East London’s Hackney Colliery Band continue to reinvent the brass band sound for the 21st century with new LP Sharpener, released 15th July. A tour de force of trumpets, trombones, saxes, sousaphone, marching percussion and electronics, the band are as inspired by contemporary rock and electronica as they are New Orleans marching bands and the traditional British brass bands to which their name pays homage.
Formed in 2008 out of a desire to play music that appealed to the feet as much as to the ears, the band has rapidly gained an army of loyal supporters, including radio support from Lauren Laverne, Gilles Peterson, Craig Charles, Huey Morgan, Jamie Cullum, Rob Da Bank and John Kennedy. Since the release of their eponymous debut in 2011, the 9-piece have blown their way into the public consciousness with their energetic and passionate live shows, amassing fans worldwide and reinventing the brass band sound for the modern age.
New LP Sharpener shows the band on fine form and more confident than ever, with powerful new electronic elements and a dance floor sensibility adding to the jazz, rock and soul for which they are known. Building on the strength of their critically-acclaimed original writing, Sharpener has a powerful set of originals at its core, alongside a trio of leftfield covers in the shape of Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box, Kwabs’ Wrong or Right and Three Trapped Tigers’ Cramm. It’s a record that resounds with humour, charm and the hum of the glorious variety of musical genres that emanate from their hometown.
Album opener Jump Then Run echoes the sound of the legendary Moondog, while Gather Your Wits is a roof-raising rumble of brass and rebellious behaviour. Wrong or Right, a soulful version of London soul star Kwabs’ great tune, comes to life with juicy menace before The Morning, an uplifting anthemic arrangement, builds into joyous hedonism. When You Know gives space to the band’s superb jazz chops, while album title track Sharpener is a big, bold, brassy and utterly mesmerising affair.
It’s perhaps the band’s outstanding arrangements which sets them apart. From the intricacies of Timelapse to the introspection of Reawake, from the punky rock groove of It’s Normally Bigger (based on a true story) to the rave jazz of Bread and Circuses, the arrangements throughout showcase writers Olly Blackman, Luke Christie and Steve Pretty’s contrasting styles, able to switch from screaming energy to moody introspection, from cutting-edge jazz to dancefloor rave, and proving that Hackney Colliery Band is not just another party brass band blowing through the usual pop covers.
Alongside their critically-acclaimed releases, Hackney Colliery Band have really stormed the live circuit, selling out two-night runs at Wilton’s Music Hall and the Jazz Café in London, playing main stages of festivals including Field Day, Love Supreme, Wilderness, Cheltenham Jazz Festival and many more, and even performing a 45-minute set in the Olympic stadium as part of the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. On the international circuit they’ve performed in clubs and festivals from Sziget in Hungary to G! Festival in the Faroe Islands, and in countries including Slovenia, Montenegro, Italy, Kosovo, France, Austria, Holland, Germany and Ireland.
But the band are never content to rest on their laurels or to keep things simple, and are keen collaborators. Over the years they’ve run a series of experimental music nights at Ronnie Scott’s, a weekly new material night in venues across London, and worked with collaborators including Amy Winehouse, Fyfe Dangerfield, Eliza Doolittle, Jamie Cullum, Andreya Triana, Williams Fairey Band, Rhodes and DJ Yoda. More leftfield collaborations have even included working with a sausage maker on the ‘Hackney Colliery Banger’ and with legendary London brewery Truman’s on their own hugely popular ale ‘Bold as Brass’!
They have performed live sessions on Radio 2 and Jazz FM and their performances have been featured on BBC Two (The Culture Show), Sky Arts (Brass Band Wonderland) and live at the BRIT, Mercury and MOBO awards.
With Sharpener their most exciting work to date, a tour taking in more venues than ever before and a collaborative EP out in the autumn, 2016 looks set to be a huge year for Hackney Colliery Band.