Analog Brass: Revenge of the brass nerds

brass band web

by Chris Butcher

This group of college “band geeks” don’t play your typical jazz concert reeditions. No, instead they are a volume oriented hardcore group and are the heaviest brass band in the city of Bellingham.

Inspired by brass musicians who experimented with alternative styles of jazz and funk, the band noted  James Brown Band [in particular saxophonist Maceo Parker,] Lucky Chops, Miles Davis, the Meters, Trombone Shorty and the high energy of New Orleans brass music.

“I also am of fan of how punk gets incorporated into the attitude of playing hard and not stopping,” band sousaphone player Maxell Lemke (who also plays several brass instruments in punk band Beautiful Freaks), said.

Joining Lemke in Analog Brass is Asante Williams (trumpet), Ben Hodson (trumpet) Jace Shelton (tenor sax), Josh Zacharias  (bari sax), Tesla Dussault (trombone), Rylan Kane (bass trombone), Christian Lanthrom (drums) and Toby Bruce (aux percussion). Nine-strong, they tmay have trouble fitting on some of Bellingham’s smaller stages, but when they are on, they produce head banging and irresistible hip shaking tunes.

“We just want to kick out the jams, we want people to see something that they can think about for the rest of their week,” Lemke said.

Lemke formed a band that would be the predecessor to Analog Brass last February on Western Washington University’s campus. Their musical mission is to play a combination of original songs mixed in with some contemporary and retro covers. The catalogue ranges from “I feel good” to “Old town road” (which  by the way they just shot a new music video for, and you should check it out) so there isn’t much material they are afraid to work with.

Before they had officially became Analog Brass, they formed a group twice the size as the current band is, with almost 18 members. However, this proved to be unsuccessful due to several members not committing enough time to the group.

After the first incarnation was dissolved, the members who still felt determined to push ahead with the group stood together and formed the band as it currently stands.

Bruce explained the anxiety he felt when he realized the he was being scouted for a position in the group after they noticed him at several of their gigs on consecutive nights.

“I wasn’t apart of the original crew who came in, I joined officially in November… I think they just thought I was this weird kid who plays drums. One day, Lanthrom couldn’t go to rehearsal so, they had me stand in and that was when they offered me a position,” Bruce said.

Coming into a band with an extra percussionist was a hurdle Bruce was excited to overcome.

“It was kind of an awkward transition having two drummers who would switch off, then eventually experimenting with multi-percussion setups. I have developed this weird setup with bongos and other sorts of electronic goodies,” Bruce said. “I think it has escalated a lot of what we can do.”

Since the group is still in its infancy, they have been persistent with playing gigs and developing their live sound. They most recently played the annual Downtown Sounds festival here in Bellingham and before that opened for Beautiful Freaks at the Central Saloon in Seattle.

The band have not recorded any collections of songs but they do have their music video available on YouTube.

“Certainly, the next step needs to be documentation. One of the things that our manager Ruben, who previously played in the Dawn Bombs, has been trying to book for us is a tour of the coast for maybe next year,” Lemke said.

For updates and more information about Analog Brass check out their Facebook and Instagram.