Brontide work their trade in a tough and often unappreciated field.
Purely an instrumental band, their music isn’t typical of the genre they hail from. Rather than being sparse, experimental or even generally progressive, their songs tend to take shape as an exhilarating stew of beat driven electronica, complimented by heavy metal guitars for good measure.
A strange and unworldly sound is what immediately springs to mind right? Not quite; let your ears do the talking. Let your senses enliven themselves so you can feel your own way around the riff heavy landscapes of ‘Coloured Tongues’ or the virtual reality crunch of ‘Matador’. You can make your own interpretation of Brontide, a band whose burgeoning cult following is on the brink of exploding into stratospheric realms any minute now, such are the rewards of their persistent touring on the festival circuit following the release of their debut album ‘Sans Souci’ in May 2011.
“We started the band many moons ago, and we’ve done it sporadically for the last four or five years really,“ drummer William Bowerman told Live4ever in a recent exclusive interview. “We’re originally from Nottingham, I moved to Brighton and met Nathan, our bassist, and then we’ve all moved around the country and stayed in touch. We live all around England and we get together and play and tour whenever we can.”
And this summer, that persistent touring finally brought Brontide to the US, where they found an audience willing to embrace an often over-looked genre with open arms. “We didn’t know what to expect,” William continues. “We didn’t know how we’d go down – we didn’t know if anybody knew us. It’s been so much better than we expected. We played New York and that blew us away, it was awesome. American crowds are – without insulting a British crowd – just a bit more responsive when you play and they are just a bit more open to let themselves get into something new, so it’s been really fun for a band like us.”
You don’t need to spend long in the company of ‘Sans Souci’ to appreciate exactly why American crowds have taken to Brontide so warmly – the guitar based electronic contour of these songs bring about lofty comparisons to Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand, but then there’s the element of delicious surprise that the group prosper within. Brontide boast such well composed genre marriages as bringing indie pop into a warm meld with dance orientated beats, complimented with an adept prose for the avant-garde in regards to sound effects, and a proud acknowledgement of classic rock. For instance, the grand tempo and genre changes in ‘Matador’, of which a cozy electronic introduction bursts into a glorious embrace of distorted Zeppelin guitars, is the kind of playful ambivalence that San Francisco’s Girls have become known, whilst their voyage of discovery on the electronic frontier harks back to the revolutionary work of Radiohead at their peak.
That those contemporary and classic rock bands are brought to mind on ‘Sans Souci’ might not be much of a surprise – as William explains to Live4ever, Brontide didn’t necessarily arrive at the instrumental path thanks just to the contemporaries who have paved the way before them.
“At the beginning we’d never done an instrumental band before and we thought we’d give it a go because basically it allows you to show off a little bit more, because you don’t have to hide under anyone singing,” William tells us. “We started using vocals in songs but we use samplers and drum machines and things to trigger vocal parts as opposed to actually doing the vocal parts ourselves. We like the idea of using vocal samples, not talking, but certainly syllables and words, and pitching them and making them sound like keyboards. But as a whole it’s played as an instrument so we still completely class ourselves as an instrumental band.”
“We discovered most of the instrumental bands we like after we became an instrumental band, because then we were playing and going, ‘oh this’ll work’. We liked when bands did albums and had a song on it that didn’t have singing, it was always kinda our favourite song. At the beginning we wanted to challenge ourselves to make an interesting live show without having to talk or sing. That was one of the original challenges we wanted to try and do. And try and keep it fresh – we never repeat sections.”
So where do these challenges leave them – how do we begin to grasp meaning and humanity in Brontide’s music? There are no vocals, no lyrics, and barely any suggestion as to what any of their songs might be about. But then perhaps that is the beauty of being an instrumental band – the feelings evoked in the music can be interpreted as the listener wishes, and Brontide might just be one of the best platforms available for that at the moment.
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