Meet Brass Against the Machine, the nine person brass band with something to say.
Tell us about the band; what inspired its inception? (Brad Hammonds- guitarist and founder) After Trump announced his candidacy, I started thinking that we needed Rage Against the Machine and other protest rock music more than ever. Once this administration actually got elected and fear turned into anger and shock, I started to put the idea into motion of doing something unique with a Rage song. I started thinking how great these tunes might sound with a brass band. In August, I met up with Baritone Saxophone player, Andrew Gutauskas, and the two of us played through some Rage songs. They all felt so good and a few weeks later Andy arranged bombtrack, and we did a video with a full brass band and Darius Christian Jones played trombone and vocals. It was a lot of fun and we found that it resonated with people, so we kept going and turned it into a band.
How did you all meet? Andrew, Darius, Mariel Bildsten (Trombonist), Nathan Ellman (Bell, Drums), Wayne Tucker (Trumpet) – we’ve all played together in other original projects and are really good friends. Mazz Swift who sang and played electric violin on our cover of ‘Cult of Personality’ and ‘Bulls on Parade’ is is an old band mate and good friend of mine. I reached out to Sophia Urista after seeing a video of hers to do ‘Killing in the Name’ and ‘Freedom’ with us. She crushed both of them and ‘Killing in the Name’ wound up really taking off online (has almost 9 million Facebook views) and has been singing with us since. Her musicality is off the charts and she’s amazing to work with. Oskar Stenmark (Trumpet), Steven Duffy (Sousaphone) and Kenneth Bentley (Sousaphone) are beyond killing. Everyone in the band is phenomenal, and so much fun to work with.
Why have you chosen this particular style of music, and how do you select which bands and songs in particular to cover? Rage Against the Machine (70pct of the set we cover) is an obvious choice for me – their music is as salient now as it was in ’92 – they were so ahead of their time. Doing it as a brass band just feels good – the sound is so big (there are nine of us). I spend a lot of time thinking about the tunes and bands we cover – Rage, Living Colour, Jane’s Addiction, Audioslave. A few bands we want to do in the future are Run the Jewels, Tool, and Fishbone.
Biggest hurdle you’ve overcome thus far as a band? Just making sure people know we are really paying homage to some of the greatest rock bands who have spread sentiments of questioning authority through music, and hoping to do it with artistic integrity. But, circle back in a year and I’m sure I can give you some tangible hurdles.
Best live show to date, and why? We’re a pretty new band (eight months), so have only done a handful of shows. We have been really lucky that the project has taken off so quickly. We’ve played Brooklyn Bowl twice, the Cutting Room and the Mercury Lounge. They’ve all been really special! The Cutting Room was basically sold out and the crowd was extra rowdy… that was a good one, for sure.
Where do you find inspiration musically, and who are your major influences? We all have a lot of different influences from Jazz to Rock to Hip hop. I think it’s what helps us really gel together. We’re completely open to experimenting with sounds. We’re going to start writing our own tunes soon and I’m really excited to see how they come together.
Can you briefly describe your music-making process? I will choose a tune and send it to a few people to see if they’re down to do it. Andrew (our musical director) arranges the tune and we meet up in the studio to film a video, rehearse it a few times and have at it!
What’s the ultimate direction for your band – what’s next? I think we would all really love to tour. We’ve been approached by a ton of venues around the US and Europe and fans of the project who want to see us live. There are just so damn many of us in the band. We’re also hoping to collaborate with other artists and a record is also in the works.
Any last words? Next shows are – Brooklyn Bazaar on 5/10 and Highline Ballroom 6/15. Come out if you’re in town!