A familiar sound you've never heard


— With a hat full of money on the streets of Austin, Texas, the vision in the eyes of the duo playing drums and tuba was solely to enjoy the moments.

But in 1995, the streets progressively got busier and a town that was once homey became one of Texas' biggest cities.

As quickly as "Just Drums & Tuba" devised a plan for a new sound element, the "just" was dropped and guitarist Neal McKeeby was added.

Drum player Tony Nozero and tuba player Brian Wolff needed the element that would finally conform the trio to an unconventional experimental jazz band.

"We didn't say, 'We have to make this kind of music,'" Wolff said of their non-specific, funk rhythms. "It's kind of our own thing."

The band has remained satisfied with Drums & Tuba as their lead name, while the marching band connotation has drifted out the door with the wind of various tuba sounds.

"We wanted to add horns, but there were no good horn players in Austin that wanted to play with a band that was not paying big money," Wolff said.

Instead of horns, Wolff and Nozero found a guitarist whose background they can't quite figure out.

"We all have different backgrounds. The drum player played in a punk band and the guitar player ... I don't know where he came from," Wolff said, who played trombone, trumpet and just picked up the tuba about six years ago.

So the duo quickly became a trio within a few months, and suddenly the clubs and bars started filling with fans of all genres. Dead heads and punk fans were digging the same grooves, creating a peaceful conglomerate of two separate worlds. Wolff said they're beginning to draw a jam band crowd to shows now, although he said he can't describe the classification of music.

"We just did it for fun. I didn't expect anyone to like it. I thought it would be too strange," Wolff said.

With no interest in vocal music, Wolff said he will concentrate on singing through his tuba, a voice so plain to hear on the recent "Vinyl Killer."

"I do lots of stuff with the tuba just to get different sounds, not sounds like you've heard," Wolff said. "There's a lot of voice in the tuba."

After a handful of small record labels throughout the country, Drums & Tuba stuck with indie-label My Pal God Records, which lasted until word got out to Ani DiFranco and husband Andrew "Goat Boy" Gilchrist.

Now, with four hit albums, one on DiFranco "Goat's" Righteous Babe Records, Drums & Tuba will continue to tour for years to come.

While spending days in the Congress House studios in Austin, DiFranco also was recording some of her own music. Through simple connections, someone recommended she listen to Drums & Tuba. Opening for her shows became a regular gig and soon, production was the word around the Dust Bowl Studios in Buffalo, N.Y.

The success for the last album, can be attributed, of course toward the band, but also to the brilliant co-production of DiFranco and "Goat," Wolff said.

"I really think Goat's engineering skills are great. He just kicks ass," Wolff said. "We're just all a bunch of friends hanging out and maKing music," Wolff said of going to DiFranco's pad to absorb the music and learn.

Being independent after My Pal God Records, Wolff said recording their own bootlegs, which they sold at shows only, was good experience. Creating connections with various fans around the country, Drums & Tuba said recordings deals were not few and far between.

"You can always find someone to put out a record," Wolff said.

While next Monday will be the band's first time in Colorado, Wolff said the plan

on being here a few more times this year. From February until May 2001, Drums & Tuba's life on the highway and on stage will include other names on the SnoCore Icicle Ball 2001 tour such as Galactic, playing in Steamboat in two weeks and Les Claypool's Frog Brigade.


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