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With an exotic sound built upon the individual talent of each member, the collective has never showcased a frontman -- and probably never will.
"When we were coming up, there were a lot of bands in New Orleans that all had leaders," Towns remembers. "It seemed like the leader was always fuckin' the band up. So we got together with that in mind, to stop that kind of stuff. Everybody know what they got to do. They just be responsible. We always sharin' shit, and everybody just do their thing."
"I guess we just keep on trying to play good music," Lewis says. "A lot has to do with our collaborations with other bands, like Widespread Panic, Gov't Mule, Modest Mouse, Norah Jones, Dizzy Gillespie. All that adds to your longevity, and it keeps the music fresh."
Rappers and turntablists would agree. Along with DJ Logic, artists like the Soul Rebels are mixing funeral marches with the aesthetics of hip-hop to create something that sounds like street-parade music filtered through a ghetto blaster.
"Away from New Orleans, hip-hop fans don't know what to make of us," Lewis says. "But down here, a brass band is a whole different vibe. It's one of them little cultural things that you gotta see to believe."
Even if jazz purists cry foul, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band is helping breathe new life into a dying tradition. It's having a fun time of it too -- before skipping off this mortal coil themselves one day, for better or worse.
"There gotta be a better place than this," Lewis says. "Your deeds and thoughts gonna determine where you go when you die. There gonna be two doors, I'm more than sure. Your spirit get there, you might have to go to that other door -- and that's forever."
"We're not laughin' in the face of death," Towns adds. "When death comes, you go full cycle, you know. We actually celebratin' that person. They can't help you're dead. Matter of fact, in New Orleans, a lot of people might be glad when somebody die. But even sad music sounds happy. So we actually go to the funeral home jumpin'."