Since stepping onto the world beat music scene in 2009, The Brand New Life has been uplifting audiences with a sound that is as enlivening as the name implies. The eight-piece band has become recognized as one of the Southeast’s top Afrobeat groups, sharing the stage with world-renowned all-stars such as Nigerian Afrobeat royalty Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and American Afrobeat collective Antibalas. With an adventurous original repertoire, the band avoids being classified as purely Afrobeat by drawing on a number of musical influences including New Orleans jazz and indie rock. The result is a rousing, danceable melting pot of sound, powered by fierce polyrhythm and forceful horns that can be heard on their self-titled album (2010) and recently released single Gigs/$$$.
Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, the group tackles songwriting as a collective, with each band member pulling from widely diverse musical backgrounds. The rhythm section, including Evan Frierson (congas/percussion), Daniel Yount (drum set/percussion) and Scott Johnson (congas/percussion), blends drumming influences from West Africa, Uruguay, and Cuba. The influence of regular guest and Wolof griot Mamadou Mbengue (tama, aka talking drum) has led to explorations of Mbalax, the pop music of Mbengue’s native home, Senegal. TBNL’s horn section of Walter Fancourt (tenor sax/flute) and Sean Smith (trumpet) is equally noteworthy, having toured with rising indie bands Reptar and Rubblebucket in 2012 and 2013. Rounding out the rhythm section are Seth Barden (upright/electric bass) and Will Darity (electric guitar), prominent musicians on the North Carolina jazz scene. Members have also been involved in several side projects, including Mamadou’s Fantastic Band, playing traditional Senegalese music, and metal-infused jazz group Trioscapes, whose album Separate Realities cracked the Billboard charts in 2012.
The Brand New Life’s consistent drive to bring their world beat grooves to a broader audience has landed them on stages at established music festivals such as FloydFest, Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival, and Lake Eden Arts Festival. Notable venues where the band has performed include The Grey Eagle (Asheville, NC), Cat’s Cradle (Carrboro, NC), Variety Playhouse (Atlanta, GA), The Bitter End (New York City). As TBNL’s résumé continues to expand, so will their sound, filling a niche between Afrobeat, jazz, and rock that is as explosive as it is original.