Nick Sanderson, founder and frontman of the band Earl Brutus, had an unusual goal for his group: he dreamed that some day one of their songs could become the standard tune played to clear out pubs at closing time. "Our dream is to record the perfect song to be played at chucking-out time," Sanderson once told a reporter. "That's when music makes most sense." While they never achieved that dream, Earl Brutus did create a truly distinctive sound during their lifetime, a reworked variation on '70s glam rock with an added layer of electronics and a lyrical stance that was obsessively male, darkly witty, powerfully stylish, obsessed with alcohol and British life, and laced with subtly transgressive detail.
Earl Brutus were formed in 1993 by Sanderson, who had previously played drums with Clock DVA, the Gun Club, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and World of Twist. Teaming up with Stuart Boreman (electronics and vocals), Jamie Fry (vocals), and Rob Marche (guitar), the group adopted the name Earl Brutus, named for a pub that existed in their collective imagination and a once-popular brand of jeans. Earl Brutus soon earned a reputation for their thundering sound -- half Queen, half Suicide -- as well as over the top live shows where the group would destroy equipment, set off flash bombs, decorate the stage with neon signs and funeral wreaths (the latter featuring banners urging the punters to "Fuck Off"), and filling the room with the smell of aftershave lotion by dumping Brut into wind machines. The band was spotted by members of Saint Etienne, who signed Earl Brutus to their Icerink Records label, and issued their debut single, "Life's Too Long," in 1993; two years later, Royal Mint released their second single, "Bonjour Monsieur" b/w "On Me Not in Me." The year 1995 also saw the release of "Single Seater Xmas," a curious one-sided holiday-themed title that ended up topping the indie charts in the U.K.
"Single Seater Xmas" was Earl Brutus' first release for Deceptive Records, a label founded by Steve Lamacq, a disc jockey with BBC Radio 1, and following the success of the single, Deceptive sent Earl Brutus into the studio to record their first album, 1996's Your Majesty... We Are Here, the title a cheeky boast to Freddie Mercury that Earl Brutus had come to save British rock. (The album also found Earl Brutus with a new lineup, after Stuart Boreman left the band after suffering from stage fright, while Gordon King took over on keyboards and electronics. The band would soon add a fifth member for its live shows, Shin-Ya Hayashida, a hairdresser and Japanese expatriate who would stand at the side of the stage, guzzle beer, and shout insults at the crowd in both English and Japanese.) While Your Majesty... We Are Here received plenty of attention in the press, sales were meager, and Deceptive was struggling financially. Earl Brutus jumped to Fruition Recordings, a division of Island Records, for their second long-player, 1998's Tonight You Are the Special One, but once again the band had a hard time connecting with the mass audience, and the album stalled on the charts. The 1999 single "Larky" proved to be their final release, and over the next few years they performed only sporadically before making their final appearance in 2004, at a fundraiser for Ken Livingstone's mayoral campaign. Nick Sanderson left music and found work as a train driver; in 2008, he died at the age of 47 after contracting lung cancer. Stuart Boreman, Jamie Fry, Gordon King, and Shin-Ya Hayashida would work together again in the band the Pre New. In 2016, both Your Majesty... We Are Here and Tonight You Are the Special One were reissued in special deluxe editions by 3 Loop Music. ~ Mark Deming