Following up 2021's The Perilous Transformations of Kid Spit tape, John Toohill's glitchy, dystopian synth-punk project Brute Spring returns with its debut album titled Turquoise Window, out everywhere February 15th on Swimming Faith Records (Science Man, Besta Quadrada, Big Clown). Today we have the pleasure in premiering the album's opening track "Blood on Sand" which struts between primitive no wave/krautrock and early strains of pulsing industrial punk à la Throbbing Gristle, Vicious Visions, and Suicide. Ahead of the release, we caught up with Toohill to dig into the origins of the dystopian project and how his various solo experiments fearlessly twist different shades of anguish into the gritty unknown.
First tell me what you've been up to lately? What have you been listening to, reading, or spending a lot of time doing?
John Toohill: Writing Songs. Finishing up releases. Recording Steve play the drums. Making music videos with Lindz. Booking shows/tours. Making poster and album art. Serving drinks at work. Shoveling snow. Picking my nose. Watching Star Trek. Kind of been revisiting some, now older, favorite records. Like that Condominium LP Warm Home from like 12? years ago. Man, it still smokes everything. I went to the Bills game on Monday too, which was a lot of fun.
Take readers through the origins of your synth-punk-driven project Brute Spring. What were you drawing inspiration from?
JH: As a pre-internet young teen I was lucky enough to have my cooler, older cousin play me a bunch of wild shit. The first wave of stuff he showed me was heavy on industrial bands like Atari Teenage Riot, Ministry, NIN, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy. It opened the door to underground music and lead to me finding out about punk and hardcore then later discovering how all that intersected with like Throbbing Gristle and Suicide. Tracing it back to krautrock and other "psychedelic" music. I also am constantly listening to new bands that inspire me. The Mall, The Drin, Laughing Gear, Pilgrim Screw. It all goes into the blender.
How did that 2021 tape come together exactly? Also what are your thoughts looking back at it three years later? The track "Into Ribbons" is still on heavy rotation for me!
JH: I once told Biff [Eric Bifaro] that playing and writing music alone are like "my video games." The pressure is off and I'm just kind of fooling around, trying new things out on my own alone. That's how I relax, maybe? I also play video games too. You ever play Dark Souls or Bloodborne? FUCK those games are frustrating. I think I hate relaxing. I always need something to do. This felt like something I really wanted to do so I just started doing it one day. I haven't listened back to it recently. Maybe I should? By the time an album is released, I've usually had my fill and I'm too busy with what's next. I'm glad you still jam it! That's a good sign.
Today we have the pleasure of premiering the project's latest single "Blood on Sand," the first off the upcoming debut LP Turquoise Window. How did this track come together and what was the initial vision of it?
JH: I never have a completed vision in my head. I just find a thread and start pulling. I probably made a noise on the miniBrute synth I often use and said "ohhh yea that's good!" then started layering on top. Tinkering. Simultaneously recording, writing, and editing till it felt done.
Take me through the recording sessions for this new album. How did it all come together and where was it made?
JH: I did everything myself in my little bedroom office. I mostly use Garageband and Reaper. Both are free. I have a Scarlett 6i6 interface, some sm58's and some shitty random broken mics. Got my guitars, a few synths, a midi controller, a bunch of guitar pedals, a digital drum machine, and a willingness to try anything.
The closing track "The Crash" is my personal favorite from the new album. What can you tell me about putting that one together?
JH: I just started playing the bass line while the drum looped through a tiny bass amp as I mumbled lyric ideas. It felt fuzzy, blown out, and sad but maybe a little beautiful. Like finally crashing from a dangerous high.
Were there any tracks that were laid down or demoed that were ultimately left out from the sessions? If so, are there plans to rehash them and be released in the foreseeable future?
JH: I throw away A LOT of unfinished material. If it doesn't start moving my meter, why should I expect it to for anyone else? So yes, there are a lot of other demoed ideas. I just didn't finish them and I doubt I could even remember them at this point. The trail ran cold. I probably just deleted it and moved on.
What were the inspirations behind the artwork?
JH: Lindsay [Tripp] and I hiked up a small mountain in Maine last year that had this wild tower built at the top. There were ladders connecting the 5 floors to get on the roof. We snapped a polaroid of how insane it looked up there before coming back down. I just turned it sideways.
Have you and Lindsay been working on any videos associated with this project?
JH: Oh yeah. Just one and I'm really proud of it. I think it's very different from our usual style but I could be wrong. Hopefully it will still feel like us. There is a lot of dancing and a lot of nature so you'll have to tell me if we jumped the shark. Should be out soon.
What has it been like bringing this project to life for live shows? With the new album, do you plan to do more Brute Spring shows?
JH: The only reason I ever dared to do this live is because Mark Plant from The Mall specifically requested Brute Spring perform when they came to town. I had to get Frank Napolski to help me make it a reality because I have no clue how run this much shit at the same time and he's a fucking wizard. He does all the heavy lifting live. He's Martin Rev while I'm just swinging some chains. He also programs the lights and smoke and sequencing. If we ever do more shows, it's because Frank is feeling horny for it. All I can do is try and sweet talk him. He's very expensive!
What else is on the horizon for you at the Swimming Faith headquarters?
JH: Recording a new Science Man LP right now. The Hamiltones In Space comes out in March. Another Night Slaves cassette out soon after. Going on a Science Man tour in April and June. Finishing mixing the B&W CAT/B&W CAKE LP right now. Alpha Hopper LP is almost done too. More Ismatic Guru. More everything for another 40 years!
Turquoise Window is out February 15th on Swimming Faith Records. Look out for a music video of the new single "Blood on Sand" next week on Tremendo Garaje.