Just like every Coachella, this year’s festival offers up dozens of top international DJs that draw thousands to the desert. But 2022 holds an altogether different kind of dance act sure to draw curious onlookers and dance music fans alike: German techno marching band Meute.
“Everyone has heard about Coachella – it’s such a big name and we are very excited about it,” Meute’s founder and trumpet player Thomas Burhorn says via Zoom from his hometown in Hamburg. “We heard it’s a great mix of live music and electronic music… so maybe we have a good combination of live techno that people will see, and love what we do.”
The act’s forthcoming U.S. tour, which hits 18 cities across North America this month, culminates at Goldenvoice’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival April 15, and again a week later. His 11-piece ensemble is indeed unique in that they play techno as a brass band, something those who have seen the act live can attest is thrilling in ways both electronic music fans and live music aficionados alike can get behind.
“When you tell people that we are a techno marching band, people already get some pictures in their head. And then when they see what we do and hear what we do, they can realize… that it is even deeper than what they might have imagined,” Burhorn explains.
Meute started out in Hamburg in 2015 as essentially a cover band: re-imagining their favorite dance tracks by tastemaker electronic music producers such as Stephan Bodzin and Laurent Garnier, and playing their new brass band versions of those songs on the streets of Hamburg and inside clubs.
“We started with playing cover versions of electronic music, and that was a very nice way to learn how to translate that music into our brass band universe,” Burhorn says. “We do interpretations… It’s a nice part of art, and a nice part of the history of music… when you can give the composition something new, when you can see it from another point of view, it’s a beautiful thing.”
However, where the band has really started to shine is via their newfound confidence as songwriters doing original songs in a techno vein, which, according to Burhorn, they were given the ability to do only after successfully back-engineering so many techno and house tracks as covers over the last seven years.
“Doing cover versions led to a certain way of composition, so the music we write now comes in part from our experience we made doing our re-interpretations of [already existing] electronic music songs,” he explains.
One of those stellar new tracks, “Peace,” was released earlier this year and provides a fantastic window into the world that is opening up for Meute – setting up the act to be much more than a curiosity to be consumed on YouTube or seen once live (the band has a new full-length project coming out this November, which will feature more original compositions).
“Peace” feels firmly rooted in techno tradition, yet features real instrumentation and also somehow works in a flute solo — all without coming across as cheesy — which is no small feat, for any act.
So how does being from Hamburg instead of Germany’s techno capital, Berlin, inform the band’s worldview?
Says Burhorn: “The difference between Hamburg and Berlin is that Hamburg is a little bit more of a live music city. We have a big tradition of live music here ––the people of Hamburg are very proud that even the Beatles played here early in their career. There are a lot of live bands that play in the St. Pauli district, but on the other hand, we have a lot of great techno clubs here as well. Maybe the history of this city is part of the history of our band, too.”
That party-on-the-streets-of-the-Reeperbahn feeling will fan out across America this month, as Meute’s buzz has already led to them playing larger (and more) venues this trek around the United States, their first big sweep of the country since a small introductory jaunt to American audiences in 2019.
“We need to play larger venues where we all fit in,” Burhorn jokes about his 11-person band that often crowds stages in certain venues.
But rest assured, whether fans catch Meute at Coachella or at one of their club gigs this month or next, the sound will be up to German standards.
“We always have our sound engineer with us, and he has this very clear vision to make us sound like a techno act,” Burhorn says. “His acoustic vision always makes it sound great, no matter what the venue is — festival or club.”
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