Track Work: Brutalism, ‘Friday Night (Home Invasion)’

By Alison Baitz

Brutalism, 'Friday Night'
Dead can dance: Brutalism's debut single is part fist-pumper, part murder ballad.

Still barely an infant in musical years, new D.C. electronic act Brutalism is already looking to musically challenge — even accost — its listeners. For starters, the trio borrows its name from an architectural style loathed by a lot of people. Then there’s the fact that its debut single is a fist-pumper about a horrendous crime.

For “Friday Night (Home Invasion),” members Gavin Holland, Zach Carter and Ben Bruno took their cues from true-crime TV and country-music storytelling. The song’s narrative is simple enough: “It’s about having your home broken into and getting murdered,” Carter says.

Why so macabre, fellows? “I used to watch The First 48 a lot — I’ve probably seen 50 episodes of it,” says Holland, a longtime local DJ and producer. “There’s a lot of botched home invasions on that show: bad circumstances, someone breaking in at the wrong time, ending up in murder.”

“Friday Night” tells the story of such a thwarted robbery attempt — except over an insanely hyper soundtrack. Dancing to it may seem slightly perverse, but dissonance was more or less the point.

“I liked the idea of doing music that is both accessible and confrontational — something that makes you feel good but a little uncomfortable at the same time,” Carter says. “I felt like having such a melodic song with such stark lyrical content would help accomplish that goal.”

Holland, Carter and Bruno (who splits his time between Boston and D.C.) are old friends who played around with the idea of making music together for a while, but they started taking it seriously about six months ago. Holland may be best known for his Nouveau Riche dance parties, and Carter is a journalist by day and a former member of the band Drunk Tigers. In Brutalism, their roles are fluid; all three members trade off behind the mic.

While “Friday Night (Home Invasion)” is something of a floor filler — it’s tagged “no rave” on the band’s Soundcloud page — that doesn’t necessarily mean that future Brutalism songs will sound like it. Carter cites eclectic indie titans Beck and The Magnetic Fields as influences. Brutalism would like to be just as heterogeneous while maintaining a confrontational edge.

“You’ll see when those [later songs] come out, there’s a common theme that the songs are not so much concerned with common sonic textures or instruments, but rather with ideas and attitudes,” Carter says.

The trio’s ideas already seem front and center — and that extends to its choice of name. Brutalism, of course, is an architectural movement marked by aggressive geometric structures as unmistakable as they are divisive. Not surprisingly, Carter and Co., are pretty into it. But the name “Brutalism” is more a homage to contention rather than the architectural style itself.

As Carter says, “We liked the idea of being at the center of some sort of aesthetic controversy before we even got out of the gate.”