Brutus highlights heavier tones at 2019 Voodoo Fest

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Lead singer and drummer Stefanie Mannaerts of Brutus.

Music is always changing. Cool is so misunderstood. But one of the bands featured in the 2019 Voodoo Fest lineup that I enjoyed and had the pleasure to talk to was a Belgium-based rock band known as Brutus.

What attracted me to Brutus was not only the ambient, trance metal sound that reminded me at once of Icelandic band Sigur Rós and New York band Asobi Seksu, but lead singer Stefanie Mannaerts is also the drummer.

The only other band I know of that sings and drums at the same time is New Orleans-based (Jenny Says rockin') Cowboy Mouth. Brutus is NOT Cowboy Mouth. In a good way.

Brutus played on the South Course stage on Saturday, October 26. It was a mid-afternoon performance. The weather was so nice, but the ground was wet due to a tropical system that showed up on Friday.

I found out later that Brutus had never played in New Orleans before that performance. Moreover, it was actually their first time on a stage in America.

"First time [playing] in the states," bassist Peter Mulders said.

"First show of the tour," Mannaerts said.

They were flying to Chicago to play their next show. It was going to be cold in Chicago.

"Yeah, we brought summer and winter clothes," Mannaerts said.

Mannaerts, Mulders, and guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden all met in Belgium. They are Brutus.

"We grew up in the same area," Vanhoegaerden said. "We've known each other from previous bands when we were really young. But we've known each other for a long time."

"Yeah, 15 years. Stijn and I," Mannaerts said. "And Peter and I ten years, so."

The music that Brutus plays has been labeled post-hardcore. But for now they prefer to be known as simply a rock band.

"I think it's easier for people to label something," Mannaerts said. "A rock band is the easiest thing to say."

Vanhoegaerden concurred. They also agree on their influences.

"Metal is definitely in there," Mulders added. "Others are punk rock, or hardcore, or just rock music. It's all in there. Post-metal or post-rock, all the labels are in there. "That's what people tell us. For us we try to make music we like, and we don't think about the genres . . . We like to put [hip-hop] on in the van."

"We have all different kind of tastes," Mannaerts said.

"That's what makes it interesting," Vanhoegaerden said. "We like the same stuff, but also a lot of stuff he's really into, or I'm really into, or she's really into. And that's what makes it fun to write because there's always somebody like, 'ah, let's try this.'"

One genre they are not too fond of (playing at least) is jam music. Mannaerts laughed at the question.

"We like to play long songs, but I don't like to jam," she said.

"Not really," chimed Vanhoegaerden.

"But it's my problem," Mannaerts said.

"We never jam," Mulders added.

"After 10 minutes I'm like like, 'Yeah, but what's the purpose?'" Mannaerts said. "We can play this for two hours, but what are we going to do? I can't jam, but it's my fault."

"It's no problem," Mulders said. "We got used to it."

Brutus as a jam band might look like Texas-based Explosions in the Sky. Just saying. We only need one of them, too!

The Belgian trio continued their United States tour into November with dates in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Texas, and Chicago. They played Mexico City. They were very grateful that I said I loved the show. They are still on tour.

According to bandsintown.com, this week they will be in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Poland. Looks like the tour ends home in Bruxelles (Brussels), Belgium on December 14 in time for the holidays.

The same website shows that Brutus won't be back to the U.S.A. until May 1, when they have a date set for Central Park in Atlanta, Ga.

Mulders said that it is a dream come true to be on stage.

"Not a big stage, but writing your own music and then touring the world with it, yeah," he said. "That's something that only happens once in a lifetime and not for everybody. There's so many good bands and good people and good musicians that just can't do it, and we have the luck to do it so we're really, really happy we can do it."

Mannaerts and Vanhoegaerden nodded. Imagine five songs being played at a youth center in Belgium turning into a world tour, and you can imagine Brutus.

Further, the Voodoo Music and Arts Experience, taking place annually over Halloween weekend in spooky, groovy New Orleans has evolved with the times.

Please do not take this timeline literally, but the festival from my teenage recollection began in the late 90's. It sort of took the reigns as the city's premier alternative music festival after previous festivals like ZephyrFest and EndFest came and went.

While ZephyrFest was held during the summer (in the somewhat unrealistic New Orleans heat), Endfest was held around October.

Glancing upon old lineups posted on setlist.fm, I see that ZephyrFest featured mostly rock bands. The 1996 lineup included Dash Rip Rock, Dishwalla, Everclear, and Seven Mary Three to name a few.

You'll have to excuse me. I get reminiscent about the old sounds.

I also noticed that one year New Orleans hosted the Mojo Music Festival. That was 1997. Foo Fighters, Better Than Ezra, and Faith No More played.

If you're in your late 30s, you might feel nostalgic about all that. I do.

After shooting photos and covering the Voodoo Music and Arts Experience for the last three years, I believe that Voodoo Fest (as the locals naturally refer to it) shares in my nostalgia for the 90s.

Hence the Beck and Guns and Roses headliners in 2019. Or how about A Perfect Circle and Marilyn Manson in 2018?

It has changed. A pretty great deal. The whole state-of-the-art EDM stage, known as the Bacardi Le Plur stage, wasn't always there. I love it. Every year I stand in front of it and marvel at it. It sounds amazing. It looks amazing. If I could change one thing about it, it would be the MUD.

Voodoo Fest would be doing everyone a solid if they laid down some floor in front of that stage, in particular. But I digress. I have no idea what that costs or looks like to developers.

Lastly, my experience these days varies greatly from my times crowdsurfing. My hope is just that as music changes and tastes expand, that "alternative" bands like Brutus continue to pop up.

Click here to see our complete 2019 Voodoo Festival photo gallery!