For many years, BRUX didn’t want to show the world her face. Like numerous artists of various disciplines before her — from Marshmello and Malaa to Banksy and Thomas Pynchon — she sought the creative freedom that came from nebulous identity. No one can expect anything from you if they don’t know who you are.
But also contrary to the previous examples, all of whom are men, her decision to shroud herself under a shadowy cloud cover of gothic design also stemmed from the shallow and insipid impressions of non-male artists predicated by male artists and other male figures in the industry—as in she didn’t produce her own music or that her music was supposed to sound a certain way.
See, BRUX, the Sydney-born producer, DJ, vocalist, and visual artist (né Elizabeth Maniscalco) had already gone the female pop-adjacent-singer route under her previous project, Elizabeth Rose, wherein she was determined to express a diverse pallet of influences.
“There was a whole lot of dance/electronic, but there was also a lot of folk, indie, singer/songwritier, pop, rap, R&B, everything.” says Maniscalco, dialing from her home studio in Brooklyn, New York. “But I think the common thread with all the influences is that I firstly gravitate towards tracks that are really rhythmic or really left of field be that sonically but also lyrically.”
Maniscalco put out numerous works with that project, telling stories in the same manner as Joni Mitchell. She produced beats inspired by her brother, dance music producer Hook N Sling. She remixed tracks for fellow Australian outfit Flight Facilities, for whom she would later record the vocals on the single “I Didn’t Believe.”
But around 2016, when Maniscalco released her debut album, Intra, the continuing expedition into pop territory was limiting her ability to fully and completely express herself. Soon Maniscalco found herself in the throes of a mid-career crisis, leaving her agent, manager, and label, essentially hitting the factory reset on her artistic career.
“I started to feel restricted about what I could talk about in the music, and also soundwise what I should be using to have maximum exposure, and writing for radio, and I just started to focus on too many limitations which was really making it quite boring for me,” says Maniscalco. “I knew that I wasn’t being authentic to myself and I had to change things up.”
Maniscalco separated herself entirely from the Elizabeth Rose name and started BRUX, her current alternative electronic project, under cover of darkness. After experiencing the woes of life as a female pop artist, anonymity provided a certain amount of empowerment in the early phases of the transition.
“I was really sure of the music and felt like it was true to myself. I felt like I could really express whatever I wanted. I still feel that. I feel like I can say whatever I want in this project and make the music as expressive and sometimes as aggressive as possible. I have a lot of energy in my personality as it is in my day-to-day so I feel like I want to express that,” says Maniscalco.
Maniscalco continued anonymously with the project for several years, signing to Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak and sharing multiple releases, continuing to honor her influences lyrically and sonically, except with an added sense of darkness and controlled rage.
But someone with Maniscalco’s energy couldn’t keep herself hidden for long. And after a conversation with Nina Las Vegas, her fellow Australian-born DJ, and producer, Maniscalco, decided to come out of hiding and bring her visage to the BRUX project.
“It’s up to us, as in female identifying artists, to lift each other up. [Nina Las Vegas] was empowering me, encouraging me to embrace my identity,” says Maniscalco. “That left quite a big impression after the conversation. I really sat with it and realized I should be doing this.”
Maniscalco’s first EP following the reveal was a release on Zeds Dead’s label, Deadbeats, entitled Take. Among the grueling four cuts, her talent for pairing honest songwriting with intuitive production shines through, along with featured vocals from New Zealand’s Kimbra on the title track.
In her years as Elizabeth Rose, Maniscalco authentically expressed her influences but found herself dictated by the pop music industry. However, in her anonymous years as BRUX, there were no limits to her creativity, yet she was inherently separating her true self from the project.
Now both worlds have come together in her new phase of BRUX, and she is ready to crack skulls.
“I didn’t expect it to happen, but even more empowerment, even more energy came rushing in. I had accessed this new level where I felt even more vulnerable, obviously, by showing my face, but emotionally as well,” says Maniscalco. “I want to go more in that direction of making music that is a punch in the face.”
One offering from Maniscalco that serves several punches to the face is “BADBOI,” the first single from her upcoming EP of the same name.
A collaboration with Vancouver-based artist Pat Lok, it harnesses the heaviest bass anyone could associate with techno at a controlled tempo. It doesn’t rely on high speeds. Instead, it relies on the energy Maniscalco has stored in her creative reserves for years. The energy she is now expressing without inhibition.
With this energy, she will take her music wherever she wants, no matter what’s popular in the industry or anyone else thinks of her.
Maniscalco tells us, “Now is the time to say what you mean and mean what you say.”
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