After tearing up the mainstage with one of the best performances at this year’s Standon Calling, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble gave Burn FM an insight into their writing process, musical inspiration and the motivation behind their independence, ahead of the release of their new album ‘Bad Boys of Jazz’.
How did Hypnotic Brass Ensemble come to form?
We are a family band, all the music we play is originally written and it comes directly from our father (Jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran) and the training he gave us before we were really old enough to know what we were getting. We’re not only blood brothers, we grew up as fellow students – only playing with each other. Like a lot of musicians play in ‘this band’ or ‘that band’, we’ve not only always played with each other, but also trained with each other which gives us this deep, inbred unity.
Your songs are full of complex arrangements and stacked with different parts. Can you give any insight into the writing process?
A lot of the new stuff on ‘Bad Boys of Jazz’ is actually individually written by our brother. But the classics like Ballicki Bone and War, we sit and write it together, which can be real hard all 8 guys just sitting down to write together. We don’t commit it to paper when we’re writing, it’s just about memories, soul and spirit, I don’t want to go too far into it cause Hypnotic have got a lot of imitators out there. Shout out to those guys…
You guys have a very original and unique sound, how have you managed to avoid these ‘imitators’…
Man, as soon as we start to feel like someone is getting close to our sound, we change it up again; like, as you noticed, we don’t play with the tuba any more. I mean we reserve the right to stick it on a recording or bust it out on y’all at a concert, but overall we’re just switching it up because we’re trying to grow into something of longevity. We’re still young dudes, we’re trying to be doing this when we’re in our sixties, just getting into our master level.
How would you describe your sound?
It’s summed up in one word, its ‘hypnotic’. Or you could use another one word ‘cosmic’. Or you could use two words ‘now music’. What we’re doing is ushering in something new, that’s never been seen before. As artists, we were taught that you had to bring something that the world has never seen. Each one of us has our own DNA, our own fingerprints and footprints, so you have to leave your mark and your impact on the world, and that’s what we’re trying to do with music. We could get out here and play everybody’s cover and ‘hypnoticise’ their songs, but you’ll get more substance from us if we’re creating. When our dad taught us, it wasn’t just music; it was astronomy, it was mathematics, it was anatomy. So to us, music is very much like one of the sciences. All of us were named after stars, so everything we do is based around a centre energy to the heavens. When we started out we couldn’t afford to just have ‘jazz’ fans, which is what they call you when they see you’re on horns, and we couldn’t afford to just have ‘hip hop’ fans which everyone would call us when they see we’re from south side of Chicago. So we had to really have the rock fans, the blues fans, the hip hop fans, the old Duke Ellington fans. It’s the fusion of these things that makes us, and we want our music to work in 5,000 AD or 5,000 BC.
You guys are completely independent, what is the motivation behind that?
I mean, we’d love another company to come on and invest the marketing and everything and do it like we would like to. The difference is, when companies come along they’re like ‘why don’t you do it like this?’ or ‘why don’t you play that song like this?’ or ‘why don’t call yourself this?’, so we just felt like going back to doing our own thing. Hypnotic have turned down three record deals, we could’ve just been on TV smashing it, but we did it on our own. We played with Prince, our music has won Grammy’s, we rock with Gorillaz,’HBE are the live band behind Gorillaz). So we’ve done the stuff, but remained independent throughout, cause we’re just trying to maintain creative control and direction cause we want longevity. By the time we’re finished we’ll have the daughter, the mum and the grandmother in the crowd enjoying the music.
When’s the new album ‘Bad Boys of Jazz’ coming out?
Coming soon man, coming soon.