Drums & Tuba make some noise at Elixir

Drums & Tuba’s Neal McKeeby channels his inner Alexander Graham Bell.
Drums & Tuba’s Neal McKeeby channels his inner Alexander Graham Bell.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of publicemily.com
“Mmm, your selection of deodorant is superb.”
“Mmm, your selection of deodorant is superb.”
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of lansingcitypulse.com

Interview: Drums & Tuba

“We’re not a hippie band,” contests Tony Nozero of Drums & Tuba.

“We may do hippie things, but it’s not just, like, soloing for two hours. People will get a lot of different things at our show.”

The simplicity that their name suggests is a blatant contradiction to their diverse sound. Don’t be fooled. This Austin, Texas band isn’t about dressing up in uniforms and playing John Philip Sousa medleys between football games at KCVI.

“What we’re doing now is so far removed from the name of the band,” Nozero says.

After having cut their teeth as a two-piece playing stripped-down instrumental music, Brian Wolff (the tuba) and Tony Nozero (the drums) joined forces with fellow Austinite Neal McKeeby. Drums & Tuba’s ranks thus swelled to include guitar, electronic looping, and samplers to make them the musical equivalent of Chex Party Mix. While you won’t find those awfully stale cheesies in the bowl, you will find a sonic blast of noise to keep the patchouli-oiled heads of jam-band kids and the asymmetrical haircut indie kids nodding along.

With the advent of their new record, the trio have added vocals into their eclectic mix. Nozero assures the addition of vocals to their new music is in no way a betrayal of their original conception of the band or an attempt to make their music more accessible.

“Our sound has been getting denser and denser over the years, and with the vocals it’s just like adding a new layer,” Nozero says. “It’s more about experimenting with sound and using the band as a launch pad for that.” “Experimental” musical performances are often nothing short of an exercise in self-gratification on the part of the performer, but in the case of Drums & Tuba, the audience response has almost always been positive.

“We hardly ever play to an audience that just hates us. There’s usually something in the music that they can relate to, or think is interesting or funny.”

The effect they’ve had on their audience has helped them overcome genre-based presuppositions about their music and landed them tours with the likes of Cake and Les Claypool.

“It’s definitely diverse,” Nozero says. “We get all kinds of people coming to the shows from all sorts of scenes and walks of life. It’s just whoever is interested.”

Drums & Tuba are currently hitting the road with their new record Battles Olé, which Nozero describes as long, difficult process.

“The title sort of references our journey through recording. It was [a] long and arduous process making the album. We were going through all sorts of changes. We had been on the road for a few years pretty hard [and] we were getting really burnt out. We wanted to change things up because we had sort of been in a rut doing the same things and we totally did what we never wanted to do, we stopped moving forward and settled into this thing we kept doing over and over. “We didn’t give ourselves enough time to write new material. We just weren’t happy. It was really difficult to find a way to be happy playing music again. It was a battle. And at the end of it we got through it all, which was really cool and we can just sort of look back and say olé.”

Their latest album—out on Ani DiFranco’s label, Righteous Babe Records—has definitely helped Drums & Tuba gain considerable national attention since their signing in 2000.

“It’s cool,” Nozero says. “They’re really good to us. We’re friends with Ani and she was just really cool to take a chance on us in the first place because she liked the band.

It was pivotal to our career. All of the sudden we’re on the map and in magazines.”

Drums & Tuba roll into town this Thursday at Elixir. They’re eager to experience all that Kingston has to offer, including that foreign, cheesy, gravy-smothered substance we like to call Bubba’s poutine.

“Brian’s always into getting the poutine,” Nozero says. “He just goes on and on about it. He’ll talk about it a week before we’re there and a week after.”

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