Austria's Mnozil Brass are nothing like any brass ensemble that has ever played in New Zealand before.
The quickest and easiest way to convince people is to suggest they check out performances of Mnozil Brass on YouTube.
Better still, watch the one where the septet performs Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. It's had 1.6 million hits.
The video not only confirms the hype that Mnozil Brass take brass where no brass has gone before, but that they've got pretty good singing voices to boot.
''We do a lot of singing,'' says tuba player Wilfried Brandstotter. ''We did a real opera for the Salzburg Festival four years ago where we did all the singing, all the dancing, everything.''
Part of Mnozil Brass' growing appeal - they perform 120 concerts a year around the world - is that they mix it up interpreting contemporary songs, as well as classical and European folk.
They also perform beyond the music and singing. There can be a lot of movement in a Mnozil Brass show and a lot of humour. The closest equivalent would be American jazz and hip-hop outfit Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, who performed in Wellington earlier this year.
Brandstotter, who is also a professor of bass tuba at Austria's Bruckner University, says one reason for the ensemble's growing popularity is the internet.
''We are a small band and the music industry don't have the power anymore to push groups. They just pick up one singer per year and then try to make fast money with them.
''But for bands likes us the internet is the perfect thing. When we went to America three years ago, [we played] for the first time in Los Angeles at the UCLA [University of California]. We sold out and we had never been there before. We asked people 'why did you all come? We have never been in the area'. They said 'well, we've known you from YouTube'.''
Mnozil Brass were founded 20 years ago when several members were students at the Vienna College of Music. Right across the road from the college was Josef Mnozil's tavern. ''It was a very small Viennese pub - 40-45 seats. Mrs Mnozil did the cooking and Mr Mnozil served the drinks,'' says Brandstotter. ''All the students went there for lunch and for drinks at night and they had a jam session there every month. The musicians of Mnozil Brass came from all different parts of Austria. We all came from brass, wind and harmony bands and we had a bit of repertoire with polka, marching and folk music, so it was very easy to join in and play.''
Eventually, the jam sessions led to the musicians forming Mnozil Brass. ''The first year it was just for fun because we liked it and we got some free food and drinks. Then people came and would say 'we have a wedding, can you play?' We played at christenings, we played at funerals, we played at farmers' markets, on the street. Then three years later, little by little we started playing concerts.''
Brandstotter says by this time they had graduated and had other commitments. He was a tuba player with Klangforum Vienna. ''There was no plan to make a living with this band, but the band was growing comfortably. About 10 years ago we had to make a decision. It was [taking up] too much time. You can't focus on both things. You can't play in a symphony orchestra during the day then jump in the car and drive a couple of hundred kilometres, then go back in the same night and have a rehearsal in the morning. We decided to focus on the band.''
It didn't take long until Mnozil Brass were playing about 120 concerts a year. ''We could play much more but we had a discussion and thought it should be between 100 and 120 concerts a year, just to keep it fresh, to have fun with it and enjoy it. If you play 200 concerts a year you are only travelling, you don't see your family.''
Brandstotter says he was nervous when they took the plunge to make it fulltime. ''We all had little kids. I was playing in a symphony orchestra in Vienna and to quit that job - it's so hard to get a job in an orchestra then to leave it after a couple of years, that's very hard.''
Despite the ensemble's popularity, Brandstotter says Mnozil Brass' unorthodox approach to music has had its critics. ''It was especially when we started playing. A lot of people said 'what are you doing? You're studying classical music now and you're living in Vienna, so you should focus on this earnest music'.
"It was tough in the beginning, but then when people realised that the band was really successful the same people said 'well, you found the real thing, that we've always told you'."
Mnozil Brass play the Auckland Town Hall on September 24.
- © Fairfax NZ News