Since October 2007, seven students from Rochester’s Eastman School of Music calling themselves The Po’Boys Brass Band have been creating a new genre of New Orleans brass funk rock. Using jazz instruments to create an un-jazz-like sound, The Po’Boys Brass Band will play at 9 p.m. Sunday at Castaways with local band The Buddhi. Staff Writer Sarah McCarthy spoke with trombone player and founding member Erik Jacobs about bringing New Orleans flavor to upstate New York, covering Led Zeppelin and finding a fan base that fits.
Sarah McCarthy: How did [the Po’Boys] form?
Erik Jacobs: I was in the Marine den in New Orleans, and I’ve always loved New Orleans music and funky brass-band stuff. Brass instruments are like rock-star instruments [there]. [I thought], “That’s really cool!” ’cause I’m a classical trombone player. When I left the Marines and moved to Rochester to go to school at Eastman, I found a group of guys who were perfect for this.
SM: What are your immediate and long-term career goals?
EJ: We are committed to a six-CD record deal with an indie label in Rochester called Black Dog Media Group Records, so we’re in it for the long haul. Our major goals are to spread the word, have a great time doing what we’re doing and hopefully get paid for it.
SM: What are your major influences as a band?
EJ: Parliament Funkadelic and Tower of Power [are] big ones, but on the New Orleans side, we give props to Bonerama. They’re a big-brass funk-rock band with the same instruments as us. Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Buster Brother, New Orleans Cats, Zeppelin, Skynard — I love them.
SM: If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
EJ: We were just accepted as an artist for the Rochester Jazz Fest this year, and we’re going to be playing right before Tower of Power. It’s exciting to have an opportunity to be in the presence of those guys. [It] would be cool if we got to jam with them.
SM: I know Rochester has a jazz scene [because of Jazz Fest]. What do you guys bring to that?
EJ: We bring that we’re not really a jazz band, but we use traditional jazz instruments. People see the trombone and the tuba, and think, “That must be some kind of jazz band.” But we play hard-core funk-rock stuff, Hendrix and Zeppelin — stuff like that.
SM: What do you think your biggest challenge as a band has been so far?
EJ: Our greatest strength and weakness is that we’re a band that exists in all of these different genres. We play everything from classic-rock covers to real fast funk stuff, to traditional New Orleans second line. If you’re an emo-punk band, then you’re going to go after the emo-punk crowd. If you’re a purely funk band, then you’re going to go after a purely funk crowd. The toughest thing is that we don’t really have a single crowd base that we can go after. We’re appealing to many crowds; the challenge is finding one target audience and sticking with it.
SM: What can Ithaca expect from your performance?
EJ: Their asses will be on fire! No, I’m just kidding. They can expect a lot of fun, something completely different than anything they’ve ever heard before. The Buddhi is playing with us; they’re more mainstream funk rock. Typically, when we play for a new city and a new crowd, they see a guy come up on stage with a tuba, and they go, “What the heck is this?” And then when they hear us play, they love it. [The audience] needs to expect to dance and have a good time.
SM: What do you feel is the most rewarding part about being in the Po’Boys?
EJ: To get up on stage in front of a big group of people, to play your own music and have people really enjoy it, connect with it, and love it. I’ve played for presidents, I’ve played a lot of shows, had a lot of great experiences, and it just doesn’t get better than people screaming for your music. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.