No BS! Brass Band celebrates 10 years of big, fun music at the Broadberry, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. (Photo by PJ Sykes)
No BS! Brass Band, currently composed of 12 members, is known for its loud, fun and raucous musicality — and, of course, its massive brass section. The members – trombonists Reggie Pace (the group’s co-founder), Bryan Hooten, John Hulley, Reggie Chapman, and Dillard Watt; trumpet players Sam Koff, Marcus Tenney, Taylor Barnett, and Rob Quallich; lone saxophonist David Hood; tuba player Stefan Demetriadis; and percussionist/co-founder Lance Kohler — are gearing up for their celebration concert at The Broadberry this Saturday at 8 p.m, opening with Afro-Zen All Stars. We asked Hooten how they got here, what’s next for the tenured ensemble and, since their music inspires crowds worldwide to get up and dance, who among them can cut a rug.
Richmond magazine: How did it all begin?
Bryan Hooten: Lance [Kohler] and Reggie Pace met just from being on the music scene in Richmond. They and several other guys that were part of VCU's music program back then just started playing together. Some of them were playing in other bands, and my understanding was that some of those bands were having challenges in certain areas. Reggie and Lance decided that they were not going to fool with those things and they would just be a band together that would [have] “no bs.” I joined the band, I'm guessing, like six months to a year after it was formed. I was playing in Bio Ritmo at the time. It was a really interesting group of guys from a bunch of different backgrounds; most of them came through VCU, but all [of them loved music] and loved playing together.
RM: How many people were in the original band (obviously, Reggie and Lance were) and how many are there now? Does the number fluctuate?
Hooten: I think the original band was seven or eight, [and] was at one point nine or 10. We have 12 now, so plus or minus two. But we’ve had five trombones for several years now.
RM: How much do you guys play?
Hooten: It fluctuates a little bit, but I’d say we play gigs probably anywhere between two and four times a month when we're not on tour. I think that's about right; and we rehearse once a week as well.
RM: Do each of you do something else, too, either band-wise or income-wise?
Hooten: [A] good number of us are teachers — either collegiate or high school, full-time or adjunct. Or we teach private lessons or something of that nature. … Dillard works in the financial sector, and then we have other guys doing various other things, so we all have other things that we do. [We do] multiple other things musically and in terms of hobbies; it keeps perspectives fresh and different, I think.
RM: With that number of people, how do you arrange your music?
Hooten: It's evolved over time. In the beginning, it was a mixture of people bringing in fragments of things like little ideas that the group would get together and flesh out and put together. Some things we would compose as a group … for example, someone would come up with the bass line and then we would add a drum groove to it, and then a melody to it, and then there would be a trombone section. But then there was a transition point when we put out the “Fight Song” album tribute to Charles Mingus. For most of those charts, individuals in the group wrote out everyone’s parts and had a very clear idea about what everyone needed to play before [we] even started working on the music. There were still some elements of collaboration, but after that, the composition of our own music followed in that model. Most of [the compositions] are arriving to the group pretty much completely formed. That's not to say that we don't all have input and and we don’t all contribute, but there's more individual composition now then there was in the past.
RM: Do you find that that works better due to time constraints?
Hooten: Oh, that's a great point. I think all creative people know that at some point, coming up with a unified idea that 12 people can agree on takes a lot of time. Yes, it’s a little bit faster and it allows each individual person's creative voice to come through a little bit more. I think it suits what we are trying to do stylistically, to compose that way.
RM: Speaking of style, how would you classify No BS?
Hooten: It’s ultimately party music. Everything we do is driven towards making people want to dance. This is a broad generalization, but we want them to have a good time and if they're not having a good time, help them to have an outlet to deal with whatever they're dealing [with] in a cathartic way. It's dance music. It's party music that draws aesthetic inspiration from a bunch of genres.
RM: Are you guys big dancers?
Hooten: Oh, yes — I mean, if we're on the road. Sam Koff is a really great break-dancer. I don't know if he'll mind me telling you this because he’s shy about it, but he's great breaker.
RM: If he doesn’t bust out the worm the next time I see you guys, I'm going to be very upset. So, 10 years is a long time in band years. What do you guys have planned?
Hooten: Well, we're getting ready to record a live album. This is our first. We've tested it out a few times, but we've never got anything in the can that we are really happy with. So this will be our first live album that we are planning for official release. We have a few tunes that are written and we started rehearsing for our next studio album, but we haven’t recorded anything yet. We're going to tour in the summer, hopefully internationally. I think we'd all love to do more performances with the Richmond Symphony.
No BS! Brass Band celebrates their 10th anniversary at The Broadberry Saturday, Jan. 14, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10; find more details here.