Even when performing at full-tilt, the magic of Drums & Tuba's music is in its subtleties. Tempos and dynamics are emphasized. Laptop noises swim in the background. Tubas, guitars and drums have engrossing conversations. Over 11 years, seven full-length albums, two EPs and hundreds of shows, the trio of Tony Nozero (drums, electronics), Brian Wolff (tuba, trumpet) and Neal McKeeby (guitars) gelled into a seasoned musical entity with a decidedly unique vision—to take carefully-constructed rock grooves and translate them through a wide array of instruments and electronics.
In today's world of countless musical formats, demographics and stereotypes, the importance of bands like Drums & Tuba is immeasurable. The band takes its wildly diverse musical backgrounds and creates a sound that is entirely its own—full of catchy, groove-based songs. This aptly named trio deftly defies categorization by naturally involving an expanse of musical influences into its peculiar lineup. Over the span of one song, you'll hear dashes of Ornette Coleman, strains of Led Zeppelin, touches of Amon Tobin and a pinch of King Crimson.
Drums & Tuba's last release, Battles Olé, puts a delightfully dark spin on the cheerful formula of previous records, and features an unexpected twist—the first-ever vocal track in the band's history. Nozero's snarling voice appears on the opening "Two Dollars." The song builds like a storm cloud, slowly getting heavier and blacker before bursting with torrential arena-rock riffing. Battles Olé is stuffed with these masterfully constructed exercises in dynamics, a sign of the band's growing talents in the studio. And while the vocals will come as an initial surprise to fans of the instrumental days, they're certainly not the focal point. It's obvious that the band sees the human voice as another instrument in its arsenal; it's here to add to the mood, not to steal the show. Hence, for all of its differences, Battles Olé is classic Drums & Tuba: captivating, exploratory and loads of fun to listen to.
Yet bringing Olé to life wasn't a fun process—Nozero explains why the band's shift to the dark side reflects more than artistic growth. "After 10 years and a pretty hard last couple, we were really burned out. We were struggling to, in a sense, change everything—turn our own musical world upside down and shake it like a toaster, getting all the crumbs out. It felt like a final gasp. Long story short, it's a fitting title. "Olé" makes it a bit lighter, representing the attitude that 'Yeah, we did this, we battled. Olé!'"
Drums & Tuba has caught, confused and enlightened the ears of many a listener, and although the band is currently pursuing individual interests, their music lives on.