Interview: Spirit Haus shares “Hands”

Posted: by The Editor

As a lo-fi pop project, Spirit Haus, pieced itself together back in 2014 by singer/songwriter Bruno Catrambone most notably known for his presence in indie-pop band CRUISR and alt-folk’s Former Belle. Throughout the routine of touring and balancing his place in these groups, Bruno began dabbling in some experimental spaces, taking demo ideas, and molding them into his own, independent creations. This is what ultimately lit the match for more exploration into what he now calls Spirit Haus.

Yet, it wasn’t until 2018, after a break from hitting the pavement hard with CRUISR over the last few years that he had more focus and motivation to journey into the unknown territory that he had created within his at-home recording and writing. Since it’s revival, Spirit Haus has been much more active and alive with Bruno taking much of 2019 to orbit himself around the project with 2020 being the year he’s released singles such as “Fevers,” “Already Gone,” and the newest dream-pop escapade, “Hands.”

With “Hands,” it feels like Bruno’s mastered the sweet tooth that encapsulates pop-production. Soft synths blend atop his mellow voice as the track blossoms before the chorus drops to a syrupy bass and distorted vocals that trails the infectious pop formula. By the song’s end, the melody is still bouncing on the tip of your tongue which isn’t a bad taste to be left with. 

I was able to sit down and talk to Bruno about Spirit Haus and his newest release which ranged from his musical influences, the inspiration he took from groups he toured with like PVRIS and The 1975, the positives and negatives of being a musician right now in the state of our world, and why he chose the name ‘Spirit Haus’. Check it out:

You’re part of both indie-pop band CRUISR and alt-folk group, Former Belle. What caused you to want to branch out on your own with Spirit Haus? 

I think both of those projects tend to cover two opposite worlds when it comes to mood and overall feel of the music; CRUISR opened me up to an upbeat, happy, pop-influenced world whereas Former Belle was more of an introspective, wordy/lyric-driven, singer-writer, folk project. Both were super influential and important to me and let me experience two different ends of two different genres of music. 

Spirit Haus kind of fell somewhere right in-between them as an outlet for me to create songs that maybe didn’t fit either CRUISR or Former Belle but rather were a bit more experimental in spanning a few different genres and influences. It was really just something I started doing between tours in my apartment with the mindset of, ‘okay, no rules- record it and write it how you want it and that’s that’ – sort of thing, and then it slowly became a more realized and formed project for me that I never quite stopped thinking about or doing.

Is there a different set of creative freedoms when you are writing on your own than it is when you’re a part of a band dynamic? Is that what drew you to pursue this project more?

Totally! I think anytime you work on something solo or for your own project you sort of start wearing all the hats; you become the boss of your own doing. With a band, there’s always going to be multiple ideas or opinions all coming together to shape how the songs are formed, and sometimes there are ideas that don’t make the cut or don’t fit and you have to find a way to not take those sort of things personally and know that it’s for the better of the song and overall, the project. I definitely feel that Spirit Haus was letting me try my ideas to completion and if they sucked then I can only blame myself for that, ha.

CRUISR toured with the likes of PVRIS, 1975, Misterwives, etc., etc. Did any of their soundscapes or stage shows inspire you when piecing together Spirit Haus?

Absolutely, 100%. I think experiencing tours of that size really makes you approach things from a ‘sponge’ mentality; basically taking in every little thing you can and learning from it. I remember coming home from every single tour we did feeling truly blown away and inspired by not only the possibilities of where a career in music can take you but also at what’s possible when you really put the work in. I think one of the most important things I started to instill into Spirit Haus was a, ‘no nonsense’ / ‘what’s the point if you’re not going to do it right’ sort of mentality; that really helped me get my footing with what I wanted to do with this particular project. 

I made these little goals in my head of what I want a live show to eventually look like and how I want to approach releasing music and how it’ll be released; almost every little detail became a crucial step in what I’ve wanted to do with Spirit Haus and I know that I picked a lot of that up from our time on the road and learning from people we admire and got to play with for weeks at a time.

You’ve mentioned that the project started when you began collecting demos of ideas and recording them on your laptop. How did that process work? Where did you come across demo ideas? 

I was super into this like, warbly instrumentation and lofi, distorted recording style where everything sounded like it was on a cassette tape or super far away. I just figured with my free time I would try to emulate sounds I have not really done before with Former Belle and then figure out how to record them.

 I wasn’t used to recording anything that wasn’t an acoustic guitar and a vocal, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to do things the ‘unconventional way’ and just made sure to record all of it. I was like, putting an acoustic guitar through a bunch of pedals into my amp and then taking weird software synth sounds and manipulating them until they were weird enough to use and then I just sort of looped them and wrote to those parts. I ended up doing a couple songs that way and overall it sort of sparked this new project even though it strayed a bit from the lofi thing and into other worlds; it definitely started with those sessions and that writing process.

Why the name Spirit Haus?

Haha, ugh – I hate naming things; I always feel like I’m the worst at it. When I was making those lofi recording loops in my apartment, for some reason, I was like super into the concept of being a homebody in an apartment zooming out in your own little neighborhood where you’ve lived your whole life – I’m not sure why I was obsessed with it – I must’ve been reading something at the time that sparked it; I think I’m a social person but also crave introverted, indoor time and those two worlds always battle each other for me. 

I was writing something that had to do with two people who were homebodies who decided to sneak out to a neighbor’s party and it was a whole thing of ‘not fitting in’ and being obviously out of place, etc. and I just kept thinking of ‘Spirit House’ because a homebody seemed to be a house spirit – thriving on their own thing from the comforts of home and that’s all good – I was feeling that. ‘House’ was taken though, so I ended up with Spirit Haus.

I read that your band mate Andy States helped co-produce your records when you started pursuing this project more heavily. How did that relationship elevate the music you were releasing?

Andy helped me immensely when I started really jumping into Spirit Haus songs. I was in a weird spot in my personal life and sort of just floating around and decided to try writing for Spirit Haus again. I have a TON of respect for Andy’s work and everything he was doing for us in CRUISR; he really has that ear for stuff and I value his opinion a lot. I just demoed some songs I was working on, not really understanding much of the production side so I asked him to help me get a few things off the ground. 

We ended up working on, ‘You Don’t Love Me (Like You Used To)’, literally for hours at a time. I remember showing up around dinner time and wrapping up around 5 in the morning while the sun was coming up. His guidance with those first few releases really helped paved the way for me to start producing things on my own. Those first songs we worked on together were a major influence on me and my approach to producing future releases.

All of your singles but especially the latest release, “Hands” is drenched in the dream pop landscape. yet, it has a heavier electronic edge to it. What artists have inspired you to carry that sound over into your own music? 

I’ve been obsessed with BAYNK for a while. I think for like, half a year I was only listening to Flume and BAYNK. Their songs always fascinated me because they’re these beautiful works of art that seem so out of reach, like, I immediately think, ‘how the hell did they do that!?’  Usually when I get super into an artist I just research the crap out of them – interviews, bios, youtube live shows – I need to know how they came up and what sounds they use and any sort of production things I can find. I remember reading BAYNK talk about Mura Masa so of course, I needed to jump heavily into Mura Masa. 

Ryan Schwabe, who I respect and admire immensely, I’ve turned to for nearly everything I’ve ever done; He’s mastered all of the Spirit Haus releases. He has actually been working on the BAYNK stuff too and as soon as I found out I, of course, was expressing my obsession with how amazing that stuff was. Was a funny, small world moment that he was working on songs that I have been listening to on repeat all year and I had no idea they were connected!

Do you believe the amount of energy your music gives to others is important?

I think a lot of my attention has shifted to concentrating more on songwriting and what makes a song, ‘good’. There’s something to be said about a song that checks all of the boxes that can also stand on its own when stripped down to just an acoustic and vocals. The first few moments of a song is super important to me.

Being a part of two different band dynamics with indie-pop and alt-folk, do you think that balance worked to your advantage while working on Spirit Haus and its overall sound?

I definitely feel like playing in a few different bands with differing styles and genres has helped to broaden my understanding of songwriting. I’ve taken little things from each project and found a way to shape it into what I’m doing with Spirit Haus and it’s felt super beneficial to have those different backgrounds to pull from and reference.

Can we expect any EPs or record drops in the near future? 

I’ve been constantly juggling with this. I have a hard time sitting on music if it’s done and ready; I also feel like it’s important to keep releasing music as a newer artist. I think my goal would be to take the singles I’ve been releasing and pair them with a handful of newer, unreleased songs for an EP or an album if it’s ready. 

I think I want to hone in on potentially saving the next few to release together maybe as some sort of formal EP.

What do you believe are the pros and cons of being a musician right now with the state of the world? 

We’re in the middle of such hard times right now. I feel like it’s already a known fact but it’s even more apparent now how crucial and important music is to all of us. From the livestreams to the televised at-home performances – we’re all turning to the artists and songs we love to give us that sense of hope and normalcy and a distraction from what’s going on around us. 

Music is a beautiful thing and I think that will always be a pro to being a musician – we are lucky enough to have an outlet to turn to when things are hard or good or whatever and create things to help convey what we’re feeling while also helping others connect with their feelings as well. I feel lucky every day to have something I can turn to right in my own room that gives me that little piece of escape we long for as human beings. 

The cons have always been, for me, just how unforgiving and unpromising it can all be at times – not knowing what the next move is or if it’s something you can live off of; especially now through all of this; we’re really seeing how hard it is to make a living doing this and what happens if things like touring and live performances didn’t exist. 

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Hope Ankney//@Hope_ankleknee

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