If you stopped, looked slightly up and right, and mused, “Sister act? But dude, they’re all dudes!” then score five points for Gryfindor.
Coming out of Canberra faster than the Federal Highway or a politician with a dog-eared credit card, BKBB will explode everything you ever thought about brass bands, unless those thoughts are sexy, fun, dance, sweaty and more sexy.
Yes, brass is definitely the new black and if you knew sousaphone like I knew sousaphone, oh oh, oh I’m getting too old for this site because that gag was told me to by the midwife. At my birth.
Herewith, Cameron Smith, band-leader extraordinaire.
*** Audio file will be deleted by end of March 2020 ***
*** Audio file will be deleted by end of March 2020 ***
Text of the audio interview:
Bill Quinn: As we continue the countdown to Woodford Folk Festival which kicks off on the 27th of December, in the beautiful Woodfordia region – basically, go to Brisbane, head north to Caboolture, head north-west up to Woodfordia.
We’re talking this afternoon with Cameron Smith from the Brass Knuckle Brass Band (BKBB). G’day, Cameron.
Cameron Smith: G’day, Bill. How are you, mate?
BQ: Very good. Now, Cameron, you’re originally a Queenslander yourself, aren’t you?
CS: I am, mate. I’m from Toowoomba*. And that’s only an hour and a half from Woodford, and I’ve never been before.
BQ: Are you serious? Is this your first time?!
CS: This’ll be my first time at Woodford. Yeah, I’m very excited.
BQ: Ooooh, you are one of the virgins of which we spoke about when I spoke to Rafe Morris about Moochers Inc yesterday.
CS: There are a few in our band who haven’t been before.
BQ: And what have you heard about Woodford to this point?
CS: The best advice I got was: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
BQ: Very much so.
CS: That was the best advice I could have been given, I think.
BQ: Do you know what? I’ve seen people who use themselves up on the first night of a three day festival.
CS: Yep, I’ve been known to do that! I’m a bit wary, but it’ll be fun. I’m looking forward to it.
BQ: Just remember it’s a six day, or seven day, or eight day, or even a nine day festival, depending on what you’re doing.
CS: Well, we’re on a ten day trip; we’re doing gigs on the way home too.
BQ: Let’s talk about that briefly; what are you doing on the way back?
CS: We’ve got a gig in Brisbane at a place called The Milk Bar – I don’t know any more than that! We’re playing at Bellingen on the way home. On the third of January we’re playing at The Milk Bar in Brisbane, and then Sunday the fourth in Bellingen.
BQ: That’s good information because there may be readers or listeners thinking, “I would crawl over cut glass to be at Woodford but I can’t,” but they can just get a little bit of Woodford into their souls be going here.
CS: That’s right. We’re sharing the bill as well with Moochers Inc for most of those gigs.
BQ: If you’re a Brisbanian or a Bellingenian, get yourself down to one of those gigs. Getting back to Woodford, tell us more about the BKBB. I have this contention which we’ve talked about before that brass is really the new black, isn’t it?
CS: It’s definitely the new black, mate, yeah. Every band sounds better with a horn section.
We started in January 2010 with the intention of doing just one gig at the Hippo Bar in Canberra, and thought maybe we might do some busking as well. But people tended to like it and we liked hanging out together, and we decided to do it a bit more regularly.
We’re probably best described as like a New Orleans street funk band, if you’ve seen things like Treme. We’re a nine-piece band: two trumpets, two trombones, two saxes, sousaphone, percussion, and drums. So it’s going to be a pretty big sound, I think.
BQ: When I spoke with Rafe yesterday, we talked about sousaphones. If you’ve not experienced it, you need to get more sousaphone in your life.
CS: Oh definitely, and that is one of the best around, by far. It’s good value.
And he dances with the sousaphone. When he does that, it’s a treat.
BQ: A lot of folkies may have seen the ‘dancing with a fiddle’ thing. It’s good, it’s good; there’s no two ways about that. But when you dance with a sousaphone, you’re really stepping it up a gear, aren’t you?
CS: Oh, you are, mate, you are. It’s a workout.
BQ: I’ve had the luxury of seeing the BKBB in its various incarnations – with another name, which we won’t mention, because it’s got that nasty little apostrophe in it that which is just absolutely the enemy of the internet, isn’t it?
CS: That’s one of the reasons we had to change the apostrophe.
BQ: So we won’t mention the previous name Brass’ere at all.
The one thing that I’ve noticed is that when I used to see the previous incarnations, initially a little tentative, but at the last National Folk Festival I saw you at, so 2013, it was just a little bit out there, like exroversion, extroversion, extroversion.
CS: You should have seen us at this year’s folkie: it was just amazing! Interaction between the crowd and the band was a lot of fun, and they lifted us. The crowd lifted us to another level; it was really good fun.
BQ: It’s a real feedback loop, isn’t it? You draw energy off the crowd as much as vice versa, isn’t it?
CS: Oh, that’s exactly right, yeah.
BQ: Do you have your gig list there? Do you… Oh, well you don’t know the venues because you haven’t been there before, have you?
CS: Well, no, that’s exactly right. Most of our gigs are at Bluestown. We play on the 27th, the first day we arrive at 9pm. And we’ve got three gigs at Bluestown, including new year’s eve.
BQ: We love our blues, but it can be a little bit of 12 bars and the truth. So [in that venue] you may be preaching to the unconverted.
CS: We like to do that. We don’t have any blues in the set. We have been known to play some blues, but now I think about the set we’re doing, I don’t think there is any. But it’s all heavily influence by blues, that’s for sure.
BQ: Well, even though it’s a jazz song, I’d say that St James’ Infirmary has a bluesacality about it.
CS: True, true, true. That’s on one of the sets for sure. We’ve tried to break it up as much as we can. We’ve got three kind of mostly different sets for each of our gigs so even if people come and see us three times, they’ll see something different each time.
BQ: Cameron, I’m looking forward to seeing you up there. I’m looking forward to seeing the dazed and confused look in your eyes as you wander around the precinct.
CS: Yeah, there’ll be a bit of that, I think.
BQ: But as the leader of the band, just keep a tight rein on your foundlings, your fledglings. And have a lot of fun.
CS: Oh, my intention, mate. Looking forward to it, to checking it out and catching up with you up there.
BQ: Cameron Smith, from the Brass Knuckle Brass Band, thanks for joining us on Timber and Steel.
CS: A pleasure, Bill. Thanks very much.
Gig dates and times for The Brass Knuckle Brass Band at Woodford are:
Saturday 27 December 2014, 9.15pm – Bluestown
Monday 29 December 2014, 7.30pm – Bluestown
Wednesday 31 December 2014, 9.15pm – Bluestown
Saturday 3rd January 2015 – The Milk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 4th January 2015 – Bellingen, NSW