This KGNU interview features Shane Jonas (trumpet and lead vocals) and MC Billa Camp of the LowDown Brass Band. It covers the band’s unique sound, their influences, the band members, their history, their upcoming single and album, and their upcoming show at Denver’s Globe Hall on Thursday, February 8th.
Steve Roby: The Chicago-based Lowdown Brass Band is coming to Denver’s Globe Hall on February 8th, But before that happens, the group’s MC, Billa Camp, and lead singer, Shane Jonas, are here to discuss their new single, album, and upcoming show.
Thanks for joining us on KGNU, guys!
Billa Camp: Hey Steven, thanks for having us.
Shane: Hey, Steve, how you doing?
Steve: Real good. Thanks for joining us on KGNU.
Shane: Yes, sir. Thank you.
Steve: Let’s talk about the group’s sound.
For those who haven’t heard your music, it’s a mix of hip-hop, jazz, and New Orleans horns. You also bring a Chicago edge to the mix. How did this all come together?
Billa: Lowdown was originally influenced by the legendary New Orleans brass bands like Dirty Dozen and Rebirth, but also hip-hop artists like Ricky B, who merged hip-hop with a brass band. When the band decided to kind of incorporate me into the sound as an emcee, then that’s when we began to experiment outside of the traditional brass band sound.
It was very gradual because the band was split down the middle between traditional and modernization. But consistent touring taught us a lot about what the audience liked and didn’t like. And, what the audience was willing to accept from a brass band sonically, especially when you have “brass band” in your name. So, it was a journey.
Steve: Can you introduce us to the band members?
Shane: Yeah, sure. Well, there’s Anthony Billa Camp, who you just heard from. My name is Shane Jonas. I’m the singer and trumpet player. we also have another trumpet player in the band. His name is Sam Johnson. two trombone players, Matthew Davis and Andrew Zellm. sousaphone player, Lance Loisel, and a drummer, John Barbush.
Steve: How did the group come together? How long have you been together, and what inspired you to form this band?
Shane: Well, the band’s been together a long time. And just like Bill has said, it’s gone through many different versions over the years. One day we were sitting around, just a bunch of the horn players in Chicago, just kind of being friends, playing in a bunch of different types of bands. We got into that New Orleans sound for a while, and we started kind of like [playing] that traditional thing.
But one of the cool things about the band, even back then, was we always wrote our original music. and just over time, the band just started to involve all those things, all those genres that the horns had played in Chicago over the years. In Chicago, there’s all kinds of music, all kinds of genres, and all of them want to add horns on to the bands.
Because of that, all the horn players in this band have played in funk bands, soul bands, and reggae bands. Latin bands, gospel bands, you name it, and all of a sudden that influence started to show up in our writing, and the band sound just kind of slowly changed over time.
I’d say in this iteration, though, the band’s probably been in this format for about the last like five or six years.
Steve: What would you say is the Chicago edge in the mix of the sound?
Shane: Chicago is like a mecca of music. There’s such a big genre. Of course, it’s known for like the blues, and it has this connection with New Orleans kind of where, you know, Louis Armstrong came up the river, came up here, even met with Big Spider Beck, and Chicago has this classic, Gospel mixed with soul sound that shows up in all of our hip hop and R& B and, classic bands like Earth, Wind & Fire.
In fact, one of the comments we get a lot is that you guys remind us of a modern-day Earth, Wind Fire. cause we just hit a lot of the genres and the music is based around dance, but the lyrics can get deep and pretty spiritual.
Steve: Well, let’s listen to a sample of your latest single called So Long. It’s off the upcoming album,$itizens Of The World. Who wants to tell me about “So Long”?
Billa: “So Long” is a love song, and it’s about yearning for that moment when you and that person meet again. You know, the time frame could be days, weeks, months, or even years, but You can’t stop thinking about the times you spent together in the past and daydreaming about how amazing it’ll be the next time y’all see each other, you know, it’s set over a moody kind of mid-tempo beat, which lends focus to the storytelling and it’s capped off with an amazing hook and of course, great horn lines and it’s just it boom bap traditional hip hop beat We brass banded out, and it’s one of my favorite songs on the album.
Steve: I understand you have a new single coming out on February 23rd, in just a couple of weeks, and the new album will drop sometime around April or May. What’s the new single titled, and what can we look forward to on the new album?
Shane: The new single is called “Activate.” And it’s another kind of just like a foray into another genre for us, kind of a little EDMie, a great hook, great, um, high energy dance hall vibe. And yeah, we’re really looking forward to it coming out.
Steve: And the new album $itizens Of The World?
Shane: Oh, man. Well, you’re going to hear a little bit more of what you’ve heard on the last couple of albums, but even more of an evolution of our sound to new sounds, new genres, new ways to, grab the audience’s attention, and show what the brass band genre can really do, uh, and show that, you know, this, music belongs on the radio right next to some of all of our favorite, uh, pop artists.
Steve: Well, let’s discuss your show at Globe Hall on Thursday, February 8th. What can fans look forward to? What’s the night going to be like?
Billa: Man, it will be high energy, great energy, good energy. We will make sure we show nothing but love to the crowd. And cause one of the main things that we always say during the show is to make sure you pass that good energy on. And you know, with so much going on in the world right now, it’s all about.
Just coming out and having a good time and making sure you leave feeling fulfilled and, with the spirit of good energy and taking that and passing that on to someone else, you know, to maybe brighten up their day, and that’s what it’s all about for us.
Shane: I mean, a hundred percent. I mean, Bella pretty much hit it. I mean, coming to a LowDown show is it’s a high energy event. It’s a fun event. It’s about celebrating life. I mean, if there is one of those things that we take from that, like the New Orleans vibe, and we still carry with us, even though the evolution of the sound, is that it’s a celebration of life.
Every time you come to a show, we really want to show everybody that, “Hey, just forget about your troubles for a little while.” Remember that there’s still some beauty and good times out there in the world. And we’ll do that at Globe Hall.
Steve: It’s been a great pleasure, guys. Thank you, Billa. Thank you, Shane. Thanks for stopping by KGNU today. We’re looking forward to your upcoming show in Denver.
Billa: Thank you, Steve.
Shane: thank you, Steve. Appreciate you, man.
KGNU Presents the Lowdown Brass Band with Simple Syrup on Thursday, February 8th, at Denver Globe Hall. Showtime is 8 p.m., and doors open at 7. For tickets and more info, please visit Globe Hall dot com.
Photos: Janet Takayama
About the author: From the San Francisco Bay Area to the Big Island of Hawaii, Steve Roby has worked as a journalist, entertainment photographer, magazine editor, radio host (San Francisco, Hawaii, and Denver), and video documentarian. Since 1989, he has been writing about music and interviewing musicians. Roby is also a published author of three books, one on the L.A. Times Non-Fiction Hardcover Best Seller List.