New Orleans-based ensemble Bonerama blast out seriously deep funk. Together for 12 years, their brassy chops rival the tightest college marching bands and Crescent City combos.
Powered by a high-energy, trombone-strong frontline, they push the brass band format into wild new musical territory. Founded in 1998 by trombonists Mark Mullins and Craig Klein (both former members of Harry Connick Jr.'s band), Bonerama started out as a standard funk project before mixing a dose of rock into its jazzy funk stew. Influenced by the New Orleans brass band tradition, they initially put the combo together as something fun to do in their off-time.
"We called a bunch of our buddies and put it together one night," Mullins says. "From the first song, we could sense something magical."
Mullins often instigates the deep-cut rock covers that make the setlists — including renditions of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein," King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man," and Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean."
"There's definitely something about the guitar and the trombone that are related. You compare the fretboard to the slide; there's a lot of similarity there," says Mullins.
Bonerama regularly works with a full rhythm section. The current lineup includes Mullin, Klein, Steve Suter, and Rick Trolsen in the trombone frontline. The backline includes sousaphone player Matt Perrine, electric guitarist Bert Cotton, bassist Nori Naraoka, and drummer Eric Bolivar.
"The trombone itself has a wide range," says Mullins. "That, combined with the quality of the players, enables us to have a big palette."
Bonerama's new EP Hard Times contains four studio tracks, including an instrumental titled "Lost My House," which was co-written by Craig Klein and Dave Malone from the Radiators. The biographical song "Lost My House" was inspired by the levee failures in 2005.
"The title track is really about the antithesis of hard times and flipping our fears over to optimism," says Mullins. "To those that say all hell is breaking loose, we say kick out the demons and embrace all the positives."