April 2nd, 2014

Very happy and proud to see their 2nd album be received so well.
The Belle Brigade will be on tour all summer 2014 opening for Ray LaMontagne AND playing in his band.
Here is their first review on iTunes and All Music Guide:

The Belle Brigade’s Barbara and Ethan Gruska harmonize like the siblings they are, all fight or flight, sweetness and blight, and with a shared vibrato that sounds like it was dialed in via a singularity, but they also possess the kind of old-school, radio-ready craftsmanship that usually takes decades to hone, and their second long-player, the wise, wicked, wild, weary, and unapologetically hook-filled Just Because — unlike their excellent if a tad over-seasoned 2011 eponymous debut — sounds like the work of a band and not a committee. Front-loaded with a pair of immaculate, open-road, Los Angeles County gems in “Ashes” and “When Everything Was What It Was,” the former a propulsive, train whistle-led paean to the eternally unfair condition of being both lovesick and heartbroken, and the latter a deceptively sweet confection that masks its underlying darkness with Rumours-era Buckingham and Nicks pop acumen, the ten-track album is trim and tidy, but never slight. Melodically, the duo still owe a great deal to the two Pauls (Simon and McCartney), but the production and arrangements suggest a steady diet of Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, and Tegan and Sara, especially on stand-out cuts like breezy, bright, and polyrhythmic “How I See It,” the unapologetically soaring and radio-ready “Everything for a Stone,” and the fleeting but highly contagious “Be Like Him.” Just Becausedoesn’t break down any walls in its bid for pop
ock superiority, but with voices this pure and earworms this painless it doesn’t have to, as the Gruskas have crafted a timeless-sounding collection of songs with contemporary tools, and most importantly, they’ve done it with finesse.
James Christopher Monger


November 24th, 2011

Based on the hilarious and timeless play “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde, Paul Gordon and I wrote the score to this fun show. It has been transplanted to the early 1960’s with a score that sounds, for the most part, like early 1960’s pop/rock. We gratefully had our world premiere opening at THEATREWORKS PALO ALTO in April of 2013!  It was well attended, and great fun…..on to the next theater.

Re-release of my second solo album

April 28th, 2011

“Which One Of Us Is Me” – my solo album for Warner Brothers Records, was re-mastered and re-released for the second time in the last decade. Warner Brothers Records has licensed it to the indie label VIVID RECORDS and it was released in Japan.  Thank you to my Japanese pals.  JG


April 19th, 2011

Belle Brigade

By Evan Schlansky March 21st, 2011 at 7:00 am

The Belle Brigade are a brother-sister pop rock duo from Los Angeles, whose self-titled Reprise Records debut is destined to end up on many Best Of The Year lists. Barbara and Ethan Gruska grew up with music in their blood; their father is songwriter/composer Jay Gruska, and their grandfather is Star Wars composer John Williams. We quizzed the band about their love of Paul Simon, sharing a band, and the words they love and hate.

What is it like being in a band with your sibling? What are the best and worst parts?

There is nothing else like it. We are very close and very similar so it makes for a good creative team. We sometimes disagree and sometimes it’s hard but we both respect each other as people and songwriters so we don’t let it get to the boiling point. But overall we love working together and it feels really natural.

Did you have inkling when you were kids that you would work together musically?

No. We worked on our own for most of our lives and then about two and a half years ago we started working together.

Your father is songwriter Jay Gruska. What’s it like having a musical dad?

Our dad is our biggest musical influence. He’s always been kind of a songwriting coach for both of us without being a stage dad. He is always really helpful and insightful about our songs and his music has always been an inspiration for us. He’s a good dude!

Has he given you any advice on songwriting or your music career?

Our dad has always been like a quiet humble adviser for us. He always has helpful things to say and musically he’s very clever. He’s got a really great ear for song form…

Tells us about how your album was inspired by Simon and Garfunkel and Fleetwood Mac.

Well, we are more fans of Simon’s solo music than his earlier work but we do love it all. We were listening to a lot of these guys before and during the recording process, and somehow the sounds and ideas just work their way into your brain… I think our inspiration from them really just comes from a love for their music and their lyrics. We also like to geek out on the drum sounds and stuff too!

Tell us the story behind “Losers.”

Hopefully “Losers” explains itself through the lyrics, but it all just kind of started with the thought/lyric “there will always be someone better than you, even if you’re the best…” Once we got working on it together the process went by really fast and smoothly. It was a really exciting moment for us to finish it. The song is just about competition, ego, envy, and insecurity and it’s supposed to be a pep talk to ourselves.

Are there any words you love or hate?

We love “love” and hate “Airport.”

Do you find yourself revising a lot, or do you like to write automatically?

Well, when it comes quickly it is really exciting and fun, but that’s more unusual for us. We definitely do a lot of revising and a lot of recycling. We spend a lot of time on one song normally.

Who is an underrated songwriter, in your opinion?

In our minds he is not underrated but maybe lesser known by the public… Blake Mills — one of our dear friends and favorite songwriters.

What’s a song you wish you’d written?

“People’s Parties” by Joni Mitchell.

Tidbit about the documentary “Troubadors”

March 8th, 2011

In this warm & fuzzy film that looks at the heyday of the singer songwriter scene in L.A., my little footprint is there with my name on the Troubador marquis, about two thirds of the way into the movie.  It was my second gig ever in my home town, on my first tour for my first solo album, and was additionally cool because of the awesome folk who had played there in the prior 5 years, James Taylor, Carole King, Elton John, Randy Newman, The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and other giants and big influences of mine.  I played there for a week and will never forget two things in particular–the great Jeff Porcaro sitting in with my band (shortly before Jeff’s Steely Dan debut and about 2 or 3 years before forming Toto with David Paich)) and in the audience, my now good friend, Steve Lukather, all of 17-and brilliant even then.  Jeff forever turned my head around with the deepest meaning of groove….also in the audience (or maybe at the bar) the iconic Harry Nilsson, coming into my dressing room and not only giving me 15 minutes of his time, but actually digging what I did.  Not worthy.

DC Comics 75th Anniversary Music Collection

September 10th, 2010

My  Main Title Theme from ‘Lois and Clark:The New Adventures of Superman’ is  included on this Warner Brothers TV/Water Tower Music CD, released in September 2010.  I’m in some good company here.

DC 75

Read the rest of this entry »

SUPERNATURAL Soundtrack Release

September 8th, 2010

The CD entered the Amazon chart at #3 on the day of it’s release, September 7th, 2010.  Thank you Supernatural fans.

Three Dog Night Rumor?

September 8th, 2010

Over the years I’ve been asked if it’s true that I toured with Three Dog Night,  I thought this was a good place to set the record straight since Wikipedia has as much opinion as it does fact.  After writing a couple of songs for them, and doing some background vocals on one of their albums, I was asked to do a national tour of 10 to 12 thousand seat venues as the ‘3rd Dog’, as it were.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Few Pics

July 19th, 2010

The Belle Brigade-Buzzine interview

July 2nd, 2010

Barbara & Ethan Gruska Turn Family Ties Into Sweet, Sweet Music

By: Team Buzzine
April 28, 2011

When the legendary John Williams is your maternal grandfather and your father (Jay Gruska) is an acclaimed songwriter who wrote for both Michael and Janet Jackson, you might say that music is in your blood. But for brother and sister duo Barbara and Ethan Gruska, that was just the beginning of their musical journey, and not until after Barbara had already toured the world (drumming with The Bird & The Bee, Jenny Lewis, and Benji Hughes) did she and Ethan decided to come together and form The Belle Brigade. After a series of electric shows around their native L.A. (including being the final artists to play at Spaceland before it became The Satellite) began building the buzz for their self-titled debut album, the siblings Gruska sat down with Buzzine in the Hollywood Hills for a delightful chat about surreal biblical stories, microphones that say ‘Frank’ on them, and the best drum sound ever recorded…

Stefan Goldby: Let’s begin by dismissing the white elephant in the room: Siblings in a band…let’s break this down. Are you more like the Gallaghers? Or is it the Osmonds? The Carpenters? The Jonas Brothers, perhaps?

Ethan Gruska: I don’t know – I haven’t met any of them, but I assume we are far stranger in our personal lives, and talk a lot more gibberish to each other…

Barbara Gruska: Pure gibberish. I don’t know – if the Jonas brothers only spoke Klingon, then maybe that would be us. [Laughs]

EG: Then we could probably relate most to them.

SG: A little more seriously, you did grow up in an incredibly musical family. You have a grandparent that composed the music that my kids run around my house humming pretty much all day. And with a father that is a renowned songwriter, with a recording studio in your backyard, that’s not exactly a typical upbringing…

EG: It’s lucky.

SG: Did all of that make you more, or less likely to be musicians yourselves?

BG: More.

EG: Definitely more.

BG: I understand the question, though, because my rebellion was, “I’m not gonna do this!” because I was so surrounded by it, but ultimately it was definitely more likely, just because it was…

EG: So natural…

BG: Yeah. Every grown-up that we saw coming through the house was a musician, so grown-ups were musicians, so our future…

EG: As a grown-up…

BG: Was to be a grown-up. [Laughs]

EG: Yeah, it’s like grown-up equals musician.

SG: But what was that like on a day-to-day basis? Did you hang out in the studio with your dad? Were you shooed in or shooed away?

EG: Definitely allowed in all the time. Everybody that my dad worked with was always very nice and very welcoming to our young energy. My dad used to let me go in and plunk around: One time Barbara accidentally erased 30 minutes of music!

BG: [Laughs] Someone taught me how to make drum sounds on a keyboard…

EG: Yeah, he would let us do stuff like that…

BG: And I just went in and I started pressing buttons and stuff, and his studio assistant went, “Er…Jay? Barbara just erased half an hour of music.” And I just went zzzzzzzzip outta there. [Laughs]

EG: Immediate time-out for herself.

BG: But mostly it was amazing. My dad worked at home. We could come home from school and go and see our dad…most kids feel like they have to wait for their dad to come home to see him, but our dad was there, so that was a big plus for us, and I know that he intentionally put the studio in the backyard so he could be around us while we were growing up.

SG: But it wasn’t a headlong rush for you two into The Belle Brigade. Barbara – you went off on your own with Jenny Lewis and many other musicians. Was there a moment when you were out playing with those other people that you went, “I should be doing this with Ethan?” How did The Belle Brigade start?

BG: To answer your first question, no – I had never thought that. I was always just living my dream playing drums for other people, and one summer a couple summers ago, we just decided to play together. It was a decision that we made, and it all happened pretty fast. Pretty natural.

SG: Give me the circumstances of that decision…

BG: Sure. I’ll try to make it as romantic as possible. [Laughs]

EG: Yeah, it’s not easy because it sounds…

SG: Creepy?

EG: Exactly. It’s not romantic in that way, but it sounds more surreal than it actually was. We were on a family trip to Israel with our temple, and we were on a tour, and we hated the tour…

BG: Loved Israel; hated the tour.

EG: We just wanted to do our own thing and live by our own ideas and just kind of…

BG: Explore on our own.

EG: Yeah. And one day we just decided to skip out on the tour and we had a guitar, and we were right by the Jordan River…

BG: On the kibbutz in the north of Israel…

EG: So that’s how…very romantic. So we just spent a day singing harmonies…

BG: It was like a scene from the Bible…

EG: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly.

SG: Genesis? Armageddon? Something in-between?

BG: Well…

EG: We’ll see: It all depends on this interview. [Laughs] No, I’m kidding. But we just decided… We were singing harmony on one song, and we had both been writing on our own for a couple of years, and we just together were like, “Let’s just do it together.” We had already kind of had the seed planted in another way where I helped her record some of her songs in Sacramento, and I got to sing on a few things, but we just decided together then that it would just be a lot of fun to do it this way.

SG: And that fun led to you recording at the famed studios in the Capitol Records Tower at Hollywood and Vine…

EG: The first day of recording at Capitol was probably the best part of the recording process for me, just walking in there and having that history be so within the actual building and within the people that work there…

BG: Microphones that say, “Frank” on them…

EG: And “James” for James Taylor – all these idols. Nat King Cole’s piano, which is what that piano is. It was like a dream. We grew up in L.A., we’re from L.A. and we drive past that building all the time, and I always thought, “Will I ever go in there and just see it?” And I did once with my dad – him doing a strings day – but to go in there and work on our record was…unbelievable.

BG: I had never before felt like, “Oh, I’m experiencing the best day of my life right now,” and that’s the only time of my life that I ever felt that, and it really truly was.

SG: So no pressure there, then…

EG: Actually, no…

BG: It was too surreal to feel pressure. It was too much of a dream. It just happened, it went by…

EG: And the team that we had made it so easy, and the people that we’ve surrounded ourselves with, by fate and luck and choice, have just made everything…

BG: My favorite part of the whole process was sitting down behind the drum set and, in my headphones, hearing the best drum sound that I’ve ever heard recorded. [Engineer] Csaba Petocz just is a genius, and the sound that he brought out of the drums inspired me so much, everything that I played. So I’d never experienced something that professional before, and there’s no going back… Everything sucks now. [Laughs]

SG: Let’s be specific for a moment. Tell us about the album’s first single, “Losers.”

BG: It’s a pep-talk to ourselves.

EG: Hopefully we tried to make the lyrics as straight forward as possible. There’s nothing too cryptic about it, but it’s just basically about stuff that we feel every day, that I think everybody feels, of just being afraid to suck and being afraid that other people might be above you, or feeling like you’re above other people, and just getting caught up in envy and jealousy, and just trying to relieve yourself of it. Just kind of like a mantra.

SG: There’s more to music than being in a studio, and there’s more to your band than the two of you. Can you tell us about recruiting other people into the Brigade, and then taking your music on stage?

BG: Our live band and a lot of the guys that recorded the record with us are friends of mine from ten years ago. I’ve been playing with most of these guys for years and years, and the reason why the record sounds the way that it does is because of all of these different influences. All of our friends – everybody’s flavor, everybody’s taste, everybody brought something to the table. If Ethan and I made this record alone, it would not sound like this, and in my opinion, it wouldn’t sound as cool. And they made it really exciting for us.

Everyone has their own bands, we all play in each other’s bands, so it’s just amazing. Bram Inscore on bass; Aaron Arntz on keyboards; Blake Mills, on the record, plays electric guitar; Harlon Silverman, in the live band, plays electric guitar – he recorded with us on the record as well; Mike Finnigan, who was our neighbor growing up, who is a legendary B-3 player and played on Electric Ladyland…and with Joe Cocker – he came down and played on a few songs on the record, so that was a dream. I play drums on the record, but my friend Mike Green plays drums for the live show, and we switch off on a couple songs. He’s amazing. We always kind of subbed for each other’s gigs when we were out of town, so it was really cool.

SG: Ethan – as the relative newcomer…how is playing live for you?

EG: It’s hard for me…this is my first experience really playing live. I did a few things in high school, but just for friends at talent shows, so the stage fright is not necessarily the thing. Actually, it is. It’s hard to tell, because I’m also a perfectionist…we both are. But it’s been a great response. The people that we’ve gotten to play for have been a lot of friends that are really supportive. They’re moving around and…

BG: They know the lyrics and stuff. [Laughs]

EG: People that you don’t really know that come back and have learned some of the lyrics – that’s like the most exhilarating feeling that I feel so honored by. And things like that bring out a good night. I’ve definitely played shows where I started off really nervous and, by the end of the show, just because of the crowd and the energy, it gets brought out of me, like a good, happy, fun feeling.

SG: I love seeing a band that’s comfortable enough on stage to take a moment between the songs; I love that you bring up ‘the shirt guy’… How much of that is a deliberate attempt to make a show, and how much of that is just “This is who we are and this is how it goes”?

BG: I think it’s an even combination of those two things, because we could also just get up on stage and get lost in the music and not talk, so we are making an effort to make it fun for everybody, but at the same time, it is who we are. We’re goofy and…

EG: We’re failed comedians at the same time.

BG: Yeah, we’re struggling comedians…

EG: That’s what we’re really trying to do. We’re just trying to somehow make a little bit of a name for ourselves, and then just become a stand-up comic duo.

SG: What do you hope that someone who’s never seen you play before walks away thinking?

BG: It sounds boring, but that they had a good time and that they felt that we’re being genuine, because we are. And I just want them to have fun.

EG: Me and Barbara, when we write, you never know if it’s going to work or not, but the goal is to reach people. Making this record, writing this record, we wanted people to hear it and to feel it too, so that’s always the goal for us – for people to feel what we’re feeling and to try to get into other people’s minds and hearts, and that kind of thing.

SG: Where do you hope you’re going to be in a year? Bearing in mind that we’ll play this back to you in a year, and string you up with it…

EG: Under the ocean.

BG: [Sings] Under the sea… [Laughs] I don’t know. Hopefully on tour… Hopefully making our second record! That would be awesome.

EG: I’m in total agreement. That’s what I want to do. Everything is just geared toward the next record, because that’s the most fun that we get to have, is making the records. And live too. I hope that, in a year, our live show is just really tight and really fun like it’s a real show and…

BG: …that we get to be more dynamic with the live set, because we have a couple ballads, and we’ve written a lot of new stuff. It would be really nice to have not just a club show, that’s like 45 minutes of just trying to keep drunk people’s attention and have fun. It would be nice to have an opportunity to play the entire record and have some guest musicians come out and strip everything down and then build it up, and have more of a canvas to do that kind of more expressive show. That would be really cool. But mostly record the next record… [Laughs]

SG: Finally, what’s the best thing about being The Belle Brigade right now?

BG: Probably being brother and sister.

EG: Yeah, the thing that is always the best about my life, which is that we’re related and close, and we make a good team.

BG: We’re each other’s comfort zone. We get into fights and we get into arguments and disagreements and stuff, but we talk everything out and it’s like having your best friend in your band, who is also your family, so that’s the best part of the band for sure. And all of our band members – all the guys in our band – they are literally like our brothers from other mothers, so it’s a family affair.

EG: And we have so much support from people on the end of the gig that we don’t really know about, which is just more of the business and the more management – we have such great management, and the people at the label are very supportive, so we’ve been really lucky, and that’s something that I really appreciate right now, is just all the support. We’re new; we’re just starting out, so it’s really really nice.

The Belle Brigade’s self-titled debut album is out now on Reprise/Warner Bros. Records.