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Interview: The Brute Chorus
THE Brute Chorus' first single, a double a-side titled Chateau/The Cuckoo And The Stolen Heart, contained grim tales of spurned lovers, murderous revenge and wolves in wolves's clothing.
Full of chaotic blues riffs and unbridled experimentalism, the four-piece sounded like they had only just dragged themselves out of the New Orleans swamps, fashioned instruments out of junk and set about shaking modern rock music until its teeth rattled.
Except they're from London, not Louisiana, and that debut single was released by none other than Bumpman Originals, the newly-formed recording arm of the infamous boozer (Amy Winehouse and Noel Fielding are regulars), The Hawley Arms.
Subject to critical slaverings, Chateau nevertheless failed to trouble the charts. The same might not be true, however, for The Brute Chorus' new single, Grow Fins.
Grow Fins, if you're not sure if you've heard it, is the whimsically catchy tale of an unusual love affair -- not quite the usual boy-meets-girl affair.
Singer James Steel says: "It's kind of a mad story about a guy who's stranded in a tower block and gets rescued by some woman who comes riding over the waves and they decide that the only way to survive the flood is to grow fins.
"I just get trapped in my own head and make up little stupid stories and there's more of that to come if you listen to more of the songs that we do, they're really fanciful - it's escapism more than anything else."
Grow Fins is the most radio-friendly thing they've done so far, although James says that the song goes from shiny and polished to "dirty and raw" when played live.
While wearing their Bob Dylan and Tom Waits influences on their sleeve, James says he wanted to show fans that they are more than a one-dimensional blues band.
"It's important to us that we don't repeat ourselves too much and we don't sound like everybody else, and I hope that's what we're achieving really," he says.
Returning enthusiastically to the theme of Tom Waits, James says that the "home-spun" feel of the legendary singer's tunes was a huge influence on the band- so much so that they started creating their own instruments in a bid to find a fresh sound.
"One of the sounds on Grow Fins is an instrument we built ourselves which we christened the Rockenspiel," he says.
"It's a little wooden glockenspiel we got on eBay and we put these bass guitar pickups in it and plug it into a guitar amp which we turn on the distortion for - I really like that ethic and we do whatever we can with whatever limbs are going to make it sound different to your standard four-piece."
They have also been booked to play the BBC's Introducing stage at this year's Glastonbury - the same stage graced by the Ting Tings shortly before they shot to fame.
So if the major labels came calling, does James think The Brute Chorus would abandon their tiny indie home?
"I think that's looking less and less likely as the year goes on!" he laughs.
"EMI just dropped 10,000 bands worldwide apparently, loads of bands have been on the chopping block and they're one of the biggest labels.
"I think the independent route is the way to go at the moment - they seem to be the people who are surviving it better because their overheads are less, they're less greedy and they've got a more proactive approach to it.
"We'd want someone who would let us keep doing what we're doing and not push us towards the middle of the road in terms of massive album sales or whatever."
- The Brute Chorus play Club Kico in Bolton on July 19, Hed Fest in Preston on August 15, and The After Show in Manchester on September 12.