Hà. Bet you didn’t see this one coming? On the Polaroid displayed above, you can see the following individuals:
Smoov, Cleff, L.T., Hudah, Rocco, Baji, Yoshi, Rocco, Cleff and Cid. (not necessarily in that correct order)
What do they have in common besides being brothers? Horns. That’s right. Sousaphone, Trombone, Trumpet, Baritone. You name it. They can PLAY it. Together they are HYPNOTIC BRASS ENSEMBLE and I had the interesting task to get them àll on 2 Polaroids a while ago in Ghent, Belgium. And trust me. A challenge it was.
If you don’t know Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, well then that is a real shame, because I think (but who am I) they are one of the most interesting bands I have ever seen. Then again, I was probably fashionably late on the boys myself. Oh well. Allow me to introduce you to this extraordinary brotherhood.
Coming from a musical father (to say the least) like Philip Cohran, a critically acclaimed jazz musician, also known for his trumpet work with Sun Ra) it doesn’t come as a big surprise that the boys are born, raised, trained and completely drenched in music, while growing up, searching their own identity in this musical journey that really IS their life. They’ve come a long way, starting out simply humming together, forming their first small bands with awesome names like ‘GANGSTAS WITH A CURFEW‘, and playing their music in the most simple way you can do. On streets and subways.
To finally become HYPNOTIC BRASS ENSEMBLE
Since then, The boys’ platform relocated from the streets, to stages all over the world like Glastonbury Festival, working with people like Mos Def, Tony Allen, playing for Late Jools Holland to climb all the way towards the Gorillaz Plastic Beach album
Impressive journey to say the least? My thoughts exactly.
Ok. Here goes the story.
The Ensemble was booked to play at LEFTO #3. And, if Lefto throws a party, you’d better go… ’cause if not, you might miss out on an exquisite eargasm, because -clearly- the boy got skills in that specific area. The thing is, my beloved partner in crime Jules was out of town, flaunting some cold white mountains of Flaine, France, of all places. After missing out on Mos Def, I could hear her cursing from those same mountains all the way to Belgium. I had no place to stay that night since I -still- don’t have my driver’s license so I decided to go hardcore and go straight for an all-nighter until the first train home at 6h32. I hate doing that, but the feeling of my own, warm bed was more appealing to me more than another sleepover. Last minute, a friend of mine suggested he would come with me, and since hé didn’t have a car either, that meant we could happily do that hardcore sunset journey together. Makes the pain easier to bear if you’re with two right?
When I arrived at the venue, it was already nice and crowed and I was just in time to get me some dark rum by the bar, find a little dark corner where I could observe the boys and enjoy the music. Now, it’s really impressive to see 8 Chi-Town natives (+ drummer) come up on stage, especially if they are nicely ranged one next to the other, raise their horns in sync towards the sky and… blow your fucking socks away! I simply cannot describe in words how amazing their performance was. Standing still was simply not an option and my friend said: “Man, so happy I decided to come along, I honestly don’t think you can hear better music anywhere in Belgium tonight.” I could only but agree.
They really did not steal their name, because the music they produce while blowing their hearts out with every breath they take really IS hypnotizing. It’s jazzy, its rocknroll, it’s hiphop. It’s power. It’s real and I loved every minute of it. For some reason, I was thinking that if I èver should marry, I’d rather give all my bridal-budget to book this band instead of a cheesy honeymoon trip to some Bounty beach and let them blow my guests away with their presence. I’m just saying…that would be money well spend! Then again. I don’t believe in marriage, so we have a problem there.
The boy finished their set with a BANG! and the silence in the venue after they left the stage felt like the first moments after a tornado raged over a little town and left everybody wondering what the fuck just happened. Not that I have ever been in a tornado. But still.
It was time for me to chase that Polaroid. It looked like the boys were not planning on leaving straight away, but were still hanging around, having a drink and talk with some fans while they were handing out some merchandise. In that point of view, it was not very hard to get closer to them. However, l always feel a bit naked without my Jules and the prospects of approaching 8 tattooed boys from Chicago was not something I pull off in a cool, calm, collected, guns blazing manner. I mean, wouldn’t you be at least a lìttle nervous? I know I was. So I decided I would single out one of the brothers and try to explain what I needed and hope for the best.
Suddenly I saw one of the boys leaving the pack and heading for the bar. This was my moment… When he returned I stepped right up to him, introduced myself and while shaking hands I found out I was speaking with L.T. (sousaphone) He looked at the other artists I captured on Polaroid, looked back at me and said: “You do realise this is not going to be easy to get them all together, since they are having fun right now…” Trust me. I had no doubts whatsoever about that part. He continued: “Look, I’ll explain your project to the rest, but promise me that you will tell your readers about our background and our history. We come from a musical family. It’s important for us. Stay here, I’ll come back, asap.”
Some time later, he came back with my much-needed A-OK and asked where I would like to take the picture. I was talking to an old friend at that moment, and since I had no time to lose I grabbed her arm, dragged her with me and instantly promoted her to my assistant and asked her if she could provide me with some backstage pictures. I honestly don’t think she was able to refuse even if she wanted to, when I switch into my Pola-gear, I can be quite…persuasive. 🙂 The backstage was too small to stuff in 8 boys in 1 frame, so I decided to take the boys to the hall where you could check-in your coats, with a big clean white wall.
And then I waited.. One by one, the boys came in. and out. in. out. and in again. aaand out. It was both funny as interesting to try and divide 8 boys into 2 groups of 4 while keeping them in the same room all together.
2 boys in, 1 boy about the leave the perimeter.
preventing 1 from leaving while gently keeping him close towards the white wall perimeter
basically the same story here.
yup. still trying.
and then finally…
I thanked all the boys for their co-operation while politely shaking 8 hands and that was it.
Now. Thàt was the fun part of the night. The not-so fun part was founding out my dear friend hooked himself a stunning 5ft10 model and was not planning on rejoicing me with his company for the rest of the night, for he had warmer options than a cold, early in the morning ride in a wagon. You can’t blame the dude, If I would accidentally bump into – let’s say – a Scandinavian god like Alexander Skarsgard, (preferably in a Generation Kill camouflage outfit) I’d probably experience severe doubts of doing the same myself. That left me standing there, high and dry, all alone, at 03h30 in the morning.
I didn’t really like the prospect of obliged bench drinking just to kill time until my first train, so I made a quick phone call to another friend who was so kind to invite to crash on his sofa. I gladly accepted the invite, so at 4 O’clock I found myself on a sofa accompanied by a fluffy pink rabbit that appeared to be the lord of the mansion that was the sofa I was sleeping on. Yes. A fluffy beige-ish rabbit. Turned out my friend and his girlfriend were the proud owner of the fluffiest creamy rabbit I have ever seen, however, and this is where things get interesting, unfortunately I’m kind off deadly allergic to rabbits and this rabbit was walking around all free and fluffy and that was not a good thing for asthmatic people like me. So at 6 O’clock in the morning I dragged myself òff that sofa, and with my last allergic breath, dragged myself towards the station, right on time, to grab the first train home to my warm, safe and pet-free bed.
At 8h30 in the morning, I fell in my bed, completely exhausted, and I asked myself: All this for a Polaroid? What the fuck am I doing? Must. Have. Driverslicence.
PS: Special thanks to Ziggy and his girlfriend for offering a roof over my head. It’s MUCH appreciated. Special shout out to Lucy for playing instant-Jules. Thank you babe…!