The Hot 8 Brass Band: Way Over Yonder In The Major Key

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The Hot 8 Brass Band: Way Over Yonder In The Major Key

With a career that was started to fulfill a neighborhood’s demand for a brass band to lead marches at community events – sadly, mainly funerals – New Orleans act The Hot 8 Brass Band have become their cities most prolific global export.

That is, besides Creole and Cajun cuisine, with restaurants serving this style of food in practically every city around the world. This must be a welcomed advent for a New Orleans band that tours the world right?

“When we’re out on the road, for the most part, we try to have an open mind and do a little local food but [if we do try New Orleans cuisine], it only winds up making us really miss it and want to go home. Sometimes we try to get accommodation with a kitchen so we can cook our own food,” says Hot 8 Brass Band leader and sousaphone player Bennie Pete.

This homesickness makes sense when one considers that The Hot 8 Brass Band’s identity is tied closely to their community, which played a large part in why they started the band, and why they continue with it.

A lot has been made about the demographic of the band: they come from The Projects of New Orleans, with the band featuring in the Spike Lee directed two-part feature length documentary series ‘When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts’ (2006) and ‘If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise’ (2010). The first focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the second following through on the resonant impact of Katrina but also the tragedy of Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico.

Pete reflects on his own life and those of his band member’s this year in New Orleans, compared to when he first started the band in 1996, bringing together Fortier High School student groups: the High Steppers and the Looney Tunes Brass Bands.

“[We live in] the same neighbourhood. If not, we’ll pass through because some of us have had to move but no too far because the city is not that big so it’s not too far that you can go. We’re [for the most part] in the same neighbourhood with our kids at the same schools. I think we need that: doing local gigs, hanging out with local bands, just sitting and doing gigs with other cats. We use all that music to charge us up for when we go on the road, to help us kick it without going crazy.

“When we are at home, we enjoy that time. Right now, we are counting down because we know that we have a month left [before] we’re going to be gone for a while. So we’re sitting in with other bands, going to see other bands, every body making their rounds,” Pete says.

The tour he is referring to will see the band headlining WOMADelaide with their impressive sets, as well as taking in every mainland capital city along the way.

“We have just released a new EP [Can’t Nobody Get Down] so we will include the songs off that, but other than that man… I mean, we’re working on it.

“As I say, I am at rehearsal right now, working on the show and how we want to present it, dealing with what ever time slot we got, and how can we fit everything in. It’s like packing up a present, a gift, to send to somebody. We are trying to pack as much as we can into this one box that we bring with us – making sure we got a little bit of everything and put it on stage and just let everybody go for it. We’re repping our city as best we could.”

When & Where: WOMADelaide – March 10 – 12

Release: Can’t Nobody Get Down is out now on Tru Thoughts.

Written by Dan Watt
Photo by Melissa Fargo