A chorus of chaos: Introducing Bruiser
Written by Campbell Gray, of prerock.
Bruiser are one of my favourite bands - of course I'm biased, having worked with the band on their new single and, more importantly, they’re my friends and the sweetest bunch of dudes around.
I met the band at one of their shows early in 2019, which was not only my introduction to the unruly mess of barely controlled chaos that is Bruiser, but also my first experience seeing people my age, playing a kind of music I loved, in a shitty little dive bar in Fitzroy. I was instantly hooked by the band, their raucous cover of the Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' blew my mind, watching them fall apart and reform themselves over and over again in endless new shapes and sounds was something to behold.
Also, they’re really fucking loud.
This chaos is what defines Bruiser, each instrument on its own planet, each never unaware of the others. What appears tame is not, what sounds rehearsed was not, what might be construed as a rare moment of collective genius, I assure you, most definitely, is not. Bruiser are not a band, they’re a collection of accidents, a tour-de-force of 'fuck it, why not?'. A primal force tamed only by the band’s work ethic.
Before the pandemic and lockdown the band were playing shows every weekend across Victoria and still finding time to practice for hours in between. Spencer, Gus and Jaxon know each other far better than they know the songs they’re playing, which gives them the freedom to fuck up, if someone forgot the riff, who cares, they’ll write a new one.
As mentioned above, I have had the task of trying to tame Bruiser’s chaos in the studio. A task which was challenging for both parties, but, with some experience behind them, the band have ambition and drive to overcome the studio as well as stage.
The single 'Interrupted' with B-side 'Delirious' is streaming now with an incredible music video directed by Oliver Chappel on YouTube. Below, the band and I talk about the live shows and studio experience, as well as what Bruiser look like in the present and future.
Alright, you guys are Bruiser, do you wanna introduce yourselves?
J: "Jaxon. Drummer."
S: "Uh, I’m Spencer. Guitar Enthusiast."
G: "Gus. Bass. Man. Gus Bass."
How did you guys form Bruiser?
J: "I LIKE MORRISSEY!"
S: "I knew this chick called Isabella, and she was like “Do you wanna start a band?” and I was like “Yeah, sweet”. Then she asked all these people to come to this like band rehearsal, or whatever, at my house and Jaxon was the only one. He rocks up, like, Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon t-shirt, long hair and just his cymbals. He’s just walking up like he’s a fuckin' cool drummer. And then I just told Gus, who I’d known for a long time, to join the band."
G: "Yeah, you always told me, for ages, “I know this guy called Jaxon, come drink piss and shred. It’ll be sick.”"
How long ago was that?
G: "End of 2018."
S: "That’s so bad. Yeah, ‘cause Jaxon and I were chilling with this Isabella chick and I was like “Oh Yeah! Henry Rollins came to town” then Jax was like “What?!”. But, then when Gus and Jaxon met it was like, [imitates explosion]. The shit they knew about bands was just insane."
Hell yeah. So how’s lockdown treating you all? What are you guys getting up to?
G: "Well, I’m the only one that’s in Melbourne at the moment, so I’m the only one that’s really hit by it. You know the feeling, Campbell, you can’t do much. I’ve been playing a lot of bass, all the time, and trying to get into guitar. I recorded like a little song, but I don’t know. We’ve been thinking of recording stuff in lockdown, but it just hasn’t happened. It’s hard to do over Zoom or whatever."
J: "I mean, Spencer and I both live in the same town, or sub-town, of Castlemaine. Like a small town."
S: "So we can still see each other and get on the piss."
J: "But we haven’t that much, though. But, like, that’s alright. Um, a lot of bike riding, I teach a girl drums, and I do uni, but it’s online. You guys all know the feeling. It kinda doesn’t count. It kinda counts but it’s like 'ehh'."
S: "I work at IGA."
Yeah, for sure. As a band that thrives in a live setting, how would you describe your live show first of all and, now that live music has disappeared, how does the band function?
S: "Our shows are shit!"
G: "It’s just chaos, that’s all that matters."
J: "Um, fuck. We’ve had really good responses for the most part. Most people like it, which is cool. It’s hard to know what a gig’s really like when you’re the one playing. Hearing the mix is hard enough so seeing it visually and with the sound is kinda difficult. Anyway, people like it and it’s often quite fun. I think we have a lot of fun and stuff. I dunno, it’d be cool to have a bit more... I want more people to show up that I kind of respect and shit, not just randos. It’s not always been randos but, fuck, yeah. For the most part good gigs I think. It’s been always really loud, people generally kind of talked about how loud it was and how their ears ring, but they’re never taking the piss or anything. I mean, a lot of shows are loud, I'm sure prerock’s the same, so it’s quite all over the place, but people say it’s quite structured at the same time."
S: "Yeah, it’s funny, people say it’s still pretty all put together."
G: "Which it isn’t. We write a new setlist every gig like, what, seconds before we go on stage?"
S: "Every song’s different because there’s no structure to it, every song will change."
G: "It’s a weird position because Jaxon should be holding the beat, but I end up doing it because Jaxon’s doing something crazy, which always works. Like, it’s a different kind of rhythm I guess."
J: "Not always. It sometimes works."
S: "There’s a lot of freedom with whatever we do. We played a gig at the B.East and then we played a gig at some chick’s house. There was this, like, 40 year old dude and he was like “that’s the best gig I’ve ever been to.” That’s fucked."
G: "House gigs are the best, honestly."
S: "Our first gig was Jaxon’s 18th birthday party, and that was just like cookery because there was an open bar."
J: "We were called Mirage then as well."
S: "Yeah that’s right, Mirage. And it was just like, wah pedal."
So nothing’s changed?
S: "Exactly, yeah."
What does the creative process look like for you guys? Is there one?
S: "Yeah it’s kinda just. Get together. Play."
G: "We very rarely write songs at home. Like, maybe someone will write like a riff or something, but then we’ll get in Jaxon’s shed, have a couple beers, maybe smoke a little something, and then it just happens. We jam for hours and hours, the neighbours start shouting at you. Then you’ve got a riff and that’s it. Then it changes again completely live. Someone, usually me, will forget the riff and it’ll be different and anything can happen. That’s kinda the fun of it."
S: "Anything goes. There'll be like, some shouting, I dunno. Probably the most creative part is like making the song name. That’s always been a kind of tricky one. We always kind of related it to something that has recently happened. Just something funny, it’s just like, fucked. Like it’s always got a story behind it."
G: "Yeah usually when we write a riff, we stop playing and everyone kinda points at each other and goes “What’s the name? What do we call it? What’s happening? Someone decide!”"
S: "We didn't even have a name for 'Interrupted' until like a month ago or something."
J: "Until we put it out."
G: "Literally. I think, Jaxon, you were at my house and we were like “What are we gonna call it? We have to call it something ‘cause we’re releasing it now!”".
C: "'Delirious', we kinda named that in the studio ‘cause Jaxon shouted at the start of the take."
G: "No! It was because, in the take before, we finished a take and then everyone was kinda “ah, that was alright” or whatever and Jaxon went “I need to go outside, I’m fucking delirious! I’m fucking delirious!”"
S: "I didn’t know that."
G: "We all were delirious, we’d been recording for like ten hours or something like that. We’d been in the studio a long time."
S: "The Monash studio is insane, you get there at like 5pm and get out at like 3 o’clock in the morning. You’ve had like 40 1L red bulls and 300 cigarettes and Austin comes back from the gym just like [flexes muscles]."
We've spent some time together in the studio now, before lockdown. obviously the studio is a very different setting to the stage - has that sort of had any effect on how you guys are playing, how you guys are writing?
G: "Yeah, that was definitely a good experience for us, having to be, like, 'play the song' when none of us really know what the song is until we start playing it. So maybe we’ll learn to prepare a bit more or just be more open to fucking around. Like, not thinking that’s a bad thing."
S: "Yeah, there was a pressure to record something, like an actual song instead of just garbage."
J: "Well, we ended coming up with it off the cuff, generally."
G: "'Interrupted' was on the spot and 'Delirious' was two songs combined together, with a hard cut in the middle."
J: "You get something pretty valuable out of studio time. Like, it’s recorded, it’s made, it’s set in cement and it’s just like, “Fuck, alright that’s done.” It’s kinda nice, it’s very therapeutic, in a sense, to get it done."
S: "It’s also nice ‘cause it’s like a work ethic. You get there and everyone hangs out and then you’ll have your vice, which you’ll use to, not cope but, smoke some weed, drink some beers, to get in the zone."
G: "I don’t think we realised how long it takes to record something. Before we even recorded with you we recorded like a little EP, which we recorded at someone’s house. And that was a lot of fun. We were there nearly all day and we were like “Damn, we only got four songs”. Then, the next day at uni, I was talking to a friend of mine that’s recorded a bunch in a band and he was like “oh we do like 12 hour sessions and we get like, most of a song for that session” - and they had already written the songs and stuff."
J: "Yeah, we worked our arse off on that."
S: "We really pumped it."
J: "I like recording a lot. It’s fun. But I think I prefer the live shows. They’re always fun, ‘cause you can just go off no songs and just go and tune your guitar and it’s a set."
Jumping off that, I did want to ask about your influences both individually and as a band. Where does the Bruiser sound come from?
S: "Yeah, it’s funny ‘cause like, everyone’s got a different sound in mind when they play their thing. Gus’ll have his own music that he wants to play and I’ve got mine and Jaxon’s got his own beat and we just make that work, kind of just adapting to that."
G: "I’d say the bass players I like most are from post-punk music, because the bass part isn’t that complicated, it’s very repetitive, but it’s so driving and it’s so present compared to a lot of other music. Say, someone like Peter Hook, or Tracy Pew, or Tina Weymouth, or someone like that. The bass parts are always good but they’re not, like, shocking."
S: "People always talk about the bass playing in Bruiser, ‘cause it’s its own entity. It’s a really different style, I think."
G: "I hate it when you see a band and the bass player is just, kinda in the back chilling. I wanna be dancing up the front. There’s only three people in the band and no singer. If one person is sitting back then nothing’s happening ... it’s just fun playing together all the time, and that’s what matters."
S: "Neil Young, I love, and Ty Segall. I just like the fuzzy sort of sound, I think that’s really nice, but then, like Elliot Smith is pretty cool."
J: "Thee Oh Sees! That’s the first band we saw all together."
G: "That was a mental gig."
S: "That was so fucked."
G: "I always feel like you’re the singer, Spencer. You’re the singer of the band, just with a guitar. That’s kinda the way it feels."
You guys have plans to add a singer, right?
G: "Yeah, wish he was here. Myles Carew from Bad Taste, he’s also a saxophone player which should be interesting."
S: "And he knows all of the Castlemaine people!"
How do you think that’ll affect the band?
G: "From catching up with him recently, he was saying he wants to not be part of a lot of the set, be in half of it or under and just adding another element to it, instead of being a verse-chorus type thing. Get someone shouting or doing something else, and just having another instrument on stage. Make it more diverse."
J: "I want the band to be a bit fluid, in the same sense that we all have our instruments, but we can kind of swap around in a sense. Not really instruments, but we can play different roles at different times. And with the singer thing, you know, Bruiser’s what this is at the moment I suppose, or what it was, and I think that’s gonna stay like that. We’ll change our sound and add people, but Bruiser’s still this core trio kind of feeling to it."
S: "People have a vision of Bruiser in their head, which is just like, the live shows. Myles will probably come in, and he’ll add something as like a half-member, maybe. He’ll do his shit which’ll be fuckin' cool but, yeah."
J: "We want to experiment more with different people and different instruments, definitely. I mean, we’ve done it with prerock as well. That’s the kind of thing we’re going for is blending stuff together a bit."
G: "What we’ve all been into has changed so much since the end of 2018. Everything’s just changed, so why don’t we change with it?"
[Myles joins the call] Are you excited to join the band, Myles? What do you think you’ll bring?
M: "Wait, am I joining the band? ‘Cause I’m really confused about it. I can’t tell if you guys want me to do it or not."
J: "We talked about it!"
M: "I know! But, like I'm not seeing you guys, I don't talk to anyone. I’m thinking about it a lot like, 'maybe they don’t?'. I dunno!"
J: "Well we haven’t jammed or anything."
M: "Yeah we haven’t done anything yet so I was like, 'maybe not'. I’m fucking so excited for it. What was the question, sorry? What am I gonna bring?"
S: "Some jazz."
M: "Yeah jazz and, I dunno, lyrics I guess. More screams and stuff. But also, I don’t wanna be a frontman, you know what I mean?"
J: "I think the philosophy of the group is that everyone plays an equal role."
S: "A bit of Karl Marx."
G: "Oh, you mean Karl Marx the band?"
S: "Yeah, what’re you talking about?"
So, the kind of rock that you guys play is a style that’s been around since bands like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges. Do you guys think you have a place in the internet-era music industry?
S: "Good question. I reckon, yeah. That’s what Ollie Chappel does. He’s making stuff that’s really cool. People have said they don’t normally watch music videos, but they watched that one and were like 'woah, this is sick!', because of the way he times it."
J: "A lot of the images I produce for the band are like-"
S: "They’re really insane."
J: "Kinda digital stuff, heavily photoshopped."
You have cultivated this sort of amalgamation of deep fried memes and DIY-punk - especially Oliver’s video, I think is perfect, visually, for you guys. Where did that visual side come in, and what’s it like being a very analogue band in a digital age?
J: "It’s taking the piss mostly, don’t you think? Not taking the piss to warn off listeners, but more in the sense that we know how fucked this industry is, there's no way we’re gonna make it, so let’s just fucking have fun."
M: "There’s no way you’re gonna make it if you’re gonna be serious, it’s a million-to-one chance anyway."
J: "So you may as well be yourself and have dignity."
G: "For us, it’s people coming to shows, seeing the chaos in person. A lot of bands you play with are a bit too ordered. You see a psych band and go 'nah, fuck that! I wanna see Jaxon make cow noises into the mic'. Or was it cat noises? And one of us is too drunk to play, then who knows what happens after that."
J: "I was listening to a Duster live album and the fucking dude doing vocals is meowing into the microphone. I only just heard it. Cunts have been doing that since the OG days."
J: "A big part of the digital/analogue thing - and this is a different question - but like, doing shows and picking bands we wanna play with and hanging out with bands and putting it together. It’s not just one band, it’s a collection of bands we wanna play with. Sometimes we have a stab in the dark, sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn’t."
M: "You guys fucking do so many shows, though."
J: "There were a few months there where we were doing a show a week."
S: "It was so fun."
G: "There was one week where we did four shows in a week, wasn’t there?"
S: "People would say ... 'how the fuck are you getting this many gigs?' I’d just say 'Jaxon'."
Have you guys been working on any new stuff? Obviously it's hard because of lockdown, but I know Gus put out a solo track (which is very cool and everyone should check it out). Is there anything new from the band, or any solo stuff coming out?
G: "For the whole band we were talking about doing a covers EP, dunno if that’s still happening. We were gonna cover 'On GP' by Death Grips, 'Teenage Moustache' by the Microphones, and what was the Neil Young song?"
S: "'The Revolution Blues'."
G: "Yeah, do three completely different songs, and Myles would definitely sing on that a bit more. That’d be a good intro."
J: "We wanna record 'Witches Cackle' again at some point and reinvent that. I’d say no solo stuff coming from me at this time, obviously in the future I want to, but it’s just later. So no for me."
S: "Everything I write now is kind of for the band, every riff is like 'yeah, we could do this as a band', not like another venture."
M: "I feel like it never really stops though, even if you’re not making it, you’re still thinking about it."
J: "Every film you watch, every album you hear, it’s all part of it."