For those who haven’t yet heard of Brous (pronounced like Bruce – yes, I know, kind of takes the Frenchy chic out of it), this Melbourne singer is a formidable and rising talent. Having directed the Melbourne International Jazz Festival for the last three years, Sophia Brous exudes a presence and charisma on stage well beyond her 26 years. On Saturday November 12th she released her self-titled EP to a sold-out crowd at the newly opened Sydney Road venue, Phoenix Public House (formerly The Spot).
Physically slight, one could compare Brous to Amy Winehouse: they share a Jewish background, as well as a penchant for striking, cat-like eye make-up – although of course Brous is far from a train wreck on stage. Decked out in a bright blue vintage dress, impressively large beaded earrings, voluminously styled long hair, and black velvet heels that make her legs go on forever, Brous’ aesthetic style follows in the vintage chic of singers like Winehouse, Adele or Duffy – but the hole in her stockings adds a touch of quintessentially Melbourne grunge.
Vocally Brous has excellent control of her impressive range, and sounds something like Kate Bush mixed with the creative, unconventional song writing of French singer Camille. Rather than use a pedal for vocal reverb, she opts instead to switch between two mics – one with reverb and the other without – allowing not only a more organic control of the sound, but also a more visual representation of the musicianship at work. Brous flits expertly between her powerful lead lines and something a little more unexpected, using the reverb-laden mic to deliver esoteric, wordless melodies full of so much vibrato they sound like a theramin. It’s an eerie effect, used just enough to give her music a very distinctive sound without verging on being gimmicky. She also does a pretty amazing whistle solo.
Brous’ accompanying band on the night was a strong fit-out, delivering stripped back arrangements that complemented perfectly the main event of her vocals. Unfortunately the strings section could barely be heard during their first song, although this was corrected towards the end of the performance. Guest appearances from Conrad Standish (of UK band The Devastations) and La Voce Della Luna choir of Italian grandmothers (who also feature on the most recent single from her EP, “Little Ticket”) were welcome additions to the evening.
If there were any let-downs on the night they were not so much the fault of Brous and her ensemble as much as to teething problems at this new, but promising, venue. If you missed out this time, be sure to catch this captivating performer in future, or listen to her self-titled EP – a fine recording that does justice to her talent as both singer and composer.
This review first appeared in Beat Magazine