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Interview: DuPont Brass Releases Magnificent New Album Music Education

by Hero Magnus

Recently, Alchemical Records had the privilege of speaking with Jared Bailey, a member of the DMV legends DuPont Brass. The band recently released their terrific album Music Education, full of outstanding brass solos, complex musicality, and catchy melodies. It is a breakthrough album for their already-thoroughly established voice.

The first song I heard off of Music Education was “Bring That Ass Here.” It is a slow, eclectic track reflecting not just a musical maturity but also some themes about growing up in general: “Bring that ass here and let me rub your feet / I swear I used to be a playa / what you done to me.” The rest of the album continues with just as much energy, from the soaring “Round Midnight” to the final party track “Let’s Go” featuring Adé.

The title of the album can be taken earnestly, but also in jest. Bailey, trumpeter and MC of the band, says Music Education is a cheeky allusion to their talent in schooling everyone in music as well as the fact that most members of the band are now music teachers, instilling their knowledge in the next generation. In this double entendre, DuPont Brass incorporates the best of both youth and adulthood, shying away from neither tradition nor innovation. It’s a hard combination to reach. The duality continues throughout the album, especially in their nostalgia anthem “Homecoming”: “I just wanna smoke and drink with my friends / before it all comes to an end / back to real life.”

DuPont Brass started as a brass quintet, playing in and around the area as they slowly incorporated other members. “The city was so receptive to us,” says Bailey. He mentions rapper Wale as an influence and as one of the musicians who helped break new ground in the DMV.

“We had to become even more eclectic, because there’s the gogo scene, and out of that scene came the live cover bands, and the rappers, and the singers, and they meshed together.”

DuPont Brass has found its niche within the intersections of these genres. We talked about how the city’s music scene is special, but sometimes difficult to navigate: “It’s frustrating because we are still creating that scene ourselves, but I’m proud to be part of this circle. We really connect with each other and lift each other up.” In DC especially, it’s important to have a collaborative mindset. Bailey believes that hostility emerges when people feel that there aren’t enough resources. This is not a problem that is solvable by any one musician or even a community of musicians. More resources to artists and artist groups, especially marginalized voices in the DC area, is crucial. But DC is also so lucky to have a group like DuPont Brass, here to promote positivity and care; the impact that one great band can make is enormous.

Bailey described their 2018 Halftime EP as just a rough draft, despite its many innovations. 2018 was the beginning of DuPont Brass’s interest in what they call eclectic soul. But by Music Education, DuPont Brass knew all the specifics, down to needing a particular sound engineer just for the horns. Bailey says this is the first project he can listen to in the car over and over again without getting tired of it. He talked about how the first half of Music Education is hip-hop influenced jazz, and the second half is jazz-influenced hip-hop soul. “On Music Education, everything is original, everything is self-produced, we know how to handle everything in the studio. It’s just what we’ve been aiming for the whole time.” DuPont Brass met in school, and Bailey wanted to stress how much this album feels like coming full circle.

Part of the Dupont Brass lore is that they busked for years around the DC area, accumulating skill and band members in order to grow a body of work and pay their Howard tuition. There were a lot of ways that Dupont Brass fought for their own livelihoods as Black musicians and also for their peers in their years as emerging musicians: “Being a live musician in DC and busking for so many years, we’ve been on the front lines plenty of times for different protests and fighting for different rights. So many people connected to the scene were part of this.”

Bailey mentioned how roles in activism & community evolve as people grow up. We talked about what it feels like to release an album in quarantine and also in the midst of an outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It exploded,” said Bailey. “Everyone is angry and everyone has a right to be angry. A lot of people feel like it isn’t the time for new music or anything other than protest music… we don’t want to lose the fire underneath us.” We talked about how Music Education is the feel-good music we need right now, the kind that gets people through their day. It is the type of music that we liberate ourselves in order to enjoy.

“It’s weird being in this position,” said Bailey. “You gotta put yourself in an uncomfortable position to do the thing you’re meant to do. You gotta take care of home first. If we’re all losing our minds, we’re just chickens with our heads cut off. At the protests, it ain’t just people singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ There’s some of that too, but there’s a place for everything, and everyone has to play their part.”

I left my talk with Bailey feeling incredibly inspired to create things and also so grateful for the liberation and joy they bring to the DC music scene and community, both in their care and ability to give back and also in their music in and of itself. He has a piece of advice for young musicians, especially young DC musicians:

“Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be afraid to fail. In life, and business, and anything you’re trying to do to be successful, you’re going to get a lot of nos. Don’t be afraid to put in the work. If it’s what you really want to do, you’ll get it. Enjoy it while you’re here.”

Thank you so much for chatting with us, Jared! 

Check out DuPont Brass’s single “Bring Your Ass Here” and their recent album Music Education, and keep your ears perked for their next project.

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Hero Magnus

Hero Magnus is 20 years old. She runs a live radio show at Yale University called the Moon, and for fun she likes to dance at house shows, study American plays, and write music about historical figures. You can find some of her songs on Spotify and the rest on Hero is thrilled to be a new music reporter at Alchemical Records. 

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