Asheville natives Empire Strikes Brass (ESB) showcase the sounds of second-line New Orleans, while crafting their own vibrational impressions amongst their nine members. ESB’s magnitude is measured not just in the number of band members, but also through the depths of their skills.
Sometimes funk, sometimes jazz, always jammy, ESB’s music is engineered for anyone who wants to feel the music. Ocala Style spoke with band leader and lead saxophonist Pauly Juhl earlier this week.
OS: What’s the creative and performance dynamic like when you have 8 or 9 members?
Pauly Juhl: Fun…trying at times, but absolutely amazing. Imagine cramming your office and coworkers in a van going 70 miles per hour, sometimes for 20-hour days, to do a presentation in front of an audience. It’s good that our audiences enjoy what we share.
OS: What are your favorite parts of performing at festivals versus playing other venues?
Pauly Juhl: Meeting amazing people everywhere. Learning other ways folks do things and different cultures that gather in different areas. With our horn section, we love sitting in with other groups, too. It’s amazing how much of a connection you can get by syncing-up on a song and complementing each other’s playing. There are amazing and beautiful people everywhere and it would be hard to convince us otherwise.
OS: You’re working on a second album. Describe that project and what the band is most excited.
Pauly Juhl: Our second album is coming out this October. It has been challenging and rewarding at the same time. It really feels like we’re all pushing ourselves like we never have before. Just like with our first album, there are several songwriters in the band that are contributing tracks. It’s amazing to see our style really develop since then. It gives us all the joy in the world to share our progress and love for what we’re doing with everybody.
OS: Empire Strikes Brass, can we talk about the name?
Pauly Juhl: What a wonderful pun that it is! Unfortunately, we disappoint some newcomers expecting Star Wars music. As much as we love Star Wars, the pun is as close as we get. When we were trying to come up with a name, we wanted something tough-sounding like all the other brass bands without it sounding too typical. Once Empire Strikes Brass came up, there was nothing that could top that.
What is Levitt AMP Ocala?
Presented by the City of Ocala in partnership with The Marion Cultural Alliance, the Levitt AMP Ocala Music Series brings free concerts to the Martin Luther King Jr Recreational Complex’s Webb Field every Friday now through August 2. Each event will also feature food trucks and vendors, craft and nonprofit booths, and beer and wine for sale. The Summer Break Spot will provide free dinners for those 18 and under in attendance, and each concert spotlights a local nonprofit organization.
Series sponsors include: Levitt Foundation, Marion Cultural Alliance, 98.5 KTK, TriEagle Sales, Island Grove Wine Company, The Mojo Grill & Catering, Kona Ice Ocala, David and Lisa Midgett Foundation, Ocala/Marion County, Florida, Summer BreakSpot Program, and Ocala Electric Utility. Production by Oniram Productions, Inc.
The Levitt AMP Ocala Music Series is supported in part by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, a private foundation that empowers towns and cities across America to transform underused public spaces into thriving destinations through the power of free, live music. www.concerts.levittamp/ocala.
If You Go:
Concerts are held at Webb Field, Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex, 1510 NW Fourth St., Ocala.
Gates open at 6pm.
Be sure to bring outdoor chairs or blankets for comfortable seating.