Dakhla Brass

Armed with a trumpet, two saxophones, a trombone and a drum kit, Dakhla Brass use their compositions to explore the magic of the brass sound - we meet them ahead of their performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2016…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 30 Jun 2016
  • min read
Armed with a trumpet, two saxophones, a trombone and a drum kit, Dakhla Brass use their compositions to explore the magic of the contemporary brass sound and scene.

Hailing from Bristol, the group have released three albums over the last five years and shared stages with the fellow proponents of the sound, the Youngblood and Hot 8 Brass Bands. To add to their list of accolades, the group will be taking their music to the Montreal Jazz Festival this weekend courtesy of BBC Introducing and the PRS for Music Foundation. Ahead of their performance at the event, Charlotte and Matt from the band let us in on musical inspirations and what they are hoping for from their Canadian visit...

How did you first get into music?

Charlotte - I started learning piano when I was five and have played various instruments since then. I started playing in bands when I was 22 and started playing the Bari Sax then.

Matt - I stayed late after school one day when I was 13 and a friend taught me a drumbeat. All I remember is being completely hooked from then.

Who or what inspired you to start writing your own music and compositions?

Charlotte - The bands I have been in have always played original music so it was only natural that I would get involved. I find it so more satisfying playing original music than covers, the process of writing is a massive part of being a musician to me. I definitely find that the more I'm playing, the more inspired I am. That can be in bands, rehearsing or gigging, or just playing classical piano on my own.

Matt - I had always wanted to write my own music since starting the drums, but didn't start until after school when I took up guitar. I wanted to be more than just the drummer. I wanted to be involved in everything. Dakhla Brass has always felt like a very natural outlet for me. I am constantly inspired by everyone in the band and feel very lucky to have found such a project and group of people to be surrounded with.

How do you approach the creative process and your songwriting?

Charlotte - When I write on the sax it’s just noodling. This eventually becomes fixed riffs and lines. Then I'll either record on a four track to add other parts, or take it to the piano and write it down. To me, the line up of Dakhla Brass is so inspiring and exciting that I find writing really easy. Sometimes I'll write the whole tune, other times it’s just a small idea that gets developed with the rest of the band.

Matt - It varies lots. Sometimes I start with drums and come up with beats, structures and arrangements and then fit the rest around that. Sometimes a whole idea will come out on the guitar and other times I have a small melody, riff or beat that the rest of the band evolve together. I think it’s good to find different songwriting approaches to, keep yourself on your toes.

For those unfamiliar with your and your music, what should they listen to first?

Matt - We have self-released three albums now with slight changes to the line up. I feel our latest (Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla) best represents us so far, although I think the next will do even better. The addition of trombone has really bulked up the sound. Each album is very different and has drawn from different inspirations, so just check it all out!

Congratulations on your funding to the Montreal Jazz Festival - what are you hoping to get/experience from the event?

Matt - None of us can quite believe it's happening but we can't wait to showcase 40 minutes of our best music to everyone as well as BBC Radio 2. Jamie Cullum, BBC Introducing and PRS for Music have been really good to us over the years and this time they have outdone themselves. We are eternally grateful.

Also it's some (maybe all) of our first time in Canada so we can't wait to see the place. We've heard nothing but amazing things.

What are your thoughts on the health of jazz music? Are there plenty of opportunities for new artists?

Matt - BBC Introducing are working very hard at giving new bands opportunities across the country and beyond. However, it can be very tricky, especially for alternate/modern jazz bands doing everything off of their own backs. In our experience lots of jazz venues still have very traditional views when booking bands but that’s what their audience ask and turn up for, (so we need to get other generations into jazz somehow).

Which new artists are getting you excited?

Matt - We all listen to a very wide variety of music but current and new artists doing it for me in and out of Jazz are Warpaint, Tonbruket, Dawn Of Midi, Grizzly Bear, MMW, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, Tame Impala, The Brackish, The Evil Usses and many more. I'm still spending a lot of time making my way through all the old stuff too though!  I'm also really excited to hear the two other bands on the bill with us - Remi Harris and Mirror Signals both of whom I've heard really great things about.

Who would be your dream collaborator?

Matt - Radiohead and or Bjork!

What does the future hold?

Lots and lots more composing, arranging, improvising, recording, touring, traveling, collaborating, admin, practicing, queuing, lack of sleep, rehearsing …

Any advice for young and aspiring songwriters?

Don't be afraid to push any boundaries you want and most importantly make sure you're being honest and having fun while doing it!


Read our interviews with fellow BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation recipients Mirror Signal and Remi Harris.