By: Courtney Quigley
I got to sit down with Wisconsin-based duo Brahmulus, formed by Turrnt Vonnegut and GregB in 2017. Their diverse body of work, both collectively and in the realm of separate projects outside of Brahmulus, spans various world music genres, production methods, and musical themes. After hearing their single, “Bones” from the “SoloG” project (the full version of which you can hear here), I was intrigued to learn more about how this SoundCloud-based friendship blossomed into a fully-formed collaboration IRL. I was able to catch these guys after their show at The Frequency in Madison to dive a little deeper with them to talk influences, trajectory, and the benefits of bringing some “international flavor” to the Midwest.
Q: The story of how the two of you came to form your own project is really interesting! Care to elaborate on how you met, how you agreed to collab, and what made you decide to take the plunge to form Brahmulus?
Turrnt: I first heard a track by Greg with his previous project, 2morrows Victory, on the radio on Gilles Peterson on BBC and it just caught my ear right away. I was like “oh my God, this is awesome!” It was just super cool. I knew they were based in the UK, so I copped an album right away and then I hit him up like “cool project,” and I sent him some early Fringe Character stuff. Then, basically fast forward a couple years… we’d kept in contact a little bit, so I reached out to see if he wanted to do a track with Fringe Character and we kinda just went from there.
Greg: We’ve been working together since 2017. Ever since Fringe Character, we’ve had a lot of jam sessions. It had been brewing for 1-2 years and everything’s kinda falling into place now. Coming from 2morrows Victory – I was adjusting to being back here in America. I started doing solo shows, but I wanted something more. I had already developed a relationship with Fringe Character at that point, and there was just always such a good… vibe. I wanted to make music with all different types of people, people from different backgrounds/ethnicities. The common thread between the projects is the good vibe that’s there while you’re making music and even when you’re not making music. That positive vibe was something I wanted to build on.
Q: Turrnt, how do you balance your work with Brahmulus and Fringe Character? Can you talk about some of the differences in your body of work and your interest in pursuing both projects?
Turrnt: Originally, Fringe Character was just me, but I heavily feature other artists – so it’s more like we’re all part of a music team together, giving people an opportunity to work with different people. Fringe Character has always been about making music and evolving. [The album] “Phases” Greg was on quite a bit. That whole project became a standing body of work with a story arc to the whole thing. If you listen to the album [“Phases”], it’s basically like a giant compilation with a common thread musically. What Greg and I are doing with Brahmulus, though, has a totally different sound, a different feel. But it’s still about creating together and telling a story.
Q: Greg, talk about some of your vocal-specific influences. I detect a bit of Andre 3000 and some Donald Glover in your flow, but I’d love to hear more about who has helped shape your singing specifically and your interest in singing versus rapping.
Greg: I started making music when I was 18, and even before that, I’ve just always loved to sing – CDs that I’d make, singing to a girlfriend… you know, anything. Singing in church was the first time I really sang in front of people. Eventually, I got tired of rapping and wanted something that was more mature. More so I wanted to be singing from the soul and to have that really come across. Growing up, I listened to a lot of jazz, blues. I’d say BB King and Muddy Waters were big influences, you know… not just a bunch of riffs; when they sing, every note means something. And that aligned with the point I want to get across, which is that singing can be very simple melodically, but very impactful.
Q: Tell us more about the direction you’re looking to head in with Brahmulus. You have a solid foundation in hip-hop/rap, but had mentioned you were looking to move into something more on the tangent of jazz/soul. Care to elaborate?
Greg: I started playing bass about 3 years ago, and that’s become a big part of my music creation. And I think getting into more of an organic band setting has always been a dream of mine, along with making music [more conducive] to that setting, like soul, rock.
Turrnt: Prior to fringe character, I was with What Time Where, and that was more of an organic band setting. And Fringe Character started off as me producing more hip-hop beats and collaborating with hip-hop artists. The collaboration piece definitely has a lot of draw to it for me. As far as Brahmulus… this is gonna sound corny, but I just like making music with Greg! He’s got a lot of enthusiasm and it’s a lot of fun making music with him. We just connected musically right off the bat. Our heads are in the same place with regard to just getting together and just letting that chemistry blossom, sort of seeing where it takes us, and this is where it’s taking us right now.
Q: What do you believe sets your music apart? Your work is certainly very unique. What exactly is it that makes Brahmulus so special?
Greg: I feel like Brahmulus is a funnel. We’ve both been involved in so many different types of music. Everything from the funky House movement in London, all types of world music, and all of that coming through a guitar, bass, and drum. [That experience] can touch people in Brazil, touch people in London, all over the world. Ben [Turrnt] went to school in Australia… even just doing that outside of music, it’s about more than just music – it’s our exposure to different cultures as a whole plus the music scenes that exist outside of America. Traveling, you can see how closed-minded it can be here. Pigeon-holed is a great term. Brahmulus is a new approach, wrangling all our experiences into one vision. If you listen to a 2morrow’s Victory song, and then you listen to a Fringe Character song, and then you listen to Brahmulus, you’ll see it, that vision, but expressed in different ways.
Turrnt: Most simply put, we just have that international flavor. I was overseas a lot, did a lot of traveling and experiencing music scenes all over the world, like Greg said. There’s something to be said for getting out there that makes the possibilities more endless. We’re so geeked on so many different things – old school House, Freak, jazz soul, Hip-Hop… I play in a Brazilian drum band, too. I feel like we just have so much at our disposal from these experiences. It’s like a spice cabinet – we’re cooking up some tunes.
Check out Brahmulus’ latest video from the NPR Tiny Desk competition.
Keep an ear out for a forthcoming single from Brahmulus, with some spices from their “cabinet” currently being peppered in 😉, set to drop later this month on Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud.