INTERVIEW WITH THE BOOKA BRASS BAND

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

first published in @The Evening Echo 2015-03-12

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The Booka Brass Band, widely regarded as one of the most exciting live bands to develop in Ireland in recent years, have after many exhilarating concerts around the country finally recorded some music in the form of a 4 track EP which was released last month. Paul Kiernan, one of the two trumpeters in the eight-piece band spoke with Ronan Leonard about their return to Cork and how the band works together.

The practice room is where they let new songs develop, a process they don’t rush, “what usually happens is a person comes into the room with an idea for a melody line, so we put a drum line to it first and keep jamming it out till we have something we are happy with. Sometimes two people might come in early before practice and mess around with a few ideas for us to work with. We spend a lot of time on the songs, we are very careful with them.”

They decided to be quite selective about what they put on their debut record, “all of the songs on the EP are original material, we have others done too but these four are ones we are really comfortable with and enjoy listening to ourselves. They show a wide variety of the styles we play, the good thing about the brass band is that we can cover nearly every style of music there is. Three of the tracks have solos too so we can show those lead instruments; trumpet, trombone and saxophone.”

The tight dynamic within the band meant they could work fast and of their own accord when they went into the studio, Paul continued, “we didn’t need a producer for this EP, we did it section by section, firstly the drums and bass, and then the saxophone section together, or the trombone or trumpet, depending on where the melody was, and then we’d fill in the rest.”

Their lack of a need to use a producer carries through with how they arrange and perform live, “we don’t use a conductor, when it comes to the music everyone’s opinion matters as much as the next person, we’re all there to write and perform music as good as we can. So we all want an input, even if a specific idea isn’t taken on board we put everything we have on the table. We all know that we are all trying to improve the sound so nobody takes things personally.”

While all eight members take the band seriously, when they first started they didn’t have a specific goal, “when we started we had no plan, it was just to try it out. We’re all classically trained musicians so we knew each other through orchestras and things like that. We just started out jamming out tracks, and then over time we put a programme together and then decided we wanted to try it out in front of an audience and see what they think. We got a really good response after our debut gig in Sweeneys and it’s all developed from there.”

The name of the band was something they didn’t worry about too much, “it’s not even a pun, it was a word that just sounded good, we were saying ‘BOO-KA Brass Band’ and didn’t click it could be taken as ‘Book-A Brass Band’. We weren’t trying to be funny.”

The gigging that comes with promoting a record is something Paul and the rest of the band are looking forward to, “the live element is as important for us as it is for the audience, it’s the most exciting part, when the audience responds as good as they always do we just come off the stage smiling and can’t stop smiling for the rest of the night. The live experience is just so different from listening to music on your phone – it can’t be compared! We always try and introduce different covers to our sets to keep us on our toes, we’re always adding new original material too, of course there’s some songs that we play that people love so we can’t drop them and we love playing them too anyway. We’re really happy with the set at the moment and it’s got a good reaction on this tour so far.”

For one member of the band it’s a return to the city, “Jack Marks, who plays Tuba, is from Cork, so we’ve spent a lot of time down there. A lot of us know each other from the National Youth Orchestra so we have quite a Cork connection that way too and of course we’ve played the last few Jazz Festivals, a great city and great critic.”

The Booka Brass Band play The Oliver Plunkett on Saturday 28 March. Tickets are €10 and available via www.entertainment.ie/tickets

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