INTERVIEW: Brad Hammonds (BRASS AGAINST)
In a world of debilitating uncertainty and injustice, one band has risen to inject a bold and brassy take on some of the most iconic anthems and protest songs of this generation, with New York collective Brass Against bringing a fiery brass band who take on tunes from the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Tool and more in dynamic and dazzling fashion.
Founded by Brad Hammonds and drawing together some of New York’s top musicians, Brass Against may on paper seem like just another covers band; but rather than just another group covering the greats, Brass Against bring an electrifying spin all of their very own that jubilantly celebrates a horde of musical talent while challenging the status quo.
And with the band about to bring their brassy selves to our shores this weekend starting in Sydney for their first every east coast shows, we grabbed founder and musical king Brad Hammonds to chat Aussie shows, early days and more. Interview below.
GUERRILLA RADIO (BRASS AGAINST)
TIANA: Hi Brad and thanks for chatting today! I have to say straight up, I’m a huge fan of Brass Against, I never forget your version of Guerilla Radio pop up in my Spotify discover playlist a few years back – and I was hooked! Brass and bad-ass protest music, what’s not to love. And even better news is that we get to have you all down under in a matter of days for some killer shows – how keen are you for these upcoming shows? And is there anything in particular you’re hoping to do while you’re in Australia?
BRAD: Ah! Thank you so much Tiana!! We cannot wait to tour Australia- we just arrived in New Zealand and are ready to go! Guerrilla Radio is on the set for this tour- that one is such a blast to play live. We’re focused on playing some really great shows for you, though we do have a day off where we get to hold Koalas which sounds amazing.
TIANA: The scary yet fascinating thing about the songs Brass Against bring to the table is that they aren’t just amazing brass-tinged songs from the likes of RATM, Tool and Deftones…but these songs are still relevant decades after the songs were written. What inspired you all to focus in on these protest songs when this project first started?
BRAD: When Trump got elected it was (and is) so disconcerting, we felt like these songs were more relevant than ever. I grew up a huge fan of RATM, Tool, Living Colour and the other bands we play and felt strongly they needed to be heard in a fresh and new way.
TIANA: And off the back of that, what’s it like to see your music resonate so heavily with so many people? It’s personally so wonderful to see how powerful music can be with a band like yours, particularly in a time when governments are placing less importance on the arts now more than ever…
BRAD: It's been surreal. We started this project just a little over two years ago and here we are touring Australia! It’s been amazing touring around the world and meeting like-minded people and celebrating this music together! Music is our life and we’re so lucky to be able to travel the world doing what we love.
TIANA: Brass Against brings together some pretty incredible talent from New York into one amazing package, and I believe there’s a bit of a rotation with some of your epic talent…how did you all wind up working together on this adventure, what series of events led to this band coming to life?
BRAD: A lot of us had played together in other projects before this and were already good friends. It’s been so much fun touring together and seeing this project gain momentum! We’ve also been really lucky to have great singers in the band- Sophia, Liza, Maya and Sam have all been really incredible and I don’t think we could have done it if we weren’t in NYC.
TIANA: You’re a band who aren’t strangers to playing all over the globe at this point...how is the vibe when you’re playing outside of America, are Brass Against fans pretty standard no matter where you roam?
BRAD: Actually, the US has been more subdued than other parts of the globe. Europe gets crazy and we love it!
TIANA: And throughout your extensive touring, has there been a particular standout live moment for you playing with Brass Against, whether it was memorably good, bad or hilarious?
BRAD: Probably the download festival in Madrid. It was the middle of the day and 40 degrees Celsius. We wear jumpsuits and it was our first big rock festival. We couldn’t see because there was so much sweat coming down, our instruments were going out of tune and we worried… but it was so epic! The crowd was amazing and was one of our best shows ever….and we all got to see Tool play later that night!
TIANA: For someone so heavily linked with protest anthems as well as the wonderful world of brass…what music did you actually grow up listening to? Was there a particular band or artist who really inspired you to pursue music professionally when you were younger?
BRAD: Led Zeppelin was everything to me growing up and I think probably the biggest inspiration for all of the 90s grunge bands- Tool, Rage, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam etc.… But I listened to everything. Parliament Funkadelic was big for me.
TIANA: And what band or artists would we catch you listening to today? Who’s filling up your playlists for these long trips to places like Australia?
BRAD: We listen to a lot of podcasts on these trips. Making Sense with Sam Harris is a band favorite! He covers philosophy, meditation and politics, and he’s really good. We also love catching bands at festivals and checking out their albums on our way to the next city.
TIANA: Considering you play in a band who can wield your own versions of some other amazing bands’ tunes…if Brass Against were stranded on a desert island and could only take one other band for company – who are you taking and why?
BRAD: Tool. I honestly don’t think you could find four more perfect musicians to come together and make music together then Tool. They are a supergroup. Also, Maynard makes wine so huge bonus there. Final answer!
TIANA: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat, and absolutely cannot wait to see you all in action Down Under in just a few days!
BRASS AGAINST ARE HITTING OUR SHORES STARTING THIS SUNDAY, TOUR INFO BELOW, AND FOR ALL OTHER BRASS AGAINST INFO, HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER