Tess Brunet croons with such a seasoned, demure manner on her debut album under the name Au Ras Au Ras, it took me a second to realize that I’d seen the Houma native perform years ago as the foil for Dax Riggs in Deadboy and the Elephantmen, then more recently as the drummer for Generationals. Now the veteran drummer and backing vocalist is performing her own material for the first time.
“The name Au Ras Au Ras is a Cajun French term that means ‘equal footing’ or ‘same page,’” Brunet explains. “And being on the same page means communication. I wanted this project to showcase my new songs and have more of a feeling of job security, like I don’t have to second-guess if I trust you to be in a band with me or to make music together. I feel you should put your trust in people that you choose to play music with.” When asked if that was an issue in some of her former bands, she succinctly comments, “To some degree, yes.”
The tunes on Au Ras Au Ras, many of which were composed in the six months before Brunet recorded them in February, are elegantly contained and informed by her experience as a drummer. Simplicity and minimalism are an expressive mandate on the album. Songs like “Jon” suspend Brunet’s confessional tone over an uncluttered beat, warmed by a low hum of the keyboards, which she plays herself on the album. Inspiration also came from a far less conventional instrument.
“When I was in Deadboy, there was an autoharp lying around the practice space, so I picked it up and started playing it almost every day,” Brunet recalls. “The chord progressions on an autoharp are very different than what you shift around to on guitar and keys, things maybe that your hands would not instinctively go to. Plus, it’s a really beautiful instrument, and I like how it sounds. I play around with it and run it through effects pedals and stuff like that.”
Brunet performs her songs live with the help of Floating Action’s Seth Kauffman and Michael Libramento, who also worked on the album. She will be in town, inspiration, autoharp and all, at the Haven Gallery for an intimate showcase on Sept. 9.
Au Ras Au Ras is available for download from Brunet’s site tess.bandcamp.com.