No BS! Brass Band: The Best of What’s Next

Music Features The No BS Brass Band

The No BS! Brass Band’s new album opens with its triumphant declaration: “RVA ALL DAY!” It’s a rally, a rant, a roar, led by 11 brass and percussion players from Richmond, Va., who have combined forces to form a fierce collective that falls somewhere between rowdy marching band and classically trained jazz ensemble.

“It’s kinda like a cheerleading kind of thing for Richmond,” says co-founder Reggie Pace. “I liked the idea of an anthem.”

Pace boasts that RVA’s cool started in the past six years or so. He and Lance Koehler, a California-bred drummer and engineer who came to Richmond via New Orleans, formed No BS! around then, as well, after having played in a number of other bands together around town.

“Richmond, Va. has a strong musical community and arts community,” Pace begins. “When I moved to Richmond when I was 18, I used to sneak into all the clubs with my trombone on my back and I would just pretend like I was in the band, whatever band was playing that night. I would just walk past the door guy like, ‘Oh! Excuse me, man! I gotta get by, get to the stage!’”

Since then, more and more creative types have flocked to RVA. Subsequently, he explains, groups of artists, filmmakers, musicians, dancers and entrepreneurs found their niches in the capital city, all sharing in and building on each other’s successes. Plus, Virginia Commonwealth University (where Pace and a number of the other No BS-ers went to college) has a reputable music conservatory.

Pace continues, “So when me and Lance decided to get the band together, he was like, ‘Yeah, just call up some people you know.’ So I called up my friends and that’s how it came together, super organically.”

And the band name, too, which deserves its own hashtag for real talk, arose pretty naturally. “We played in a couple of other bands together and were always super pissed off by how much bullshit there was,” Pace states. “We were like, ‘Let’s start a band without that.’”

This summer, the No BS! Brass Band releases its third and fourth studio albums, both purportedly still free of BS—RVA All Day and Fight Song: A Tribute to Charles Mingus. The aforementioned is a high-octane tribute to the band’s stomping grounds, while the latter honors the legacy of jazz great Charles Mingus.

Fight Song stemmed from the band’s participation in the Mingus Awareness Project, which holds benefit concerts in Chicago and Richmond to raise funds for organizations supporting individuals with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease (the illness from which Mingus died). The band performed a few Mingus covers for these concerts over the years and decided to arrange six more tunes and release all of them as Fight Song.

“Jazz became such a boring, egghead world,” says Pace. “I wanted [the album] to be something that people can relate to, even though it has the same sophistication in its harmonies and rhythms. It still has tons of room for improvisation in those things. But I wanted it to be wrapped in a package that I thought was fun, rather than just being impressive, just intellectually stimulating.”

For a band that first gained recognition simply by association (members have performed as Bon Iver’s backing band and with indie starlets like Feist, Matthew E. White, Megafaun and Sharon van Etten, as well as with industry matriarchs like Gladys Knight), the No BS! Brass Band finally seems to have found its sound and how to best convey it. The bone-rattling, booty-shaking, fist-pounding brand of brass ferocity has royally rejected genre stereotypes and the band’s passionate hometown pride will make listeners instant believers of the 804.

Even though each of the 11 members is also involved in various other side projects, No BS! will hit the road, mostly up and down the East Coast, this summer. They’ll pack everyone and everything on a converted tour bus dubbed “Meat Wagon” (which is also the name of the righteously funky album closer for RVA All Day).

“It can be cat-wrangling and it can also just be the best,” jokes Pace about touring with so many people and so much brass. “It’s the most amazing machine when we’re just dealing with music. Or even when we’re just hanging out, because we’re all buds before we were a band. It has its ups and downs, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Hometown: Richmond, Va.
Members: Reggie Pace (trombone, percussion), Lance Koehler (drums, vocals, engineer),? Marcus Tenney (trumpet),? Taylor Barnett (trumpet),? Rob Quallich (trumpet), David Hood (saxophones),? Bryan Hooten (trombone),? John Hulley (trombone),? Dillard Watt (bass trombone),? Stefan Demetriadis (contra bass), ?Sam Koff
Albums: RVA All Day and Fight Song: A Tribute to Charles Mingus
For Fans Of: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Memphis Horns, The Roots

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