The Funky Butt Brass Band, St. Louis' finest purveyors of second-line struttin', is about to unleash its annual holiday throwdown on Saturday night at Off Broadway. Now in its third year, the Holiday Brasstravaganza gives the six-piece a chance to thoroughly funkify seasonal tunes. This year, show-goers will be given a special Christmas present: the new seven-song EP Shiny Christmas Balls, which featuress "Crazy Sleigh," the band's rewrite of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train." Peep that business below.
We caught up with the band members over email to learn about Saturday's bachanal. Tickets to the show are $12 and are available here.
Christian Schaeffer: This is your third year of your annual Christmas Brasstravaganza. What about Christmas music catches your collective ears and makes you want to give it the FBBB treatment?
Aaron Chandler (trombone/vocals): First off, Christmas music is something that most people enjoy and we like playing music that we know fans will dig. We also like to surprise people, musically. Christmas tunes leave plenty of room for us to do some voodoo, ya know? I also think that we initially started these Holiday shows as an effort to grow and stretch ourselves as musicians, performers, and as a working band. We like to challenge ourselves...It's almost become a game of let's see how much we can do.
Tim Halpin (guitar/vocals): Well, we're givers, that's probably the main thing. We're also big fans of Brave Combo (who are in town on Friday night) and their annual Christmas show, so we thought we could put something together in our style and really have a lot of fun with it.
The title of your new holiday EP Shiny Christmas Balls suggests that the band has a slightly skewed take on the seasonal music. What's the line between honoring the spirit of the season and completely funking it up?
TH: There is no line. Just listen to Rufus Thomas's "I'll Be Your Santa Baby" or Albert King's "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" or any of James Brown's Christmas tracks. It's wide open -- you can get funky with it, but the holiday spirit remains intact. Of all the Christmas songs you've covered over the years, how did you select the tracks for this seven-song EP?
Matt Brinkman (sousaphone): We tried to have a wide mix of styles to represent everything that we do, so we included a traditional-style New Orleans tune, a soul classic, and original funk tune, a medley of familiar favorites and an unexpected cover along with something for our Jewish friends.
Ron Sikes (drums): Jesus and Santa Claus told us which songs to record.
Closing cut "Crazy Sleigh" is a stand-out. What inspired you to recast Ozzy's "Crazy Train" as an ode to a full-metal Santa?
TH: We had the idea and the lyrics last year, but couldn't pull it together in time for the show. It just seemed like a fun way to go, to take this rock anthem and recast the singer as sort of a whacked-out Santa Claus, who's been driven a little nuts by the holiday madness. Adam Hucke offered to sing it, and we grabbed Tony Esterly from Gumbohead to channel Randy Rhoads on guitar, and it all came together nicely.
In years past, your holiday shows have included visits from Santa, seasonal wardrobe and plenty of tinsel. What can we expect for Saturday's show?
TH: More of the same. We have a little different take on Santa this year, and we've added a bit of burlesque to the show. But don't worry -- the six of us are keeping our clothes on. Nothing will crush your holiday spirit faster than seeing the Funky Butt Brass Band naked.
AC: I tend to think of this as our corporate Christmas party. Santa will show up, some dude will drink whiskey until he passes out in the bathroom, the secretary is gonna show some skin, and it'll all end in a game of strip poker in the back of a panel van on some county road outside of town. In other words, these shows are just kinda organic. We just let 'em happen.