Bio

Brûlée combines original song writing and exceptional musicianship to create a rich musical blend — melding sultry vocals and smart lyrics with creative arrangements that slide seamlessly from loungy bossa nova to smoky jazz ballads to bouncy alt-pop anthems.  An evening with Brûlée is a little like a journey on one of America’s best back roads, with curves, contrasts, wide open vistas, and finally, a stop at a neon-lit roadhouse as the sun sinks low.

Michael J. West (the esteemed jazz writer for the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, JazzTimes, and Downbeat Magazine) has succinctly described the band as “a unique and clever cross that could be called singer-songwriter jazz.” 

Band Members

Aura Kanegis — lead vocals
Aura was lead singer of the all-girl, 7-piece funk band Zeala, and previously sang with a range of bands and a cappella groups including the Cravin' Dogs, Quintessential, the U-Liners, Nothing But Treble, and others, performing in venues throughout the mid-Atlantic region including the 9:30 Club, the Barns at Wolf Trap, the Kennedy Center, and the United Nations. She is a lobbyist for peace, justice, and underdogs everywhere.
 
Louis Matza — guitar, ukulele, mercifully rare background vocals
Louis founded Band Brulee as part of a New Year's resolution about a decade ago.  Before this band, he played guitar and wrote songs for bands in Chapel Hill, NC (Glass, The Foolish Things) and Berkeley, CA (Apartments 9 & 12, The Underdog).  For about 20 years he’s been trying to create the perfect song by combining pop song structures, jazz chords, unique moods, impressionistic and strangely specific lyrics, memories of islands, and vintage archtop guitar tone. 
 
Andrew Brown — double bass, background vocals
Andrew spent over a decade playing classical and jazz bass professionally throughout Europe while living in Vienna, Austria. He holds a Ph.D. in Music Acoustics, likes to restore old cars, renovate bathrooms, write songs, and sustainably harvest trees to build archtop guitars and basses. He teaches music at the German School in Potomac, MD.
 
Mike Metzger — drums, percussion
Mike was our substitute drummer in spring 2017 when Lex was in Austria, and now that Lex has moved to Austria sort of permanently, Mike has accepted our invitation to join the band as our full-time drummer, and we really love the guy.  More details on Mike coming soon...

Lex O’Brien —  vibraphone whenever he's in DC, background vocals
Lex is our original drummer and a co-founder of the band.  On September 4, 2017, Lex moved to Austria (following his Austrian wife and his dangerously cute daughter).  His role in the band has changed, but he is STILL in the band.  He's going to be back in the US occasionally, and he'll be joining us whenever he can on...Vibraphone!  All those years that he was playing the drums for us, nobody knew that he was a virtuoso on the vibes, but he returned to DC in Summer 2018 to join us on vibes for several gigs, and he dazzled everyone.   So we look forward to Lex's many returns to our country and our band.  He's also Lou's best collaborator for studio work, with valued overdub skills and helpful ideas on all aspects of the mixing process.  Some history on Lex: He is the ultimate genre-buster, studied percussion at Ithaca College and since has performed professionally in nearly every style of music from country to free jazz to symphony to circus band. He has appeared with jazz notables such as George Benson, Joe Farrell, and Victor Lewis, and with rock legends Fleetwood Mac. He was an original member of touring rock band The Magnetics, and founder of the jazz ensemble ComplexBlue.

Johannes Langkilde — keyboards of all kinds (piano, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes...), harmonica, trumpet
Johannes joined the band a few years ago during his time living in Washington DC.  His musical virtuosity is only surpassed by his boundless enthusiasm for music and his love of comfortable pants.  Johannes fully inhabits every song that he plays, and we feel so lucky to have him.  He's back in Denmark now, but he's still collaborating on recordings, and he's promised to be back here in DC for gigs occasionally.  He left a keyboard at Lou's house, so he'll be ready to play at a moment's notice.  Johannes is hard at work trying to arrange a tour of Denmark for Band Brulee.  Although we believe Johannes was put on this planet to play music, he is more widely known for his talents as a journalist and anchor man in Denmark, where he has been on the cover of countless magazines.  You can learn more about Johannes on his Wikipedia page...if you can read Danish.

On our first CD, we were joined by saxophone powerhouse Tom Anderson, and Tom still joins us occasionally. Other recent guest stars include the great David Klein (who can be heard at Tryst in Adams Morgan on Thursday nights) on alto sax, Sajjad Khan on incredibly smooth and shredding lead guitar, Michael Sevener (who, like many members of this band, just moved to Europe - Northern Spain) on harmonica, and Miles Spicer as guest bluesmaster.  Most recently, we've been joined by the amazingly entertaining Justine Miller on trumpet and backing vocals.

And we shouldn't forget the great Mike Monseur at Bias Studios who has a great affinity for this music and works tirelessly to bring out our best whenever we can get our calendars organized for a little studio time.  And we're always thankful to Mike Harvey at Actiondale who got us started with our recordings.  We hope to work with him again sometime.

Brulee's Gear

Andrew rescued his flat-backed bass from a flea market in Vienna, Austria for about a hundred bucks. He outbid a shop window decorator by two hundred Schillings ($20) to keep it as a musical instrument. It's over 100 years old, and he refurbished it himself.  Andrew uses a Fishman pickup running through a Polytone Taurus twin channel amp.  He also has a 70's Fender Jazz bass in Honey Blonde Yellow, but it doesn't get to play with Lou's guitars very often.  Other closet relics include a ceremonial drum from Borneo that reeks of acrid smoke and a seventies high school band glockenspeil in a lyre shape.
 
Lou suffers from a serious case of guitar acquisition syndrome (although he has not yet admitted that he has a problem). 
  • His primary performing guitar is a 1961 Epiphone Sorrento with a single PAF mini-humbucker.  The color is the very cool and rare "royal olive" sunburst.  He got it from a pawn shop on ebay and then had the frets re-done by Phil at Phil-Tone in Baltimore.
  • For special occasion shows, he brings his January 1965 Gibson ES-175
His other guitars that appear on the CD are:
  • 1959 Gretsch Anniversary (with a single filtertron pickup)
  • Another single pickup Gibson ES-175, this one made in December 1957.  This guitar is a little too perfect for gigs, but it does come out of the closet for recording sessions.
  • Mid-80s Rickenbacker 360 with double binding.  Lou's first electric guitar, bought at Norm's Rare guitars in Los Angeles in 1990.
  • Blonde 1941 Gibson L-4 acoustic archtop (one year younger than Lou's dad).
At bedtime with his daughter every night, Lou plays a rosewood solid top Takamine from the 1980s (purchased from an optometrist named Myron in Thousand Oaks, California).  Guitars that rarely come out of the closet include a 1965 Guild x-50 and a gorgeous but heavy 1978 wine red Les Paul Standard.  When sitting on the couch with his wife, Lou's primary practice guitar is a 2005 custom spruce top Heritage H-575 that plays and sounds great, but is too feedback-prone to play in performance settings.  Lou's two recording and performing amps are a 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb and a late 70s Fender Princeton Reverb.  He also has a Roland Cube amp (bought from his friend Erik for $200) which lives primarily in Lex’s basement for use in rehearsals.
 
Lex plays Gretsch drums bought in 1982, plus a bunch of loony indescribable percussion type things including professionally mounted wooden frogs. He also plays vibraphone (which you can hear on “Flamingos Above ” and “Change it Down” on the CD) and marimba (which appears on “Driftin’”).
 
Aura uses an AKG microphone slightly sticky from her kids sneaking it for impromptu peanut butter and jelly karaoke.  Sadly, she no longer seems to wear her red stiletto boots acquired from a thrift store on Georgia Avenue.

The story of Brulee, from Lou's point of view...

This band started with a New Year's resolution.  On January 1, 2006, my wife Sonya and I were having breakfast during our honeymoon on the Micronesian island of Yap.  During the inevitable New Year's resolution conversation, I vowed to start a band.  I hadn't played guitar much in the past five years, and I knew that bald married guys in their mid-30s weren't really supposed to start bands.  But still, ideas for songs kept popping into my head, and I've never found a better way to freeze time than to capture a moment in a song.   This would have been just another forgotten resolution if Sonya hadn’t reminded me of it back home in Washington DC.  Despite her initial encouragement, she didn't seem entirely pleased with the parade of young women who responded to my craigslist ad looking for a singer.  But when Aura appeared, Sonya was relieved to see that I had found my musical match with this effortlessly creative, tattooed, lobbyist woman who seemed quite uninterested in dating men.
            
Aura and I spent a year writing songs and discussing plans for building our perfect band.  We couldn’t settle on a single musical style, and eventually, we realized we didn't want to.  Instead, we decided to blend all the sounds that shaped us: jazz chords, indie rock spirit, singer-songwriter thoughtfulness, loungy bossa rhythms, a little messiness, some occasional polish, quiet, loud, all of it.  Then, we just needed to find other musicians who would be willing co-conspirators. 

After several failed attempts at recruiting a bass player (they all seemed out of tune, out of time, unfortunately certain that global warming was a myth, or just not the right fit), Aura heard that her girlfriend's coworker had a new boyfriend named Andrew who used to be a professional upright bassist.  Like the good lobbyist that she is, Aura maneuvered a seat next to him at an event on the Hill and steered the conversation toward musical interests.  He was perfect, except for being absolutely certain that he would never play in a band again. 

Undeterred, Aura introduced me to Andrew at her wedding, and it turned out that he went to high school with my wife (by the way, in their high school yearbook, Andrew was described as the “most lusted after” student at Eleanor Roosevelt High School).  Clearly, fate was trying to bring us together.  But still, Andrew insisted that he had given up on music forever after returning from 15 years as a professional musician in Austria. 

Unable to resist a challenge, Aura and I initiated the seduction of Andrew with a tried and true “foot in the door” sales strategy: Join us for one two-song gig.  From his first bass-note, we knew he was the guy, and miraculously, he agreed.  Andrew would be the first to tell you that he's not always the easiest person to work with, but he is an amazingly talented musician and an unfailingly loyal friend.  Aura and I couldn't live without him.

Andrew soon introduced us to Lex, a musical virtuoso who generously pours his skills, soul, and unmatched passion into our little songs.  If you need more evidence of Lex’s skills, check out his jazz CD called “Complex Blue” for his playing, composing, arranging, and unique musical vision.  Musicianship aside, Lex’s gentle disposition is exactly what we needed to complete the Brûlée family.  By 2009, our quartet had taken shape, and I had achieved my goal of being the weakest musician in the band that I started. 

So why did it take us almost five years to release our first set of songs?  We were busy.  Since this band started, we have collectively navigated through two weddings, three house purchases, four root canals, five babies, one PADI open-water certification, building three guitars, buying four guitars, and traveling to over 60 countries.  Somehow, though, we seem to keep meeting for vaguely productive and fully therapeutic rehearsals.  We even made it into the studio for two day-long sessions.  The result was our first CD released in 2013.

-Louis