Back with another look at a band you might have missed, James Hendicott steps outside our shores for the first international band to get a tip of the cap. This time around is a band from Boston called Debo Band. Read on to hear why you should give them a listen.
Debo Band are an eleven piece Boston band with elements of Ireland’s favourite brass band , Chicago sibling super-group Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and take their influences a little from old-school, big-band jazz and a little from the front man’s Ethiopian trad routes. They consist of Bruck Tesfaye (vocals), Danny Mekonnen (saxophone), Gabe Birnbaum (tenor saxophone), Danilo Henriquez (trumpet and percussion), Kaethe Hostetter (violin), Jonah Rapino (electric violin), Brendon Wood (guitar), Marié Abe (accordion), PJ Goodwin (bass), Arik Grier (sousaphone) and Adam Clark (drums).
Where do we start with this? There are indecipherable (at least to us) but utterly gorgeous lyrics used minimally in Amharic Ethiopian. There are sax solos, fiddly marathon tracks that require an eleven-piece orchestra to put together twisting, finicky yet enticing epics often stretching to the six minute mark (their début, self-titled album is nearly an hour long for just eleven tracks), and blending danceable pop-styling with elements from African roots and classic music. While the influence of various enticing African genres has seeped increasingly into the mainstream recently (see Vampire Weekend, for a start), few deliver in a style that’s quite this impressively original.
Because you’ll hear something quite unlike anything we’ve come across before, for a start. But also because this group are the perfect sunshine band; the one you’ll want playing in your iPod when the sun eventually forces its way through Ireland’s clouds on a single Thursday afternoon. The sheer number of musicians means they’re sure to be entertaining live, and the vibrant performances have already done more than enough to get the group signed to monster indie label Sub Pop. Being on Sub Pop alone is something of a mark of quality, but the way this eleven-piece succeed in subtly layering their sound and using moments of quiet as much as volume is a hallmark of sheer class. When they do get going, they go for massive, involved choruses that head off in all kinds of entirely unpredictable directions. The lyrics are extremely minimal, and come across to us (we’re not up on our Amharic) as more contributing melody than anything else. They’re delivered superbly, too.
This is the first non-Irish act we’ve included in this series – plenty more to come, of course – but there’s a reason they’ve been given the nod. They have a huge future.
And the flip side?
These guys already have enough blog hype and rave reviews to see them through to the major stages of festivals before too long, so if you want to catch them in an intimate venue… well, that might not ever happen in Ireland, but let’s hope a promoter snaps them up soon. If they get the same reception as Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, who are invariably quick to name Ireland as their second home, they’ll go far over here. Seeing as the two have plenty in common, that’s easy to imagine.
Catch them… No Irish dates are scheduled (or in fact have ever been performed) just yet. With the debut going down so well, though, it can only be a matter of time.