Nikki Brumen is undoubtedly one of Australia's great vocalists right now. In fact, in 2019 we included her in this list of women you need to know in the heavy scene. Many will know her frontwoman of Pagan who after touring globally and performing on many festival stages, called it quits in 2020. But if you thought that would be the last you'd hear of Brumen, think again. It was announced that the Melbourne-based punk-hardcore vocalist would be joining the Norwegian band, Blood Command.
Whilst last year was tumultuous for many, it was made even more so for Nikki who whilst mourning the death of her father, lost her mother also to Stage 4B Ovarian cancer. Throw in the breakup of her relationship and band and it's no wonder Nikki says that in the depths of grief Blood Command, gave her, "Something to finally look forward to."
We sat down with Nikki to chat about how she navigated this difficult time, how she ended up joining a death-pop band on the other side of the world and their new single, A Villain's Monologue.
Pagan was such a huge chapter in your life and Blood Command opportunity came along quite quickly. What did you anticipate the next chapter would look like at the time Pagan ended?
When Pagan ended, I was going through a lot of emotional trauma and change. I had just lost my dad and my mum was terminally ill - so I took the band’s breakup pretty hard. While I understood the other member’s wanting to end Pagan, I was personally in no way ready for the band to break up and simply couldn’t handle any more loss and grief in my life. As a result, I began working hard on songwriting and jamming with some close friends - mainly as a way of staying creative and keeping my mind off things.
Creativity has always been a really positive outlet for me and has brought me a lot of happiness and fulfilment throughout my life. When I got the Facebook message to join Blood Command, I responded ‘yes!’ without a second of hesitation. Yngve (songwriter/guitarist/producer for Blood Command) had actually reached out to me on Instagram but I never got his message, as I had received an influx of messages after Pagan’s breakup announcement.
I felt really overwhelmed being on social media and tried to stay off Instagram during this time, so I completely overlooked the message from him. When he finally found me on Facebook and asked me to join the band, I knew that I was destined to be Blood Command’s new singer. Yngve and I have since spoken about that moment, and we were both in bad places at the time, so we almost saved each other.
What has it been like collaborating with a band on the other side of the world logistically with recording your latest single and shooting the video, especially through the Melbourne lockdowns?
It’s been a really different experience to anything I have ever done musically as it’s involved a lot of self-motivation - as the band isn’t here to rehearse with. I take weekly singing lessons and spend around 5 days a week working on my clean vocals. I also regularly book out a rehearsal studio to practice solo - which feels so weird as I am used to going to band practice with the rest of the band. I used Melbourne’s lockdowns, and the fact that I was unable to go out, to rehearse the album constantly.
In terms of recording, it was actually a much smoother process than I ever anticipated. We had Yngve producing the track from Norway, so the whole session for A Villain’s Monologue was done over Skype. Callan Orr (Avalanche Studios) engineered the track - and while he was in the next room, I could hear Yngve in my headphones, so it was almost like having him there too. Yngve has a lot of trust in me, so let me have free creative reign when it came to the music video and promo photos etc.
Originally, we wanted to record the album in Bergen but Covid made that impossible, so we decided to do my vocals here. The lockdowns have therefore just made the recording process a little slower than we originally expected, but now that the ball is rolling we are about to get the album done! We have a really good working relationship and I think we are both perfectionists, so really push ourselves to make whatever we do the best it can possibly be.
2020 was a hard year for everyone but especially hard for you with the loss of your mother. How did music help you through that time?
The offer to join Blood Command was incredibly timely, it was the perfect distraction from 2020 and the grief I was dealing with. When I got Yngve’s message, my dad had just passed away and several weeks after I had joined the band, I was going through a breakup, all the while taking care of my mum who was dying from Stage 4B Ovarian cancer.
In an incredibly strange twist of fate, my mum actually passed away one day short of the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. Despite all of the trauma, Blood Command gave me a sense of purpose and even in my depths of depression, I had something to finally look forward to. I’ve said it once and I will say it again, Blood Command really did save my life.
What would you tell your younger self or any other young girl/woman/non-binary person wanting to pursue a career in heavy music?
There is never a right time to get up there and do it. If you have the urge, you CAN do it. Yes, you will have people who doubt you, who think you aren’t capable, who might even laugh when you tell them you’re joining a band but use that as ammunition to show the world how good you are. You got this, and you will do it better than any cis white dude because you know what real struggle is and you have a story. It’s time to share it and you will fucking slay.
Do you have any other music coming out with Blood Command and would you ever consider relocating to Norway?
Yes, we have plenty of new music coming out, A Villain’s Monologue is only the first chapter of a very long story of the new era of Blood Command. I visited Bergen in Norway almost 10 years ago to the day and it became my favourite city I have ever been to. If that, and the fact that my whole band is based there, isn’t enough of a reason to want to move there, I don’t know what is!
Check our Blood Command's new single A Villain's Monologue, out now on Hassle Records.
Stream A Villain's Monologue now on all platforms here.
Listen to more Blood Command now.