of things to come.
The production has a very low-fi quality to it and almost sounds like a set demos or a live recording. However, Bruja’s sound is distinctive sound and are walking a path untrampled on the local music scene. Overall, Odium is a pretty impressive debut; right up my street, referencing many great bands.
Like Sonic Youth, they can swerve from gloomy dream pop to a dark and angular raucous noise. I’m definitely going to keep my eyes on this bunch and check them out live as soon as I can. Odium is definitely not perfect. However, this is only their first outing on record. This though, is the sound of a band that have big ideas, and they have a totally unique dark sound and aesthetic. There is lots of room for improvement too; definitely strengthen those vocals and trim those grunts – it doesn’t suit.
It’s going to be interesting to see which direction they’ll go next. They sound just a step away from producing a My Bloody Valentine style grandiose noise, a darker alternative pop like Giant Drag or Scarling, or judging by the album’s closer, a more psychedelic gothic theatre. I certainly wouldn’t mind either. Either way, I’m with Bruja.