Bonerama’s Mark Mullins Talks about Their Big Brass Sound, Covers and Coffee Orders with Michael Stipe

Bonerama Press Photo
Photo Courtesy of the band.

The reintegration of brass sounds into mainstream music has been well-documented over the past handful of years. More and more we’re hearing the saxophone, trumpet, and trombone coming back to albums, and live shows alike.

However, no one does like Bonerama. The New Orleans-based outfit takes the trombone and takes it from a supporting player, to the main event. These wildly talented musicians bring the instrument to the forefront, and bring sound of this instrument that will boggle your mind.

Recently, we got the chance to chat with Mark Mullins of Bonerama to talk about new music, meeting Michael Stipe, and their decision on day one to create one of the more unique bands out there. Tonight they get ready to perform at Jams on the Sand in Asbury Park, NJ.

Bonerama has such an incredible sound, and is wildly unique band. Can you take me back to Day 1 (or the early days) of the band, and what inspired you to create a band that would be so different (in a good way)?

Craig Klein and I played in Harry Connick Jr.’s band for years. Craig once saw a band in New York fronted by trombones playing latin music and had the idea that it would be fun to do [a band like that] in New Orleans. The trombone in 1998 needed to be featured more as a lead instrument.

You’ve jammed with a lot of big names throughout your career — what artists were you most surprised reached out to the band to collaborate, and who were you in the most awe of when you met them?

So many favorite moments. When R.E.M. called us in to play on what became their final album that was pretty exciting. And having Michael Stipe walk up to me while i was setting up and saying, “Hey my name is Michael, can i get you anything, a coffee or anything?”…pretty stunning. All the guys were just so cool. We’d known Millsey [Mike Mills] for some time already.

You guys will be performing on the beach at Jams on the Sand in Asbury Park. While beachfront concerts are not that unusual, I am curious what has been the most unusual place you guys have performed?

We played in Norway once on these rocks right at the water, super cool setting. It was hard to load in and out. [Laughs].

You’ve planned countless club dates, as well as numerous outdoor festivals — which do you prefer to play? And does playing outdoors, like you will at Jams, put you guys in a different and/or more creative mindset than playing indoors?

We love it all. They are all different and each has a different energy. On the sand we really keep to what we are doing, just maybe a little more grit in the trombone slides!

The band has done some incredible covers — whether it’s Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” or Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” What’s the most random cover the band has ever done, and is there any new tunes out there you’re dying to give the Bonerama spin on?

Thanks! The songs are all so much fun to deliver behind a trombone mouthpiece. We just started doing Paranoid android which is pretty random for us i guess. I have learned about Twenty One Pilot from my son and was dying to tackle one of their songs on Blurrryface –which is incredible album. We just started doing “We Don’t Believe” with a New Orleans 2nd line buckjump feel. Ton of fun.

For those who’ve never seen Bonerama perform live — what can they expect from one of your shows?

Expect to hear trombones like you’ve never heard them. It not that we’re great, it’s just a different approach that many people don’t expect to hear through the trombone —  but it is so much fun. Expect to hear an amazing rhythm section and great guitar, bass and drum solos. Expect the unexpected.

The band has not released a full length studio album in a while — are there any plans in getting back in the studio to record a new album in the near future?

This fall we’ve got two new albums. We’re very excited.

What do you have planned for Bonerama for the rest of the summer?

We’re finishing these records! and wrapping up the summer tour here with you guys, Somers Point and NYC (for Phish after-parties) this weekend.

Bonerama performs tonight at Jams on the Sand at the Anchor’s Bend in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Admission is absolutely free.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites