We’re breaking with tradition here and putting the spotlight on a made-in-Winnipeg group rather than an individual artist. The Dirty Catfish Brass Band has been adding some spark to the local scene for the past three or four years, popping up on street corners and football fields (as well as festivals and concerts) and sharing their terrific musicianship and unrestrained enthusiasm for an eclectic range of music. If you’re nearby when the DCBB rolls out, you’ll find yourself dancing and singing along—and no doubt smiling too. The ten-piece band consists of: Todd Martin (mellophone, harmonica, vocals), Andrew Littleford (trumpet), Simon Christie (trumpet), Joel Green (trombone), Graham Dion (bari & alto sax), Kyle Wedlake (tenor sax), Aaron Chodirker (keyboard), Steve Oberheu (sousaphone/bass), and Cody Iwasiuk (drums), and the newly added Scott Senior (percussion & vibe). I asked Simon Christie to give me the inside scoop.
How did the Dirty Catfish Brass Band get started?
DCBB got together in the fall of 2011 after a gumbo-filled trip to New Orleans left keyboardist Aaron Chodirker inspired to bring back some of that Cajun spice to Winnipeg’s music scene. It’s a great group of musicians, many of whom are gifted arrangers, and we all like to work hard—and play even harder. Last June we released our debut album Brass Riot, an unapologetically hard-hitting, horn-heavy collection of original compositions and New Orleans classics, to a sold-out audience at the West End Cultural Centre. It was a great experience through and through.
How would you describe the vision of the band?
We’re extending the lineage of the New Orleans brass band with that raw party energy but adding each of our distinctive voices to it. Many of us have grown up listening to and playing funk and soul music so incorporating that into the traditional sound has been a lot of fun. An important part of what we do is to bring parade and party energy out to every show we play whether it’s on the street or the stage. (Or the field, in the case of the stadium—we’re really happy to be out there injecting infectious energy into the crowds at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ home games!) Ultimately it’s a philosophy as much as a style: we want to infuse the street corners and alleyways of this city with soul and love. We want to create spaces where communities can to come together and share in the universal love of rhythm.
What kind of projects are you working on?
We’ve had a really busy summer, with shows at the Jazz Festival, the Fringe Festival, the Trout Forest Music Festival, minstrelling at the Folk Festival, and a bunch of impromptu hits in various neighbourhoods. We’ve got lots of stuff lined up for the fall as well including an amazing collaborative project with Dr. Hot Bottom called the Hot and Dirty Dance Party. All of the playing we’ve been doing has got our creative juices flowing, resulting in an explosion of new compositions and some amazing arrangements of songs you might not expect to hear from a brass band. You can check out our arrangements of “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and “Electric Lady” by Janelle Monaé on YouTube—they give you an idea of the sound we’re going for.
What’s next for the Dirty Catfish?
The band has big aspirations for the future, including jumping back into the studio to record a second album, releasing a new video each month on our YouTube channel, and planning a 2016 tour. Exciting stuff! You can follow our plans on our website (dirtycatfishbrassband.com), as well as Facebook and Twitter. Or just keep your ears open for that unmistakable Dirty Catfish Brass Band sound. You won’t be disappointed!