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Q&A: The Belle Brigade

By Clare R. Lopez and Geneva Perezcastaneda on March 29, 2011


Q&A: The Belle Brigade

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree for sibling duo The Belle Brigade. After growing up surrounded by the musicality of father Jay Gruska (long-time songwriter) and grandfather John Williams (Grammy and Oscar-winning film composer), making music is second nature for Barbara and Ethan Gruska. But it was just a little over two years ago that the Los Angeles natives decided to put their inherent talents together as The Belle Brigade. Their self-titled debut, out April 19th on Reprise, sees their intertwining vocals and clean melodies shine on tracks such as "Sweet Louise" and "Where Not to Look for Freedom."

As they make their way across the U.S., The Belle Brigade answered FILTER’s questions about working together, the evolution of their songwriting process and the influence Los Angeles has had on their music.


It’s no secret that you guys are siblings. What made you want to make music together?

Aside from being related and being friends, we both really love and respect each other’s songwriting. It’s also really fun to sing in harmony together and doing that was definitely a spark for us working together.

When did you sit down and write your first song? How has your songwriting process evolved since then?

We both have been writing on our own for a long time now, but our first collaborations happened about two and a half years ago. It was immediately really fun and exciting. Since then we have just been getting better and better at collaborating. We definitely balance each other out as writers and we help each other solve problems and puzzles within a song when one of us is stuck. We have become a faster and more productive team since we started working together.

One of the first things people find out about a band is where they’re from. How do you think growing up in Los Angeles has impacted you guys?

Our dad is a musician, so growing up in Los Angeles and meeting all of the great Los Angeles studio musicians was really influential for us as kids.

After hearing a few of your songs, Matthew Wilder came in and produced the album with you. What did his presence in the studio add to The Belle Brigade?

Matthew Wilder is an incredibly talented musician and producer, so having him around musically was really cool. Matthew also brought out a lot of confidence we didn’t have before we met him. He inspired us to sing louder and with more power and to write songs that went with that type of singing. He is a great friend and presence in and out of the studio.

What are the advantages or disadvantages of being siblings and band mates?

We are very similar so that makes for a good creative process, but we are also very different so that makes for good creative arguments. Both are important...

“Losers” was released as a single earlier this year. What role do you feel it plays in terms of the album as a whole?

“Losers” was a really fun song to write and record and we feel it’s the song that best captures our experiences and sentiments during the time of making this record.

How has growing up in a musically inclined family affected the way you write and listen to music?

Both our father and our grandfather are incredibly talented and prolific musicians, and to have them in our lives has always been amazing and inspirational to us. Because music surrounded our home so much as kids, its always been a really natural and familiar thing to us both in some sort of subconscious way.

You guys played a month-long residency at Spaceland and are currently making your way across the U.S. How has that residency informed the way you approach performing on this tour?

Our Spaceland residency was a great way for us, and the band, to get ready for our tour and start building a small fan base in L.A. It was unbelievably fun and was a great way for us to start getting our live show together. F

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