The Experimental Approach | Lucky Chops

w/ Gogol Bordello | 11.01.17 | The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd. | $25 in advance, $27.50 day of show

The Arts STL caught up with Josh Holcomb, trombonist for the band Lucky Chops, a brass band from NYC known for their high-energy mix of funk, jazz, pop, and New Orleans-style brass music. The core of the band formed at LaGuardia Music and Performing Arts High School (the inspiration for the musical Fame). They also spent time playing for tips in the subway before being propelled into touring when a tourist filmed a viral video of their performance. Lucky Chops will be opening for Gogol Bordello at the Pageant on Wednesday, November 1st.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

TheArtsSTL: So what is Lucky Chops up to? Sounds like you’re out on a pretty big tour.

Josh Holcomb: Yep. We’re on a tour right now supporting a band called Gogol Bordello. We’re on a six month tour with them, so it’s awesome.

That seems like an interesting band to tour with.

Yeah, for sure. A lot of energy.

It’s going to be a fun show with you guys paired with them. All right, so besides the tour, what else are you guys working on?

We’ve got a whole bunch of new music. We try and put out new videos once every few weeks. It’s always a fun thing for us to focus on just creating brass band music videos—which is a new frontier that has just been fun to explore. That’s what we’ve been doing for a long time now. We’re talking about doing a new album in the Spring. We’ve got a lot of new stuff. We’re probably going to do a mixed tape before then, maybe in the Fall. [We’re] always just working on creating new music while we’re not touring.

Do you produce the videos yourself or do you work with other people on the videos?

Yeah, we usually just try and find cool people to collaborate with to produce the videos. That’s always a fun, creative, partnership.

Do you have any new instrumentation or anything that you’re doing differently that what you’ve done in the past?

Yeah, we always try and spice up our arrangements when we play them live, just ‘cause lots of us have backgrounds in jazz music so we have to keep ourselves on our toes a little bit. So we change it up all the time. We’ve created new elements to our songs on the spot, pretty much every night, which is always really fun.

What can you tell us about playing trombone that drew you to that instrument?

I’ve always liked the trombone because it has a similar sound to a tenor male voice. I always liked that aspect of it because it doesn’t have keys or valves that lock you into a pitch. It has a slide, which is more loose, just like a voice, which also doesn’t have specific keys or valves, or anything like that. You can have a little bit more liberties with your notes and be a little bit more expressive, which I’ve always really liked.

I saw that your background and the background of some of your bandmates were that you started as band kids. It’s got to be inspiring to school-aged kids that are playing now to see you guys traveling the world with this music. Do you get a chance to interact with any kids that are in band?

Yeah, a lot. We want to hopefully help inspire the next generation of kids to really fall in love with music. We go to schools when we’re on tour, during the daytime in whatever cities we’re in. We’ll go and play for the kids and their school and get to hang out with them all day, just to show them that there’s a life out there for music, especially for the band instruments that they play. We’re just showing them that it’s possible to do this as a full-time band career.

Do you have any recent influences or anything that you’re listening to a lot?

Yeah, I think we’re all really influenced by so many different styles, which is a reflection of our cities. Since we’re from New York City, there are so many different cultures and just constant new trends and styles going on all the time there. We try to have our music be a reflection of all of those tons of influences being mashed up together in one sound. These days, I’m listening to a lot of Brazilian music from the 1920s. It’s been really cool.

What’s your process for writing or arranging songs? Does everybody work on their part or is it a collaborative effort?

It’s different for every song. We love experimenting with different approaches. Lots of times, someone will bring in an idea and then we’ll flesh it out altogether and add our parts…just grow it organically like that. Other times, somebody will come in with a song that’s already totally done, all the parts are already there. They’ll bring it in and we’ll learn it. Other times, we’ll just jam and then that becomes a song. So it’s all different approaches, which keeps it nice and fresh. | Karl Beck

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