We musician types try our very damnedest to appear that we have no ego, polishing stagecraft and internet biographies in a vain attempt to convince those watching or reading that we don’t have a lickle shrine to ourselves somewhere in the subconscious. Most of us. However, within five minutes of speaking to Bruja, it’s clear that they are the most genuinely humble and baggage-free band inside a substantial number of postcodes. The following two hours were a refreshing and hope-inspiring montage of shrugs, half remembered facts and throwaway self deprecation. Why can’t it always be like that.
The band formed (in typically unassuming style), when Zach Duvall (drums) and Lewis Naylor (guitar), despite having never before played instruments, started jamming. Shortly after, they recruited similarly inexperienced Del Wadsworth (bass) and put a set together. Their first gig was a friend’s house party near Liverpool, and their set was comprised almost entirely of Nirvana’s 1994 ‘Unplugged in New York’ (Zach informed me that it may even have been in the same order).
The following year they put together a set of original songs, took a random word uttered by Bane in a Batman game as their name (‘bruja’, pronounced ‘brew-ha’, means ‘witch’ in Spanish) and debuted officially in May 2014 at an all-day charity event in Barnsley. In a little over a year they’ve become one of the town’s most established and well known alternative bands. They released their first official single (‘Horsey and You’. Yes, you did read that right.) in July and it garnered splendid reviews; Voxx magazine said ‘…if you find it hard to like, never mind LOVE this record, you’re a miserable toe-rag.’ Their debut E.P. will be launched at a gig at Barnsley’s unrivalled and award winning Rock and Blues Centre (formerly the Polish Club) in August.
The single and E.P., the band tell me, are an almost complete reinvention of their previous sound. I spoke to them in June to discuss these drastic measures and their forthcoming release.
Did you release anything from the original set?
Zach: ‘Yeah, we put two albums out! We’ve since deleted everything, though – we literally can’t get it back…’
Del: ‘We’ve made them unfindable!’
That’s real commitment!
Zach: ‘It’s just not us… it’s fake. I wouldn’t want anyone to listen to it.’
Do you think that first sound was a product of the sort of covers you were playing?
Zach: ‘Yeah, it was a blend of all the bands we covered. Now, when I think about those songs we used to play, none of them felt right. We’d be waiting for certain songs to come up in the set and thinking ‘fucking hell…’ It really shouldn’t be like that!
Lewis: ‘Most of the songs we wrote early on were never played live because we weren’t that comfortable with them.’
Zach: ‘When we started out, we were writing anything and thinking ‘This is mint!’, but, you know… It’s not!’
How do you think your sound has developed since then?
Lewis: ‘I think we’re a bit more ‘shoegaze’, now. A few people have said there’s a bit of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine to it, so I suppose they’re the easiest comparisons.’
Zach: ‘With THAT sort of sound, I really couldn’t name any major bands. That tells me I haven’t copied anyone!’
What sort of subject matter do you aim for?
Zach: ‘We really don’t take that seriously!’
Del: ‘Not at all! We’ve a song about a horse, one about a bee, one about a dog… one called ‘Fox Sox’…
Zach: ‘Animals, basically.’
Del: ‘Things that make us happy.’
Zach: ‘We’re definitely not ‘doom’. Y’know, ‘DIE!’…
Del: ‘We don’t want to be too serious.’
Are you consciously trying to steer away from being serious?
Del: ‘No, I think it’s just us!’
Are you happy with the sound? Could you see yourselves recruiting in future?
Lewis: ‘Yeah, we’re really happy. We have tried playing with other people, another guitar, but it hasn’t worked out.’
Zach: ‘It’s not about the people, it just doesn’t work; they just somehow get pushed out and it doesn’t gel.’
Del: ‘I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s us, ‘cos it’s not them! We’re just three weirdos…’
Bruja’s debut E.P. will be released on August 14th at Barnsley Rock and Blues centre. Doors open at 7.30, entry is £3 and supporting them will be Demur, Night Rays and Yawning Dog.