The Funkrust Brass Band is a 20-piece “post-apocalyptic disco-punk brass band playing all original music with megaphone vocals, heavy tuba bass lines, thundering percussion and searing brass melodies.” If that doesn’t scare you off then they have albums and videos you’ll probably love.
The band is part of a growing brass band scene in Brooklyn. They reached out even while acknowledging they might not be a perfect fit for this paper because I had previously covered a similar large ensemble of young New Orleans musicians called the Wit’s End Brass Band. Wit’s End has a Spanish tinged classic New Orleans sound, Funkrust is more experimental and modern.
The heart of both groups remains in the street brass personified by New Orleans parades. The Funkrust sound will feel more unusual to someone coming from an EDM background than someone familiar with the Rebirth Brass Band or New Orleans jazz.
The group formed in 2014, the vision of Phil Andrews and his partner Ellia Bisker. She writes and sings the vocals, publicly leading the band at appearances. She also leads the band Sweet Soubrette, and is half of the goth-folk duo Charming Disaster.
Andrews is a veteran of the 30 piece marching crew known as the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, the bluegrass punk fusion group Apocalypse Five & Dime, and the Miss Rockaway Armada, an art project that sailed down the Mississippi from Minnesota to New Orleans on make shift rafts.
The crossover of punk rock and traditional jazz among artistically minded young people has always interested me. When I mentioned it to Andrews he agreed for the most part but said “strangely enough, half my band came from classical / symphonic backgrounds and are just now getting into the street brass scene, punk, etc.”
That certainly explains the skill on display in their performances. They didn’t just grab people off the street and hand them a drum. Funkrust takes their dystopia seriously. The band includes trumpets, trombones, saxes, tubas, bass drums, snares, other percussion and the vocals, delivered through a megaphone even on stage, are remarkably fitting to the sound.
The premise of the band is that after the apocalypse the only music will be acoustic, “the music of the apocalypse isn’t death metal—it’s brass.” The band exists to bring catharsis and hope to the survivors. They’ve done so at music festivals all over the North East and as far away as Austin Texas and Washington State.
Funkrust’s debut album, the seven track Dark City, was released in 2017, and a four track song and video cycle entitled Bones and Burning was released in November 2019. All of their titles are exciting parades of musical ideas set to a funky beat.
As crazy and colorful as all this sounds when you get down to it they play some dance worthy funky brass that most New Orleans music fans will love. In times that feel ever more apocalyptic the Funkrust Brass Band is ready to brighten your day.