When musician and composer Lance Loiselle formed The LowDown Brass Band, he had no idea his love for New Orleans brass sound would cultivate into a fusion of funk, soul, reggae and hip-hop influences.
Nearly 15 years later, Loiselle leads a group of talented musicians, emcees and composers—each bringing a unique skill to the table and onstage.
Loiselle says, “It’s like a natural progression when we started out. The band’s been together for 15 years. We started out as a New Orleans cover band and it just kind of evolved over the years. The writing got better, the production got better, and we were writing a lot of songs. Many tunes had that hip hop flavor and it just seemed like an obvious next move to bring in emcees,” he explained. “I worked with Anthony [Billa Camp] for years on other projects and I knew he had his own solo project called The Dread. He’s done some really great things with it. It just seemed like the obvious next step was to add the emcee portion, and its really just kind of grown from there.”
As the lead emcee for the band, Southside native Billa has built a solid following for the past 12 years in the hip hop band Trill Logic and The Dread. In addition to writing his own rhymes, he handles a great deal of the video editing and social media for the band.
The band is comprised of 12 band members for home shows and 8 rotating players for shows on the road.
Although Chicago has bred a great tradition of bands from Earth, Wind and Fire to the rock music of Chicago—Loiselle says it was the influence of New Orleans’ Dirty Dozen Brass Band who made the most impact on his musicianship.
“I grew up listening to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. I’ve idolized this one player from that band. They really changed the game as far as what brass bands sound like starting out from the late 1980s. They’ve been together since the 70s and they were working for over 40 years.”
He says learning from them, he noticed how they blended the traditional New Orleans sound as well as mixing funk elements including creating a signature sound. “Over the years they worked with hip hop artists such as Chuck D, NAS and a bunch of different hip hop artists on different tracks,” said Loiselle.
Billa, who grew up in the “wild 100s,” attending school in Morgan Park—eventually moved north when his family left the neighborhood. His love for the music transcended, listening to other artists in the early 1990’s.
“For me definitely The Roots heavily influenced me to enjoy live instruments with hip hop. I feel now I’m kind of addicted to the live sound. I love rock. What’s a track? I love that part of it, but it’s something about when those instruments hit in their room, those drums start cracking and it’s just like you can’t really beat that,” said Billa.
Loiselle agrees. As a college student at DePaul, he studied jazz and started to play keyboards for the hip hop band Trill Logic.
“It just really opened my eyes to a lot of different things going on like a Tribe Called Quest. They were the very first hip hop that I ever listened to. I mean they didn’t really rock with the band, but they had a lot of live elements to sample including live jazz.”
After commercially releasing four full-length albums, the LDB is gearing up to release their fifth CD, “LowDown Breaks,” which delves inside their love of Jazz meshed with organic hip hop grooves brought front and center by some of the best lyrical architects of the Chicago hip hop scene.
With collabos from familiar names –Ang 13, Fada Dougou, Will Silas, DJ Alo and other notable guest musicians—the album took close to two years before the final mix was down.
Between his job as a CPS teacher and wearing several hats for LDB, Loiselle admits it’s a labor of love. “DJ Alo who’s also the DJ for The Dread but he’s also a well-known DJ/producer throughout Chicago community; he did some production on an album with the song ‘Ghost Town.’ We made these transitions going from some songs so we would take a horn sample or a drum sample and we would kind of flip it and turn it into a transition going from one song to the next so that’s another element of the ‘LowDown Breaks’,” he said.
LDB will offer a sneak peek for Chicago fans at Subterranean located at 2011 W. North Ave. on Saturday, Dec. 8 at their CD release party. The CD officially drops in January 2018. If you miss them, no worries—the band has performed 150 shows yearly for the past four years building fans around the world. Make sure to catch them at a town near you—you will not regret it.
Billa Camp – Vox
Michael August – Drums, perc
John Barbush – Drums, perc
Lance Loiselle – Sousaphone, vox
Raphael Crawford – Trombone, perc
Steven Duncan – Trombone
Andrew Zelm – Trombone
Sam Johnson – Trumpet
Shane Jonas – Trumpet, vox, percussion
David Levine – Baritone saxophone, vox
Christopher Neal – Tenor saxophone, vox