Youngblood Brass Band
Released: 9th Sep, 2013
Label: Tru Thoughts
‘Pax Volumi’, out 9th September on CD, vinyl and digital, is Youngblood Brass Band’s fourth album, their first on Tru Thoughts. The album comes in a busy year of touring, having played sold-out headlines across Europe and the USA.
Youngblood Brass Band are a unique proposition; focused on creating consistently groundbreaking acoustic music, employing whatever sonic means necessary, the 10-piece ensemble marks the point at which punk, brass band, hip hop and improv jazz collide. They assembled in the ‘90s and have been unleashing their energetic live shows since 2000. Originally formed by high school friends in Wisconsin, the line-up now comprises players from all over America (Madison, New Orleans, New York, Nashville, Minneapolis, Chicago). Their individual musical tastes are conflicting (the tourbus playlist, based on the acts that they all agree on, includes The Rebirth, The Roots, Fugazi and Stevie Wonder), but when combined, they are distilled into something strikingly new.
The band-leader, studio producer and chief vocalist is founder member David Henzie-Skogen – also a revered percussionist and drum-line coach – whose sharp, irreverent humour and fierce, energetic intelligence beam out on the vocal numbers. Equally, his input into the instrumental character of the recordings is immeasurable, stemming from a hip hop production sensibility and a desire to create music that pops out of the speakers, using only acoustic instruments cut together with sounds sampled from an array of improvised sources.
The first single from “Pax Volumi” was album opener “20 Questions” (3rd June) which won support from the likes of Craig Charles (BBC 6Music) & Lefto. It epitomises the many levels on which this band operate, laying down a manifesto with bluster and bravado, while through the self-assured hip hop swagger bubbles up an undercurrent of tongue-in-cheek humour. The live performance video of “20 Questions” has gained over 12,000 YouTube hits.
Following on from the initial high energy punk/hip hop stylings of the vocal tunes, tracks 6 to 12 highlight the band’s instrumental side, in which they become more recognisable as a New Orleans-inspired brass band. This tight unit is brimming with imaginative and emotive arrangements (largely care of sousaphone player Nat McIntosh). The instrumental cover of “Ain’t Nobody”, a sure-fire summer crowd pleaser, will be the second vinyl single, in August.
Although not based in New Orleans, Youngblood have long been in thrall to the city’s music and have made countless visits to immerse themselves in it; “You realise, when you’re there, how far you have to go,” says Henzie-Skogen. “You can’t sidestep the graft involved. Every time, you’ll be doing your thing and then someone will just walk in off the street and start playing incredibly – you get your ass kicked, basically!” They were initially introduced to Tru Thoughts’ A&R Robert Luis by Bennie Pete of Hot 8 Brass Band, a group with whom they have built a kinship over the years. The fourth track on the album bears witness to this relationship – “A Gust Inside The God” is dedicated to the late Hot 8 drummer Dinerral Shavers, who was an inspiration to Henzie-Skogen both as a drummer, and a friend.
Youngblood have been featured by the likes of XLR8R, Dazed, Urb and NPR; having headlined tours in over 20 countries, they have also played festivals including Roskilde, Glastonbury, Lowlands, Pukkelpop, SXSW, CMJ, North Sea Jazz & WOMAD. Their debut album ‘Unlearn’ was released independently in 2000, featuring collaborators including Talib Kweli (spawning the underground smash “Ya’ll Stay Up”). This led to a signing with Ozone Music NYC, the avant-hip hop label that introduced Company Flow (El-P), Antipop Consortium and Mr. Lif, and 2003’s ‘center:level:roar’ LP. Youngblood released two more albums on Layered Music – 2005’s ‘Live. Places.’ and 2007’s ‘Is That a Riot?’. They also continue to engage in frequent educational work, stopping at high schools and universities to offer workshops on New Orleans music history, jazz improvisation and hip hop culture, amassing a huge fanbase along the way.