‘Kind of gritty, but a little bit more polished’: An interview with Bruiser Queen’s frontwoman

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“Have fun before you die / Anything else is a waste of time,” sings Bruiser Queen frontwoman Morgan Nusbaum on the chorus of the band’s recently released track, “Have Fun.” The lyrics are a bold proclamation about letting your hair down that embodies the essence of Bruiser Queen’s latest album, Heavy High.

But St. Louis-based garage pop-rock duo Bruiser Queen isn’t all fun and games, no matter how lighthearted and upbeat its sound and appearance may seem. Nusbaum emphasized this aspect of the band’s music in an interview with The Daily Californian.

“A lot of the time, what ends up happening is I usually end up writing these songs that sound, like, super happy, but maybe some of the lyrics are just a little bit dark,” Nusbaum said. “You’re singing along, but there’s a little bit of seriousness in there somewhere.”

The seriousness discussed by Nusbaum emerges in all parts of the band’s newest music, with its fun summer sound playing off her lyrical insistence on staying grounded. This comes through in songs such as “Here Lies My Heart,” which has a bouncy beach-day feel even though it’s a meditation on lost love.

The title Heavy High also originates from the idea that the more difficult aspects of the real world are always present, even on good days. While the duo presents itself as a garage band, its artistic choices showcase how multifaceted Bruiser Queen actually is, despite the deceptively simple aesthetic associated with the genre.

“Garage rock is kind of gritty, a little bit of a throwback, but I feel like we’re a little bit more polished than that,” said Nusbaum. “We add pop into the mix.”

Bruiser Queen was born in 2010, with Nusbaum borrowing the band’s name from the the title of a 1997 album by indie rock band Cake Like. It’s a cheeky label that, according to the band’s frontwoman, embodies her personality.

“I’m just clumsy,” Nusbaum said, laughing about the name choice. “I’m definitely a ‘bruiser queen.’ ”

According to Nusbaum, Bruiser Queen was originally composed of more members. However, the band dwindled down to just Nusbaum and Jason Potter, the drummer. They now label the band as a duo.

For Nusbaum and Potter, the potential challenges of being a two-piece rock band haven’t hindered their progress in the eight years that they’ve played together. Their creative process and collaboration is seamless, with both minds operating on the same wavelength.

“A lot of times, I’ll get the rough idea for a song down and I’ll text it or email it to Jason, and he’ll already have the drum part by the time we come to practice,” Nusbaum said. “Then we come together and just play.”

According to Nusbaum, the band has made steady progress since its early days. Heavy High features higher quality production, although the creative songwriting process stayed relatively the same.

In the past, the duo struggled when it came time to put together a comprehensive album from its songs. This time around, however, Nusbaum said the new album’s songs flowed more naturally. And when it comes to playing live, Nusbaum believes the two have been able to translate their music well to the stage.

“We have a really energetic stage show, and we really try to make our sound really full for just being two people, so I think a lot of people are surprised that we don’t have a bass player or are surprised at how full our sound is for just having two of us onstage,” Nusbaum explained.

In the past eight years, Bruiser Queen has enjoyed its fair share of gigs. The duo has played the Bay Area before, stopping by for the first time when it hit Oakland’s now-closed Night Light in 2016. Thursday will mark the band’s Berkeley concert debut, as it will open for Los Angeles-based trio SadGirl.

The duo’s extensive touring resulted in a loyal fan base both in Bruiser Queen’s home state and beyond, with its following extending all the way to the West Coast. Nusbaum cited Seattle as a place where she and Potter found particularly excited fans. She expressed excitement at the fact that the band’s fans are attending its recent tour.

“It’s really surprising every time,” Nusbaum said. “We’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! People are singing along to the songs!’ ”

The following accrued by Bruiser Queen is well-earned. It’s the result of its sound, which calls back to contrasting influences — including the Marvelettes, the Pixies and the Breeders. Nusbaum also cited contemporary pop lyricists, such as Whitney Houston and Lana Del Rey, as impactful for the development of the band’s sound.

Nusbaum’s pop queen vocals combine the band’s garage pop-rock core with the duo’s excitement in the form of fun, bouncy beats. In its rise, Bruiser Queen proves itself to be having fun and not wasting time — taking its emerging fan base along with it for the ride.

Bruiser Queen will open for SadGirl at Cornerstone Craft Beer & Live Music on Thursday.

Contact Alex Jiménez at [email protected].