Exposure: Tom McGuire & The Brassholes
- Arusa Qureshi
- 30 January 2019
Eight-piece Glasgow group take their brand of funk and soul to the next level
Having originally met on the streets of Glasgow as buskers, Tom McGuire & the Brassholes are a band that are quickly gaining momentum on the live music circuit in Scotland. Their high energy and exuberant live sets have won them recognition across genres, with the response to last year's hit single 'Ric Flair' resulting in plenty of interest as well as a viral music video which saw them gain over half a million views. The band have just released their first full-length album of recordings, which perfectly manages to capture the vibrancy of their live performances, while highlighting the undeniable skill of each individual player. We catch up with Tom McGuire to hear more about the band and their new album ahead of their biggest show to date on Sun 3 Feb, as part of Celtic Connections.
On how they started making music
We met spontaneously while busking during the Commonwealth Games. A small group of us, who had met through various jam sessions in the city, were playing on the street when some other brass players walking past asked if they could join. It sounded great so we continued to busk throughout the summer, always drawing a big crowd. It wasn't until relatively recently, after some time of playing covers in bars and at weddings with the band that I realised that we had to try to make something of our own. So I quit uni to pursue what we had begun to create and I haven't looked back.
On the evolution of their sound
Our current sound is a result of all the musical personalities in the band coming together. While we are most definitely a funk band, the record has a variety of textures and influences. It is the exciting sound of a band finding its voice. There is variety in the record because I felt that I had so many things to express that were kind of backed up in the life I was in previously. I would say that we have a good writing practice which works well now, but as we come to write new material I feel like we are evolving on an individual level as musicians. I have learned so much about music from spending so much time with the fantastically skilled and knowledgeable members of this band and I am very excited to see how that will reflect on our new material.
On the reaction to 'Ric Flair' when the single and video were released
The reaction to Ric Flair, both song and video, was incredible. It was entirely unexpected and to be honest, a little daunting. We had a fair idea that we had produced something good, but we had no way of knowing that it was going to blow up the way it did. It was obviously a very exciting time for us and to see the shares and views reaching crazy numbers was hard to get our heads around. It was just this daft we video we made; our first 'hi, we are here' to the world. The fact that it eventually got to the man himself was the icing on the cake. However, we've been working really hard from that point to make sure the train keeps rolling.
On their debut album and the main themes and ideas behind it
The debut album is a collection of killer songs, but hidden just underneath is a cohesive work through which I have tried to tell the story of my own struggles, revelations and convalescence. There is a thematic consistency and a sort of narrative that runs through it, addressing loss of purpose, existential grief, finding one's place in the world and the nature of experience. Ultimately this leads to revelations about accepting things which bring joy, living to the fullest, living in the moment and of course, love. This may be surprising to those who know us only for 'Ric Flair' but even that has its place on the record as an intentional moment of joyfulness and fun. The short version: it's about trying to figure out a way to live in a universe that often feels devoid of meaning, and succeeding through abandoning attempts to understand it all and instead embracing instances of joy and love.
On the artists they look to for inspiration
Musically I look to the forebears of modern funk and soul. Stevie Wonder is a huge influence, especially in his classic era, where he made a load of fantastic records that musically, are very interesting, intricate and complex, while also just being straight up hits. The same can be said for Quincy jones. That whole era and sound is ripe for exploration, and in a way I think there were a lot of avenues in that area that went unexplored and were blotted out by the technological advancements that came along in the 80s. On a performance level I'm definitely looking to classic band leaders like James Brown. But on a lyrical level, depth of content and humour are important to me, and I look to some heartbroken storytellers like Springsteen and Tom Waits too. But also heart-on-sleeve cryptic lyricism like Bon Iver's
On what the future looks like for Tom McGuire & the Brassholes
Hopefully the future looks bright. We are very, very proud of the new record and people are responding well to it. Right now, we are working really hard to make sure our album launch is a success, however, the festival calendar is already filling up and there will probably be a bit of touring too. I will be very happy if I am able to continue making music long into the future, and hope that people can gain something from it, whether it's just something to move their feet, or perhaps offer some kind of insight that they can resonate with and ultimately help them in their own life.
Tom McGuire and the Brassholes, QMU, Glasgow, Sun 3 Feb.