Interview with Brother Joscephus at Summer Camp Festival
At Summer Camp Festival this past weekend I got the chance to sit down with Brother Joscephus of Brother Joscephus and the Love Revolution, the New Orleans-style band based out of Brooklyn that preaches messages of love, acceptance, and kindness through upbeat non-religious gospel music. They’ve got an album coming out Today, June 4th, titled Revolution of Love (check out my review here) and are playing an album release party with another favorite of mine, The Main Squeeze, at the Gramercy Theater. I highly recommend all New Yorkers go experience the love revolution this Thursday; get your tickets here. Here’s how it went down with BroJo:
BJ: It was our first time playing outside of New York, so Taylor, my manager and I went down to New Orleans like two months before Jazz Fest. We went to every place and were just like, we wanna play, we’ll bring our own PA and set up anywhere. So we started playing at this place the Seahorse Saloon, which is literally right there as soon as you walk out of Jazz Fest. The cops shut us down, we had to move inside, whatever, and we would play these sets and it would be packed because everyone is coming out of Jazz Fest. So we would play these New Orleans-style sets and everyone was loving it. And I remember after one of our shows, there was this old black woman sitting in the back, and she paid me the biggest complement I ever got. She’s like, “I thought you were a brother! For sure!”
SR: Well I definitely thought you were a brother! That was actually going to be my first question—you’re so not from that world, how did you get into this kind of music?
BJ: Well, it’s precisely because I’m not from that world that I thought that music needed a voice for people that weren’t all into the Jesus. It’s really joyful, great, vibrant music, but the message doesn’t really resonate with me. But I thought that we could use that music to promote a message of secular humanism—instead of looking to Jesus to solve our problems, looking to ourselves and looking to love and the love that’s within us, and leaving hate, prejudice and all that shit at the door. I just thought that music was the perfect way to spread a message like that. My partner the Right Reverend Dean Dawg and I were actually working on cruise ships when we got started; I was a lounge singer and he was my boss. And we would always make the musicians work overtime cause we just wanted to create great music. The standard band on those ships is a trombone, a tenor sax and a trumpet, so we started writing for that kind of configuration, and before we knew it we had a 12-piece band. And once we had a great horn section, the New Orleans thing just followed. He used to live in New Orleans, I’ve always loved the music, the food, the vibes, and we had this gospel type of thing and this horn section. New Orleans just seemed a natural extension of it. So that’s how the sound just kind of all came together to form what it is now.
SR: So you got into this a bit just now but, what are you trying to accomplish through your music? What messages are you trying to send?
BJ: One of the songs off our new album Revolution of Love is called, appropriately, “Revolution of Love,” and that kind of sums up what our message is all about. The main messages are: let’s accept that we’re different; forget the wars our fathers made—we’re handed down a lot of shit, a lot of it isn’t our fault, we just need to get over it; keep a sense of humor—that’s important and underrated, like when the Muslim world got so bent out of shape about the prophet Mohammed as a cartoon, I was just like, why? You have to laugh, you can’t be so serious about everything; and do something kind every day—a small thing but if everyone in the world could do a random act of kindness every day, the world would be such a better place.
SR: What’s your favorite venue to play in New Orleans, and anywhere?
We played a Halloween show at Tipitina’s with Dirty Dozen Brass Band, that was pretty cool. We haven’t played the Fairgrounds at Jazz Fest yet, that’s definitely a goal. I love playing Blue Nile, Frenchman Street is the shit. Love festivals. Really excited about playing Gramercy Theater on June 6th.
SR: Well I will definitely be there! What made you choose Brooklyn Bowl for your documentary?
BJ: Well we’re a band that is based out of Williamsburg, been there for over 5 years now, and we’ve been pretty close with Brooklyn Bowl since it opened. It’s a great spot and was just the logical choice. I knew Pete Shapiro—back in the day I used to play at the Wetlands, which was the coolest; it was just small and intimate and had a dedicated music lovers’ thing, and it was also environmentally activist, and just had this little hippie jamband enclave thing. And Brooklyn Bowl is a great venue too. I love it, it’s no Wetlands but is definitely one of my favorite places in New York.
SR: Why does nothing like that exist anymore? Let’s open something like it. Anyway, who are your biggest influences? You’ve got such a unique thing going on that it’s hard to pinpoint.
BJ: Honestly, probably the biggest influence for me and my musical partner in crime, Dean, is Steely Dan. We bonded over Donald Faigon and his obscure solo albums and just knew every word, that was really the first musical dialogue that we got into. Really into the horn arrangements and the progressions and the jazz sensibilities, that stuff permeates our music a lot. Grew up with the Beatles and Elton John, the Who, classic rock, all that stuff. Influences are really all over the map—Tom Waitts, the Dixie Chicks and everything in between. Really eclectic musically. Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Al Green, all that stuff is really influential on me vocally. And obviously New Orleans in general is a big influence.
SR: Of course. So you recently won an award for best live performance, congratulations! What do you think it is about your live show that makes it so special and resonates with people so much?
BJ: It’s unique. It’s a big band, a lot of improvisation and crowd participation. Lots of interaction. Every show we do starts with a parade through the audience. It’s not just a concert, it’s a love revival. It’s a unique, lively, really upbeat, high energy thing, so I guess that resonates with people.
SR: Well, I like that you’re bringing New Orleans to the masses. While I’m familiar with the second line and all that, most people in Brooklyn, for instance, wouldn’t otherwise get to experience that. There’s really nothing else like it in the world.
BJ: You know, we’re trying to incorporate some of the aspects of that New Orleans thing into what we do, but not necessarily trying to be a New Orleans act, but there are things that we love about it and mix into our act while drawing from many influences. But I agree, if we can educate people about what’s going on down there, that’s what we’re trying to do.
SR: Who’s the coolest person you’ve performed with?
BJ: We’ve played with a lot of great New Orleans acts like Rebirth, Dirty Dozen, Buckwheat Zydeco. We did a show in Ann Arbor, Michigan with Lucinda Williams, Dar Williams, and the MC was this guy Colin Hay who used to play with the 80s band Men at Work. And believe it or not when I was a kid, they were probably one of the big reasons I started learning guitar and got into music, which is kind of weird and funny. So I got to meet Colin Hay and that was weirdly my star-struck moment.
SR: Very cool! So I think that about sums it up, do you have anything else you’d like to say to the people?
BJ: We’ve got the new album coming out June 6th which we’re really proud of, it really accentuates a lot of what we do. I think the first album was a little bit more scattered, I like to describe the new one as “epic gospel rock with a funk soul edge.” I’m really excited for the release and hope everyone listens to it.
SR: Well I really enjoyed it and I’m sure everyone else will.
Look out for Revolution of Love available this Thursday, June 6th, and be sure to check out their album release party at the Gramercy Theater, also on Thursday. I’ve experienced the love revolution myself and can say for sure that it is not something to miss out on! Get your tickets here, and check out the Love Revolution bringing a lil NOLA funk to Brooklyn below.