Meet Brass Against, the belligerent nine-piece ensemble revolutionising protest music

Meet Brass Against, the belligerent nine-piece ensemble revolutionising protest music

Words by Fergus Neal

Standing up to the system.

Brass Against is exceptional music with a political edge. With a sound that combines rock and hip hop, they emanate a feeling that is both powerful and empowering. In this politically challenging era, Brass Against wants to stand up against the machine.

“Our hope is that we inspire people to fight for what they believe but through concentrated and peaceful actions,” says Hammonds.

“Music in and of itself can be so inspiring and when coupled with protest lyrics and vocals it can be such a powerful medium. I think the songs we have chosen are so powerful, i.e. ‘Wake Up’ (Rage Against the Machine), ‘War Pigs’ (Black Sabbath) and ‘Cult of Personality’ (Living Colour). These songs coupled with a huge brass section and vocalists help give the music a powerful presentation.

“There a quite a few of us, and so our inspirations are diverse. We really try to bring it all to the project. Many of us are professional jazz musicians and bring improvisation to shows. A few of us are really into mediation and try and create space in the shows. We’re all into politics and feed off one another.”

Their cover version of ‘Wake Up’ by Rage Against the Machine has been viewed over 3 million times on YouTube. Their covers are an example of what perfecting the art form looks like; breathing new life into their selected songs. The use of high-octane trumpets and trombones constantly provides a ferocious and powerful backtrack to their political message. The Trump election of 2016 electrified the group to work harder as they strove to musically evoke a call for people to wake up.

“After Trump was elected, it was so disconcerting. I felt like we needed Rage Against the Machine more than ever. I wanted to make a statement and do something big. I called Andy (our music director and baritone sax) and we ran through a few rage tunes and it sounded really good. We decided to put together a brass band and do a live video. People really connected with it and we kept going, and here we are.

“I think music and performance should support politics. We’re in such a precarious place here in the US and in large parts around the globe. We have essentially an autocrat in charge here pushing isolationist policies. Not to mention believes climate change, our biggest threat as a society, is a hoax.

“We need Rage Against the Machine and other protest bands more now to do what we can to push back. Music is a great place to start. Hopefully, we’re doing something unique and putting out content and performance that people love.”

Brass Against gives off a feeling that ‘protest music is back.’ It’s undertaken with a sense of authenticity and attention to craft, politics is not at the expense of good music. Australian audiences who voted Denzel Curry’s ‘Bulls On Parade’ high up on triple j Hottest 100 will be tantalised at the possibility of seeing a brass rendition of their beloved band. When asked what they make of the Australian political landscape, the group replies with laughter.

“We’ll let you know in 14 days when the tour is over. We really give everything we have for each live show we do. We have already put together a really great set for this tour – it’s going to be a blast.”

Brass Against play The Corner tonight. Grab your tix here.