Brute Heart's Lonely Hunter
"We try to create something that is more of a painting with our music. You can try to use words to understand, but the experience is meant to be in the layers of sound," says Crystal Myslajek, bassist of Brute Heart. It's true; imposing a text to this band's music feels intrusive, limiting. The experience is meant to be visceral, taking place in the imagination and the core.
You can say they sound mystic, Middle Eastern, psychedelic, kaleidoscopic, bathed in incense, sage, and hookah smoke. There is some truth to the Grace Slick comparisons. But there is also something so complete in their rhythms, all warm glow and velvet, mesmerizing and dreamy in the repetition.
The vocals—chants, howls, and celestial melodies—communicate lament. Myslajek, viola player Jackie Beckey, and drummer Crystal Brinkman create something epic when they sing together, as if wailing for their lovers lost at sea. Their three voices snake around each other, intertwine and untangle, their silences perfectly placed.
The band members are preparing to celebrate the release of their new album, Lonely Hunter, this Saturday at the Turf Club. The new record brings a fullness to their songs, a distinct evolution from the sparse landscape of 2009's Brass Beads. With a miniscule budget, at a hectic pace, and with Mike Wisti on the soundboard, the band recorded Lonely Hunter on weekends, mixing at night after working their day jobs.
"Recording is really cool; you finally hear yourself from an objective place," says Beckey, who discovered a new realm of feedback in the studio with Wisti's help, playing through multiple amps, trying out new pedals. "I started to think about John Cale and Velvet Underground-style viola playing."
"We really learned a lot from the recording session. Each time we heard ourselves we would go back and think, 'I need to sustain this note longer, or we need to slow down or bring up the tempo,'" says Myslajek.
"The project itself was exploding. In the moment, the studio felt like Crazy Town, but it was a really amazing time for us to grow," says Beckey.
Brute Heart formed in 2007 after Myslajek and Beckey, who were next-door neighbors, joined musical forces while both working on the BareBones Puppet Theater's annual show in Hidden Falls Park. Beckey was directing the music and Myslajek was in the band.
Driving to a catering job at a flower farm in Wisconsin, Myslajek mentioned to Brinkman, who was her co-worker, that she and Beckey were looking for a drummer.
"'I'll play drums,' she told me, and I had to ask, 'Well...do you play drums?'" laughs Myslajek. While Brinkman hadn't drummed in a band before, she had played a little, borrowing other people's kits, playing hand drums on road trips.
"I got really excited and borrowed my friend's drum kit, brought it over to the space, and we just started writing all these weird songs!" says Brinkman.
The music forms as a collaborative effort, each member playing a vital role. Some songs take longer than three months to create as the musicians listen, discuss, and tweak.
"It is not easy to play a song without us as a unit, since we don't play chords," says Beckey. "But we can be more deliberate since we have so much space. You can throw in that crazy note and it will be noticed, not lost under pounding chords."
"We all have integrity in our communication and are respectful. We want to understand each other," says Myslajek.
"I feel lucky every time we play together. It's an amazing thing, like any kind of relationship that is working. I am so glad they are in my life," says Brinkman.
This camaraderie served the band well on a recent tour. Like most broke-ass bands, Brute Heart spent a lot of nights on strangers' floors, finding a supportive music community wherever they traveled.
"In Pittsburgh we all slept on a big pull-out couch in the framing of a house that the owners were working on. They blocked the door with a chair and told us, 'If you hear anything, don't worry, it might be a raccoon, but they are scared of people so just make a lot of noise,'" says Brinkman. "We were laughing so hard we were crying."
BRUTE HEART play an LP-release party with Tender Meat, Jerusalem and the Star Baskets, Lighted, Patches, and DJ Tumbleweed on SATURDAY, MAY 14, at the TURF CLUB; 651.647.0486
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