Largemouth Brass Band
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Largemouth Brass Band

Columbus, Ohio, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2017

Columbus, Ohio, United States
Established on Jan, 2017
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"Largemouth Brass Band speaking softly, for now"

Since forming in Athens, Ohio, Largemouth Brass Band has generally lived up to its loud, exuberant name, crafting boisterous brass tunes steeped in soul, funk and hip-hop and designed to be heard in packed clubs and at crowded street festivals— environments that largely evaporated when the coronavirus hit the scene in March 2020.

At the time, Largemouth, which features eight regular members and a rotating cast of subs, had recently come off of a pair of Mardi Gras shows and was putting the finishing touches on writing songs for a new album,Repilot, which the musicians envisioned would power a busy summer festival season. “I think we had finished tracking three of the tunes, and then we had just released the single, ‘Night Lightning,’ maybe two or three weeks before the shutdown happened,” said trumpet player Taylor Leonard in a recent phone interview. “It wasn't long after that we realized that putting [the album] on hold could be a longer-term thing.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Leonard, a school band director, read every study that surfaced on how the virus could be spread among brass and wind players. In particular, the musician pointed to a University of Colorado study commissioned bythe National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) and a coalition of more than 125 performing arts organizations, which looked at the distribution of aerosol generated while playing wind instruments, singing, talking and even dancing, hoping to capture a better sense of the extent of viral spread associated with each activity.
“I was super involved, trying to collect as much information as I could about what is safe, and what kinds of procedures a wind player could put in place to continue making music at this time,” Leonard said, detailing steps such as placing plastic covers over instruments to create a barrier for droplets and germs. “There are some really crazy things out there because everyone wanted to know the things we could be doing in order to keep making music.”
For Largemouth, this generally meant recording in distanced bursts, with two or three musicians tracking in the studio at a time. To help keep sharp, the musicians also joined for occasional full-band pop-up shows at different outdoor city parks, in addition to occasional distanced rehearsals at a large indoor space. Still, there were debates over whether to move ahead and releaseRepilot or to hold onto it until later in 2021 in the hopes that greater vaccine uptake could again make live shows a possibility by summer or fall. Eventually the band relented, though, dropping the new album online in mid-January.

“We all eventually came to the realization that we don’t know what the future will be,” Leonard said. “We initially thought this thing was going to last two weeks, so there’s no guarantee that if we wait until June we’re going to be in any better position. And beyond that, we love this album, we worked hard on it and we want people to hear it.”

Additionally, Largemouth has already started working on new material, including a couple of songs shaped by life amid stay-at-home orders. The unreleased track “Distance,” which might surface as a single in the near future, takes some of its musical cues from our current realities. “It literally is a more spare sounding tune, where there’s more space between the notes and between the instruments,” Leonard said.

Regardless, don’t expect the band to radically reshape its sound moving forward, with Leonard assuring that the musicians intend to hew to the same good-time vibes they have embraced from the group's earliest days.
“The design of the band is to stay true to this high-energy thing. It’s really the hallmark of what we do,” said Leonard, who then hit on one small silver lining to releasing the new album at this somewhat darker point in time. “Maybe it’s something that can take you away from those gray windows, where you can dive in and enjoy some of those bright colors we bring sonically.” - Columbus Alive


"LARGEMOUTH BRASS BAND – REPILOT"

It would be easy to dismiss Largemouth Brass Band as a one trick pony. Especially if, like me, you rarely take time to listen to brass oriented music. My main exposure to brass, horn driven music in the past has been Lucky Chops at SXSW. I wanted to like it but got bored quickly.

Oh, well.

Enter Largemouth Brass Band. This Columbus based collective is a name that I began to see everywhere. So, I decide to take a risk and review their newest release as someone who doesn’t usually know how to respond to this sort of stuff.

So, I listen. The first thing that strikes me is how I’ve attached individual personalities in each instrument. The trumpet is brash and in your face. Its aggressive and a bit obnoxious, but not overly so. The tuba is quirky and there’s a weird sense of humility that goes with it. The trombone is assertive and reliable. It doesn’t hang out in the forefront or the rear. It’s like that friend you can always depend on. The saxophone is classy and slick. The percussion, whether its drums or glockenspiel serves to hold the rhythm and occasionally keep me from zoning out.

The other thing that strikes me are the unexpected places my mind goes when I listen intentionally. When listening to “Squid Kick,” there’s one trumpet section where my mind goes to the psychedelic “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence from Dumbo. That feeling of ethereal eeriness was unexpected yet oddly appropriate. When listening to “Tarantula” my first thought was “well, this is neither creepy or dark,” it’s more whimsical. Then my thoughts wandered to the Mrs. Spider character in Tim Burton’s animated James and the Giant Peach film. “Currents” makes me feel like I should be sitting in Kafe Kerouac, Columbus’ local beatnik coffee shop, sipping on some tea.

When I sit back and allow myself to just treat this album more so as background music, my mind goes to a more cliché area of thinking of an evening on the town. Sipping a cocktail with friends on a patio with the band in the background. I don’t know why my mind made this the image when I think of horn driven live music with class, but I have a memory from my childhood of walking through the Charlotte, NC airport in the food court. It was nighttime, and we were trying to make a connection, but we passed through a section that was parklike, with several fake trees, a row of white rocking chairs, and a jazz band playing in the background. This was my first true awareness of this feeling – so when I think of being out on the town, feeling activated yet comforted, surrounded by lights – this memory pops up. It’s a pleasant feeling, and one that the Largemouth Brass Band evokes even though I wouldn’t necessarily call them a jazz band exclusively.

You can catch all the members of the band all holding down their own businesses and roles in the Columbus arts community, but this outlet of unity from them provides a pleasant escape for me, so I thank them! - TUNEDUP


"Largemouth Brass Band Rebrands with 'REPILOT'"

The Largemouth Brass Band knows the show must go on.

The band originally formed in 2017 in Athens as members of the Ohio University School of Music but have since relocated to Columbus. The eight-piece all brass band, save for one drummer, released their newest full-length album, Repilot, over quarantine — which is no small feat.
The original members still in the band are: Frankie Wantuch, Ben Baker, Ben Stingo and Seth Alexander. Since moving to Columbus, the band added four new members: Taylor Leonard, Ian Harrah, Chris Hines and Jocelyn Smallwood.

The name Largemouth Brass Band is a pun on the fish, the Largemouth bass.

“(The name) is just a stupid pun that we came up with on the first day of rehearsal when we had decided who was in the band,” Seth Alexander, who plays the drums, said. “It doesn't mean what it used to. It's now becoming the name of our entity, instead of just a dumb pun.”

The group favors references that go even further than their name. Repilot, the name of the band’s album, isn’t actually a word.

“I got it from an episode of Community. They just made it up for that episode,” Ben Baker, who plays the tenor saxophone, the baritone saxophone and the bass clarinet, said.

Much like the Community episode, the band is reintroducing themselves.

“We have restructured the way the band is: not only in personnel, but in musical style, in actual location, in our general understanding of what the band is and how we play live shows,” Alexander said. “Everything got restructured, reformalized, re-whatevered. [Repilot] kind of kicks off our new style of music.”

The band rebranded its logo and got a new website where it sends out monthly, if not biweekly, newsletters to its fans. The new logo and the album art were done by Sara Krivicich, an Ohio artist, Alexander said.

The album itself is made up of 10 tracks, five of which Baker wrote. The songs were written before the pandemic, but were recorded mid-pandemic.

“It was really important for me to get my music out there since half of it was from me,” Baker said. “This is a way that I can present myself to the world. This is my music. I hope people enjoy it and if they enjoy it, I can write more. And maybe people will want more.”

The overall album has an upbeat tone.

“I think we just have a lot of fun playing together,” Ian Harrah, who plays trumpet, said.

However, recording in the midst of the pandemic did produce some concerns.

“We were probably in the absolute worst situation we could be in because we're a band of eight people and seven of us have basically these giant tubes where we're blowing air and spit through,” Baker said. “It's like exactly what you're not supposed to do. We had to basically split the album up because we couldn't have the whole band in there all the time.”

The rhythm section would record first with a couple of horns, and then the other instruments would come in and record over top, Frankie Wantuch, who plays the alto saxophone, said. However, the entire band came in to record Spirit because, “You can't cut around that,” Baker said.

Although the album is new, the band members wrote the songs a little over a year ago.

“I'd say around last winter and last fall of 2019, we decided to make an album because we were writing a few new tunes,” Alexander said. “We set a deadline for anyone [who was going to] write a new tune…and that deadline was reached by December 2020.”

Looking back, Baker said it’s almost hard to listen to the tunes because they’re a year old.

“A year in shut-down, at home practicing,” Baker said. “I think if we had our way, we would record the album again. We've all practiced since then, we've rehearsed. We know the music better. I think that's what makes the album itself. It's a little bit sloppy, but that's kind of the idea. With brass band music in general, that's the idea, it's sloppy, a lot of it is improvised, but it's tight, meaningful, it's coming from an honest place.”

For the new band members, this is the first album that they’ve written songs for.

“This is my first album that has music that I composed on it,” Harrah said. “I've been writing music for a long time, but I've never had a whole slew of people playing it and an actual audio engineer helping us put it together. So it's really fun; I was grateful to get to do it.”

Since moving to Columbus, the band has played larger venues like Brothers Drake Meadery, Strongwater Food and Spirits, the Jazz & Rib Fest and the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.

But they didn’t start that way. In Athens, the band would play street music – literally on the street. The bandmates first started recording covers, which inspired them to write their first album.

“(Repilot) is really who we are in terms of the music we play,” Wantuch said. “Bands are ever changing over time. I'm really excited for how we sound and what we're saying, musically. I think the number one thing that our voice says is to just have fun and be carefree.”

Looking forward, the band wants to play more outside shows. If the pandemic improves, the group is planning on having a busy summer and fall season.

“Be on the lookout for possibly new music videos with these songs [and] definitely some new collaborations,” Alexander said.

Every member of Largemouth Brass Band is proud to be a part of something so special.

“We just wanna get our name out there because we are so proud of what we have put together,” Wantuch said. “It's important to be supporting your local artists, and it doesn't cost a dime to share a post. We just want everyone to be as hyped as we are.”

They also each feel so lucky that they have each other to go on this musical journey.

“When you're in a band, you're basically a small family or group of friends,” Alexander said. “And ever since then, it's worked out pretty well. So we kind of lucked out.” - The Post


"The Sounds of Bustown"

We are joined by half of the Largemouth Brass Band to talk about their new album "Repilot", how the band came to be, and so much more!

Get the album here! -


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This week, we’re joined by members of the Largemouth Brass Band to celebrate the release of their new album, REPILOT.

Chris Hines (trombone), Jocelyn Smallwood (sousaphone/tuba) and Seth Alexander (drums/percussion) join us virtually with music, stories, laughter and so much more…

We chat about the origins of the band at Ohio University and poke a bit of fun at fans of Ohio State. They’re a fantastic band that incorporate many styles that will please most any ear. -


Discography

"Distant" 2021 single
"REPILOT" 2021 album
"Night Lightning" 2020 single
"Largemouth Brass" 2018 album

Photos

Bio

Largemouth Brass Band has one goal: spreading joy through musical performance. The eight-piece band is a fusion of musical experiences ranging from classical to soul to jazz.

The band’s members maintain private lesson studios and teach in central Ohio public schools and universities, all while actively performing year-round. From intimate performances at local venues to major festivals like The Columbus Jazz & Ribs Fest, the group is pushing full speed ahead toward an upcoming year of live-shows and a new album.

Whether it’s through traditional jazz, funk and pop covers or their genre-busting originals, Largemouth Brass Band is working to bring a new generation of brass band music to Columbus and the Midwest.


Band Members