Known for its Latin funk sound, Brownout will bring musical flavor to Johnstown as one of the headliners of the AmeriServ Flood City Musical Festival.
Brownout, a nine-piece horn band from Austin, Texas, was developed by members of the Grammy Award-winning Grupo Fantasma.
“A lot of us were big fans of rap and hip-hop, and we loved that music, so as we got more sophisticated, we realized that all of those songs we grew up listening to were based off of older songs that were being sampled,” said Greg Gonzalez, bassist, and one of the co-founders of Brownout. “So we decided to play those songs that were sampled instead of playing rap. We started out playing cover songs by Dennis Coffey, The Blackbyrds and Mandrill and all those underground funk bands and doing it instrumentally.”
He said as they continued to grow they veered more toward a modern sound and started to use more psychedelic effects and rock textures.
“We’ve also incorporated a lot of the Latin influences that we developed in Grupo Fantasma,” Gonzalez said.
Brownout has served as a highly in-demand backing band for artists, including Prince, Daniel Johnston, GZA and Bernie Worrell.
In 2014, the group released a series of covers of the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath under the moniker “Brown Sabbath,” which received praise from Black Sabbath lead-vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, as well as critical acclaim from NPR, AllMusic and Rolling Stone.
“That was more toward the rock and psychedelic parts of our personalities,” Gonzalez said. “We decided to do it as a one-off, but it was hugely successful. A record label in California heard it and wanted to put out a record, and we toured behind it and it just took on a life of its own.”
Brownout has released six albums, including “Homenaje” in 2008; “Aguilas & Cobras” in 2009; “Oozy” in 2012; “Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath” in 2015; “Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath Vol. II” in 2016; and “Fear of a Brown Planet” in 2018, which is a reworking of the music of Public Enemy.
“Our sound has continued to evolve and we take all these different influences and just see where we end up,” Gonzalez said. “We see what happens and follow those creative impulses as far as we can.”
Receiving multiple Austin Music Awards, the band performed at events such as Bonnaroo, High Sierra Music Festival, Pickathon, FFFFest, Bear Creek Music Festival, Utopia Festival and Pachanga Fest, while regularly touring the United States.
Gonzalez said they love to play festivals because it’s the ultimate expression of what they can do.
“We have a large stage where we can move around and interact with a large group of people,” he said. “A lot of times at festivals, people aren’t there to see you, they’re there to see something else and not considered your band an option, but afterward they come away as fans.”
Gonzalez said he hopes people will check out the band’s catalog of music and embrace their sound.
“We’ve got almost 15 years worth of history that’s gone through multiple
personality changes and phases,” he said, “so ideally, they’ll appreciate everything the instrumental funk music from our past to the hip covers to the rocking psychedelic Latin funk to the Black Sabbath covers.”