INTERVIEW: Youngblood Brass Band | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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One Lard Biskit Brass Band is a frankly shocking name for a band (“we were somehow convinced that every good band name had a number and a food item in it, but I can’t think of a single band, there’s no ‘Sandwich 720’”), so thankfully vocalist, drummer and general band manager David Henzie-Skogen saw the light and the Youngblood Brass Band was born with a new direction. “The sounds were coming out of New Orleans’ brass band music but also incorporated all of the influences of things that are important to us.” And that turns out to be not just brass music, but a diverse range of other genres too. “I think people would be surprised if they looked at our personal playlists, very little of it is brass band music. That’s just in our blood, no pun intended. We usually look elsewhere for inspiration, there’s a lot more hip-hop influence, maybe a little more aggressive punk vibe, it has occurred to us that it would be disingenuous to just try to mimic what NOLA brass bands do, being that as much as we grew up with that music and spent time in NOLA, it’s not where we’re coming from 100%.”

So where are they coming from? Wisconsin is the answer, a mere 1,000 miles from Louisiana, but Youngblood have been knocking about in fellow brass band Hot 8’s hood, soaking up the NOLA vibe for many years. In fact, older bands from the city – the likes of The Dirty Dozen and Rebirth – served as Youngblood’s idols in their formative years, which has resulted in an authentic sound with a slightly faster and more hip-hop beat, with some breakneck rapping tying it all together.

The band have always had a DIY ethic, in more ways than one (“most of us teach outside Youngblood too”); David runs their own label, but having joined the Tru-Thoughts label alongside Hot 8 and other groups such as Bonobo, Nostalgia 77 and Spanky Wilson, things are that much easier now, not that Youngblood are all about the dollar. “You’ve chosen your path, and that path is music that is really fun to play and has this connection to things that we feel are really important historically, but you’re also choosing not to be part of the race for the golden ticket. If you play guitar and play songs you want people to sing then you graze the line between the entertainment industry and the music community a lot. If you wanna make music that just appeals to the sounds you wanna make, then you have to be a part of a world where you are more concerned about what you add to the conversation than whether or not you are getting rich. You have to be OK with the fact that if it’s music that’s incredibly personal to you, it’s not gonna be music for everyone.”

You have to be OK with the fact that if it’s music that’s incredibly personal to you, it’s not gonna be music for everyone

While to some extent David is content to be somewhat under the radar if it means he can make the music he’s passionate about, the world is finally waking up to the musical treasures on offer in New Orleans. “The gospel of New Orleans music isn’t super well known, even in the States. It became well known post-Katrina, one of the silver linings of that giant shitty cloud was that people started talking about New Orleans music a lot.”

With NOLA’s musical canon spawning a wide spectrum of styles, and with history and heritage playing such an important and prominent role, it’s obvious that David feels passionate about the music he’s dedicated his life to. “In countries like the UK and France especially, it’s legitimate dance music, it’s a lot more accepted than in the States. I always get the sense that brass band music in general is treated as a novelty or something you might see at a festival or go to a theatre to enjoy, and people have a hard time making that connection that isn’t dissimilar to how we end up treating a lot of ‘world music’, where people will go to really nice theatres to see someone like Senegalese pop star like Baaba Maal, but they don’t see it as legitimate dance music that they would go out to a club and dance to. People have a weird colonial attitude.”

I suggested that NOLA brass band music is essentially the folk music of the American South. “As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to folkloric dance music that’s indigenous to America, brass band music is such amazing party music and so heavy and so cool, but it never caught on outside New Orleans for some reason. In America, music kept evolving so quickly that it’s hard to say that one thing became our national dance music, but when people talk about the great American art-form, they usually talk about jazz, which has its roots in dance music, but quickly evolved into something else. We just feel that it’s such cool music that if we can hip kids to it, we are happy to do so.”

The uniqueness of NOLA brass music is its rough and ready feel, like a group of guys getting together and having a jam, David sums it up perfectly: “The great thing about New Orleans’ brass music is that the vibe is way more important than the notes you play.”

Youngblood Brass Band play The Cluny, Newcastle on Thursday 20th August.


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