On the eve of their performance this weekend of their original live score to “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” which was commissioned from them by the Walker Art Center in 2011 as part of its Music and Movies in the Park series, we present a recent interview with the band by our friends at Paper Darts. (Republished with permission.)
On paper, Brute Heart might sound like a lot of the music you hear around any coffee shop folk scene: ethereal, sparse, violin-accompanied acoustic music. But their immediate influences are from a much darker and louder place then a typical Twin Cities open mic. They channel the driving krautrock rhythms of Can, but with the snarl of The Pixies or The Violent Femmes. And on closer listen, you’ll notice that there’s rarely even a guitar in the mix. They rely instead on layers of plucked and bowed violin, jagged bass lines, and scampering drums that claw up your spine
Brute Heart might be one of the most interesting bands in the Twin Cities right now, and not just because of their musical roots, which are as deep as they are wide. They recently finished the behemoth project of scoring the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari for the Walker Art Center’s Music and Movies in the Park series, where they played live with the movie in the Walker’s Open Field.
Paper Darts: Between all of you, how many instruments do you play?
Brute Heart: That depends on whether you are asking only about instruments we play regularly and would perform in front of people, or about also the instruments that we play in our living rooms. Going with the latter, between the three of us, we play approximately eleven instruments: piano, guitar, banjo, viola, violin, trumpet, drums, bass guitar, voice, harmonica, and little bit of pump organ.
PD: How did you guys prepare for scoring The Cabinet of Dr. Cali? Did you study other horror film scores, or did you look elsewhere for inspiration?
BH: We watched the movie a bunch (on mute to not be influenced by the version of the film score that was already there). We also drew from our experiences scoring and performing with live theatre. We broke the film into sections to make it more manageable but then, as the sections developed, we also considered the flow of the film and music as a whole. The music started to come to us pretty easily as we listened to some older compositions we hadn’t developed yet. Often we would record practice sessions with a handheld recorder and then play it back while watching segments of the film to see what pieces worked with each scene, which was invaluable because it enabled us to hear nuances and quality of tone and how these fit with the film that we would have otherwise missed while lost in playing a song. Other times, silence was the best tool. We would watch a section of the film without any music and imagine what the feel should be and developed the basic structure of the song from there. In general, open communication and the ability to accept constructive criticism were essential elements to composing the score as a group.
We are also indebted to our collaborations with Jonathan Kaiser (cellist) and John Marks (analogue synthesizer-player extraordinaire). They developed a lot of the their own brilliant parts and provided invaluable feedback to the process.
PD: Do you have any future scoring aspirations? What would be your dream movie/play/video game/etc. to score?
BH: At this very moment we are continuing to focus on this particular score. We are currently recording it and will be performing it again at the Cedar Cultural Center on October 19. This time we will take advantage of being inside and have sets, lighting, and a popcorn machine! But we certainly want to continue scoring music for plays and films. We see the Caligari score as a debut film score for the band. We have always talked about accompanying a dance piece with live original music. Music for video games seems a little unlikely given our style and interests, but then again, you never know what the future holds. We don’t have one particular dream score aspiration and are very much open to many possibilities.
PD: Besides any real venues in town, where in the Twin Cities would you love to play a show?
BH: On the stage in Powderhorn Park on a beautiful summer evening. Or maybe in the Soap Factory.
PD: What adult beverage best represents each of you?
BH: For Crystal B., a dirty gin martini. For Crystal M., a glass of robust red wine. For Jackie, a local craft beer.
PD: Of all the radio personalities in the Twin Cities, who would you go to prom with?
BH: That’s a tough one. Either The Current’s Barb Abney or KFAI’s Jonathan Kennedy. Or maybe both and then we would get dressed up in sequins but skip prom altogether and listen to records, jam on some instruments we don’t normally play, and, if there was still time, top it off with a rollerblading adventure.
If You Go:
Brute Heart performs a live score for “The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari” (1920) with MAKR
7 pm doors, 7:30 pm show Friday, October 19th
Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Avenue S, Minneapolis, 612-338-2674, www.thecedar.org