Sean McGee can trace his desire to be a trumpet player directly to fervent heavy rotation of his parents’ Herb Alpert records—and attributes an early hyperactivity problem to a love of whipped cream and other delights. Against their own better judgment, when Sean was six, his mom and dad acquiesced to his pleas and gave him his first horn: a hand-me-down from his grandfather, who had, in the ‘40s, paid his way through dental school by playing in a cancan club in Miami, Florida (that's the story Sean’s grandmother denies anyway). Even after playing in numerous jazz, swing and concert bands from Detroit to California to New York state and now Seattle, Sean still considers himself lucky-like-the-guy-who-won-a-backstage-pass to be surrounded by the musicians of RCB. And, to this day, he always eats pie with a dollop of whipped cream.
In sixth grade, Erik decided to pick up the cornet only because his best friend thought it was cool. After his buddy quit two years later, Erik continued what became a brass obsession. As a lover of multiple genres, he enjoys playing with a handful of groups around Seattle: jazz, classical, dixieland, rock, and brass quintet. When Erik is not laying down licks with RCB, he teaches music to super lucky trumpet players in the area. Since he is the youngest in the group, everyone worries that he will be late. He never is. ‘Cept once.
Sara DeBell got hooked on instrumental pop in her tween years the morning she discovered a Tijuana Brass record under the Christmas tree. When Santa forgot a trumpet, however, she took her revenge on the family's electric organ. After earning a degree in electronic music (magnetic tape, anyone?), Sara toured in a Top 40 show-band and twiddled Moog knobs in a string of obscure East Coast glam/punk/noise bands. But underneath all that punk posturing was a heart of schlock. In 1994 Sara combined her two musical loves and made it to MTV with Grunge Lite, a bizarre album of easy-listening versions of Seattle grunge songs—all performed on the synthesizer. In RCB, Sara's synthesizer covers a world of musical moods. She serves up swamp-rock piano, elegant pizzicato strings, '60s garage organ, flower-power harpsichord, and a whole boatload of marimbas, all of which makes her inner tween very happy. Who says you have to grow up? .
RCB’s guitar slinger, Don fillius, hails from Hawaii. He made his way to Seattle by way of San Francisco (where he played guitar with notable Bay Area bands Rocker, the original Jump 5 and Going To Pieces). When he was a lad, d fillius met Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley and Arthur Lyman all at the same place (but not at the same time). After shaking the boy’s hand one of them may have said, “Son, you have the grip of a guitar player.” When it comes to music, the d fillius credo is: "If it's from the 1960s, it's got to be good." (Though a hippie at heart, he doesn't even make an exception for Ballad of the Green Berets by Sgt. Barry Sadler.) In addition to his electric 12-string guitar work with Rat City Brass, he’s the man behind the dfillius group.
Ericka Kendall played an upright bass at the first Rat City Brass rehearsal, and when Mark suggested she play the electric bass guitar instead, her response was, "You mean there's a smaller one?!” Having played classical bass for 30 years (the cute boys were in the bass section), Ericka currently performs with Orchestra Seattle, the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and in pit orchestras for a handful of opera and ballet companies. Her time playing in small combos led her through tango, swing, Scandinavian, Celtic and finally vintage jazz before the spicy lure of Rat City Brass proved irresistible. Ericka will pick up a tuba if you ask real nice. She might even play it. And if you see her lugging around an upright bass, don’t tell her “That thing’s bigger than you!” She’s heard that one already.
Rat City Brass trombonist Eric Kehoe has played music since he was 7 years old. One of his first public performances was accompanying himself on piano as he sang the Eagles’ Desperado at his high school talent show. (Modest to a fault, Eric refuses to say if he won.) Eric’s musical background is in jazz and bluegrass, but he’s also a big fan of classical music as well (Steve Miller, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc.). Being a former world champion in the sport of Ultimate Frisbee, Eric is arguably the most athletic member of Rat City Brass. In fact, Eric has gone so far as to plan RCB tours around Ultimate tourneys.
As a youngster, Steve Smith remembers sitting in the front seat of his mom's Ford Falcon listening to Buck Owens on Seattle's AM "Country KAYO". While he absorbed the Bakersfield sound, in 1964 Steve saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and that changed everything. He got his first set of Pearl "Executive" drums from Myers Music in Seattle and started annoying his parents and the neighborhood. In high school Steve was encouraged to try jazz. He quickly soaked up greats like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, Count Basie and Maynard Ferguson, even Frank Zappa. Later he played in rockabilly, surf, and even theatrical pit bands. But he never forgot his love of rock, country, and roots music. You may even have heard him on KEXP's Shake the Shack for many years as "Steve the Scribe." But his heart belongs to Herb and the Rats!