Experimental musician, Matthew Herbert, has been given access to a grant from the UK Department for International Trade, for the purpose of touring Europe with his ‘Brexit Big Band’, in order to repair continental rifts caused by our decision to leave the European Union. He was one of the 12 artists who would each receive a share of the £181,944 worth of funds, allocated to promote free trade and co-operation with other member states by exporting British musical talents abroad. Other beneficiaries included English vocalist GhostPoet and alternative rock collective Public Service Broadcasting.

To rectify the misconception that the UK was “retreating into an absurd little enclave”, Matthew Herbert aims to show in his travels that “we are still listening, we want to be friends, and we want to collaborate.” Herbert built a name for himself as a house producer in the 1990s and then rose to further prominence in the 2000’s, owing to his unique creation of electronic sounds via the use of everyday objects. The construction of his Brexit Big Band initiative in early 2017 seemed a natural extension of this passion for obscurity. Spencer’s online website encourages users to upload short clips of Brexit associated noises, so that a large ‘sonic petition’ can be fashioned. An example of how such noise can be produced was evidenced at a recent show at The Barbican, London, during which the percussion for one track was offered by tearing up Pro-Brexit newspaper The Daily Mail publications.

After a string of upcoming Brexit related concerts and courses, Herbert hopes to release a summative album at the time of our official separation with the European Union in March 2019. A statement on the musician’s website says that “the album itself will begin with just one sound and then add layer upon layer, adding musicians, singers, choirs, soloists and big bands from across Europe until it reaches upwards of 1,000 people performing at once. Lyrics will be sung in different languages and the lyrical and thematic content developed with established writers.”

Many Leave campaigners have argued that Matthew Herbert’s Big Brexit Band is really code for a Big Anti-Brexit Band. They claim that he is using government money to mount a project that goes against the interests of the UK and the democratic will of the people. However, Herbert insists that the venture is not an anti- Brexit mission, but an undertaking that he believes will help forge a friendlier and more collaborative relationship with our European neighbours. Herbert ultimately desires a more affable future liaison, once we have formally departed from the club we were once so eager to join.

Article by Yohannes Lowe. 

George Millington