Belle Brigade siblings strike a balance
January 27, 2015
Barbara Gruska and her younger brother Ethan are the Belle Brigade.
The vocal and instrumental duo, known for its critically acclaimed single, "Losers," will perform at the ASCAP Music Café during the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday and Friday.
"It’s awesome that we were asked to come play," Ethan told The Park Record. "Our dad has been a part of ASCAP for a long time and we’ve been part of it since we started songwriting. So, it’s an important thing for our lives and we’d do anything to help them out."
The Gruskas’ father, Jay, is an Emmy Award-nominated TV and film composer and is known for his work on "Supernatural," "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," to name a few.
Furthermore, their grandfather on their mother’s side is Academy Award-winning film composer John Williams.
So, music was something that ran Ethan and Barbara’s family and something they wanted to pursue with the Belle Brigade.
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"In the very beginning our goals were to make music and record songs that we had written together and play live," Barbara said. "It remains that same goal today."
The challenges the Gruskas face are pretty common, according to Barbara.
"We are always trying to find ways to get the music out there and have people respond to our live shows," she said. "[To do so,] we had to figure out the best way to utilize the Internet."
"It’s also hard from the business standpoint, but also from the personal side," Ethan added. "It’s difficult to keep getting up and playing on nights when you don’t feel too great. It’s also hard when you have your doubts about things, but like Barb said, I feel a lot of our difficulties are just part of the process."
One of the benefits of the Belle Brigade is the sibling connection.
"When we get together and start something from scratch, we make a decision to come from the same place," Barbara said. "It’s almost as if our thoughts and our voices are echoes of one another.
"When we write songs individually for Belle Brigade, we still will think about the other," she said. "I always have Ethan in my mind and I know Ethan has me in mind when he writes a song. And when we finally bring our songs to each other to collaborate, it turns into that sound that only he and I can make."
"We balance each other out in so many ways," Ethan said. "We respect each other and love each other, so that makes it easier to work together, in my opinion.
"It’s funny, when we grew up, we didn’t get along as well," he said. "But as time went on, we gave each other the chance to grow up so we can work together and be friends."
When writing their songs, the Gruskas always find balance in their lyrics.
"There is a line that I don’t cross," Barbara said. "When I’m writing a song, I’m not writing a journal entry, so being a songwriter I have to figure out how to be as honest and revealing as much as possible without making it too unique to your own experience.
"You want to keep the song open enough so others can relate to it," she said. "There have been time when I have written something and said, ‘Whoops! This is for my diary.’"
Ethan has found a different way to write with discretion.
"I have a hard time writing about other people, however, when I do write a song about another person, I find that I end up writing about several people," he said. "I found if I do that, the song has a common ground and can relate to more people."
At the moment, the siblings have been writing a lot.
"We were on the road for seven months in 2014 and it was hard to write in that time, but we had a lot of experiences," Ethan said. "So, when we got home a couple of months ago, we’ve been able to write about many of the things that have happened."
The duo does create set lists for its live performances, but also tries to feel the vibe of the audience.
"We also select songs based on the environment of the venue," Barbara said. "We only have about a half hour to play at Sundance, which is about seven or eight songs. We will write a set list and leave spaces to call out whether or not to play this song or that song, depending on how the room feels."
The Belle Brigade will perform at the ASCAP Music Café, 752 Main St., on Thursday, Jan. 29, at 3:20 p.m. and Friday, Jan. 30, at 2 p.m. The café is open to all Sundance Film Festival credential holders as space allows. For more information, visit http://www.sundance.org.