Welcome to my column DOPE, what does it mean? It is anyone from an actor to a photographer that I feel is putting out really amazing content or doing amazing things. I find them to be DOPE! To kick things off I have the pleasure of chatting with the guys and girls of Brass Against.
Music is a powerful thing. It can change our moods, bring back memories good and bad, be a spark for an idea or change. When we all were 16-18 years old most of us didn’t like our parents and hated authority figures. Some of us also started to see that life wasn’t fair and that for some people the unfairness came due to people not playing by the rules or giving them a fair shot.
I first heard the band Rage Against Machine in a high school Spanish class on someones Sony Discman(yea, I’m old). When I heard the opening riffs of Killing in the Name and then Zack De La Rocha passionate voice I was hooked and the rest is history. I have been a lifelong fan. The mix of hip-hop and hard hitting drums and guitar plus it sparked my mind to see there was more to life than my little personal bubble. The country and world had issues and I wanted to learn about them, how could I help? Fast forward to 2018 and we have a person in the White House in my opinion who is not fit for the office or any office of that matter.
Through YouTube and a great share from a friend, I discovered Brass Against. And just like the first time I heard RATM they hit me over the head. It is a whole NEW take on the classics and vocalist Sophia Urista is one badass chick, backed by an impressive band. This band of 9 super talented musicians is just what the doctor ordered in 2018. Brass is still new to the scene and just tapping the surface I was so hyped to get a chance to find out more about the group and what makes them so DOPE!
Brad Hammonds Guitar/Band Leader
Andrew Gutauskas Bari Sax/Musical Director
Darius Christian Vocals/Trombone
Sophia Urista Vocals
Mariel Bildsten Trombone
Wayne Tucker Trumpet
Oskar Stenmark Trumpet
Kenneth Bentley Sousaphone
Nathan Bell Drums
Joe Cardoso: When and how did you guys get started and all meet?
(Brad)- Around the time Trump started gaining traction I really felt like we needed Rage Against the Machine more than ever. My goal was to do ‘Killing in the Name’ live somewhere with a choral section and a ton of musicians. I reached out to a venue and they were into it but wanted a full set. Around August of last year I met up with Andrew Gutauskas (Baritone Sax/Musical Director) and we ran through a few Rage tunes. It was such a blast. We decided, instead of a show, to do a video and see how it goes- musically and the response. I called a lot of my friends who I had played with in other projects and we did Bombtrack (Darius- trombone/vocals) sang it. It was really well received and we decided to keep making videos and played our first show in December of last year.
(Andrew)- Brad and I met through our good friend, Danny Jonokuchi, who is a wonderful arranger, songwriter, and trumpeter in New York City. One night after a show about a year and a half ago Brad and I were talking about whatever asinine thing that happened that day in the White House when he mentioned that he’d been thinking about making a music video featuring a brass band playing Rage tunes. I remember thinking, Fuck yeah! And then I said, Fuck yeah! A few months later the two of us finally got together to see if it could work and once the blood rushed backed to my head after getting through Bombtrack for the first time, it seemed like there was no way we couldn’t do this!
JC: I am a huge Rage Against Machine fan, how did you all decide to make them your inspiration?
(Brad)-I am too- they were one of the bands that changed the course of my life (going into music). I wanted to do something political, unique and Rage was the perfect band- lyrically and musically- to put out there during this insane political climate.
(Andrew) – RATM is a movement and their message is powerful. Not only do they give people an outlet to feel something but they have the ability to inspire action. I think we knew from the beginning that this was the direction we wanted to go. Having the opportunity to really get into the details of their music and lyrics has given me a profound appreciation of their artistry and gets me excited to delve deeper.
JC: “Your website says Brass Against is exceptional music with a political edge.” What do you all want that to mean and inspire in your fans?
(Brad)- We want this to be a collective where fans of this music and their message can come together for a night of music and feel it in a different way. The brass really adds a big and heavy sound. I realized posting opinions on social media had no effect, and as a musician, I have seen how inspiring a show can be.
(Andrew)- What does that mean?! (Haha) Ultimately, we’re trying to rock as hard as possible! It doesn’t matter that instead of bass we have Sousaphone and Baritone Saxophone. It doesn’t matter that in order to replicate a synth effect, we have to use two trumpets and a trombone. The point is that we are all here trying to create something that is good and fulfilling and fun to be a part of. Hopefully, we can help people feel something and inspire them to ask questions and stand up for what is good and just.
JC: Another thing that makes the band unique and dope is the camera work during the videos and the white painter outfits the band wears. Does the outfit stand for something and is all the video production done by you all?
(Brad)- We have a friend (Blaze the Rebel) that we’ve been working with for a while. He’s a rapper and musician and understands it. It’s becoming a well-oiled machine. With the jumpsuits, we wanted to have something uniform and a different look and separate the vocalists from the band. Its a lot of fun live to hop around in jumpsuits.
(Andrew)- Both Blaze the Rebel and Simon C.F. Yu have been wonderful to work with on these videos. The jumpsuits were the brainchild Darius Christian Jones and although I’ve never given it much thought, I guess you could say they loosely represent a blank canvas; a place where it’s just about the music and the message.
JC: You all have been embraced by RATM, what did that mean to you all?
(Brad) It’s a huge sense of validation. Because the videos have picked up I had assumed the band heard about the project. I was waiting for Tom (Morello) to tell me to move along ;). It’s so cool to have your heroes give you their blessing.
(Andrew)- I think there is a lot of responsibility in taking someone else’s music, especially something that is already perfect and try to put your own spin on it. To know that Tom Morello even listened to something that I’m a part of blows my mind and to know that he’s into it…well, I’m incredibly thankful. It’s such an honor to play these influential songs and it’s incredibly humbling to know that it is having a positive effect on peoples lives across the world.
JC: Besides RATM what other bands and artist do you like and could be future covers?
(Brad)- We have done Living Colour, Audioslave, Tool, Run the Jewels and even Beyonce. The goal is to continue to do protest songs. I like to ask the audience who they want to hear- Tool has been a favorite. On the docket are Black Sabbath, Childish Gambino, all things Maynard, Soundgarden, Radiohead. We’re also writing our own stuff.
JC: We all can agree our current “president” is bringing out the worst in America, does the band have any plans for a live show in front of the White House in true RAM form?
(Brad)- We’ve discussed it. We are planning on visiting historically hot-button locations and do it up. We’re planning a few shows around the mid-terms with some other amazing bands that share our message.
JC: Being so political what do members of the band do in their communities to help improve things?
(Brad)- We all donate to different charities. 15% of all our merchandise goes to the ACLU. I try and donate as much as possible to groups that are endorsed by effective altruism such as Against Malaria Foundation.
JC: What is on deck for the rest of 2018?
(Brad)- Tour…In November with two epic bands! I don’t want to say who until it is completely finalized. The tour will go throughout North America. Early next year we’re heading to Europe!
JC: Music is changing so much from how we get it to how it is made. What is one NEW trend you guys hate and one trend you love and why?
(Brad)- I am a big Vinyl lover; I started a company called Experience Vinyl and so always encourage people to listen that way. We have a label in Europe who is putting out Vinyl for us early next year. I love that Vinyl is really coming back.
I’ve had a tough time lately with Social Media and the narcissism that goes along with it. “look at this picture of us”…
(Andrew)- I can’t say I know what’s trending these days but if this counts; I love that with a computer, a microphone, and a small midi keyboard, you can literally produce anything you want. The creative possibilities are endless and that’s exciting to me!
Across social media and generally speaking, there seems to be a growing lack of empathy which is unfortunate and scary.I want to thank the entire band and special thanks to Brad and Andrew for the time and I can’t wait to see what’s next. I for one will be attending any shows in the D.C. area to keep up with the latest check their social media.
Know anyone who is DOPE? Shoot me an email or follow me @JoeCardoso301