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It’s All in the Family for The Belle Brigade

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 17:03

Belle Brigade

John Peets


The White Stripes were big fat liars when it came to being related, but The Belle Brigade is the real deal. An actual brother and sister duo, Barbara Gruska and Ethan Gruska work together seamlessly to create pop-folk songs that are sometimes introspective and gloomy but mostly uplifting and positive.

Barbara sings behind her drum set and often picks up a guitar while Ethan takes on vocals, guitar and piano. Though the thought of writing, recording, promoting and touring an album with a sibling might sound like a nightmare to some, it is quite the opposite for the Gruskas.

In fact, Ethan spoke incredibly highly of his older sister. (Are we sure they’re related?)

“We know each other so well and we’re such good friends that it’s fun to work together and be together all the time,” Ethan said. “It’s really great to just have your friend and your family as your partner. It makes everything really easy.”

Even touring together in tight quarters doesn’t seem to bother them.

“We talk stuff out and are really respectful of each other when stuff gets tense, you know, how it always does,” he said.

However, the two weren’t always amicable. Ethan and Barbara are six years apart and didn’t become friends until after Ethan graduated high school. They also never played music together growing up.

“When I got out of high school, we kind of started working together musically and it was kind of like a little bit after that we became really close friends. Working together solidified that,” Ethan said. “It’s really great to work with somebody who you know so well and respect so much.”

Ethan and Barbara collaborate a lot on the songs and sing together often, harmonizing in a way only siblings can. Additionally, Ethan believes being in a band with a sibling makes everything easier.

“Just for me, having Barbara in the studio as a drummer and musician that she is, I get to work with my favorite drummer,” he said. “She’s an amazing producer too. I’m pretty lucky to be able to work with her like that.”

Despite not being very close growing up, Ethan said they share a lot of the same interests and, being the younger of the two, he admits to somewhat idolizing his big sister.

“Me being the younger sibling, I grew up, like, always thinking what Barb was listening to was super cool,” he said. “I grew up kind of mimicking her in musical taste and now we’re both pretty much doing our own thing and listening to different stuff, and we both show each other a lot of fun stuff and actually we have pretty similar taste.”

Barbara is thankful for her younger brother as well, noting that she’s an “old lady” and Ethan keeps her in the loop when it comes to new music.

The band had a pretty big break when its song “I Didn’t Mean It” was featured on the Twilight: Breaking Dawn soundtrack.

Barbara said they recorded the song along with the rest of their self-titled debut album but that being on a “Twilight” soundtrack changed things a bit.

“[The song] is on YouTube, and we’ve pretty much gotten way more hits on that than anything else on our record,” she said. “It’s pretty cool [for] it to be that accessible to people.”

They were also recently featured on the album Chimes of Freedom: TheSongs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International, for which they covered Dylan’s “No Time to Think.”

With plenty of touring under their belt and side projects completed, The Belle Brigade is ready to start recording their new album soon.

It is easy to see why Ethan and Barbara do so well considering their family history.

“We had a lot of musicians in our family,” Barbara said. “Our dad’s a composer and on our mom’s side, our grandpa and uncle [are musicians]. We’ve always been surrounded by music.”

Their father is Jay Gruska, a composer with two albums on Warner Bros. Records, and a writer of songs for Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Dusty Springfield. Their grandfather is John Williams, an Oscar and Grammy-winning film composer who worked on projects for “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” “E.T.” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Music is in clearly in their genes, and together Ethan and Barbara carry on the family tradition.

“You never get homesick,” she said. “You’re traveling with your mobile home. It’s like a band home.”


Good Old War w/Belle Brigade, Family of the Year, Crescent Ballroom, March 22, 7 p.m., $17

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