He's also a drummer, and though he grew up in Southern California, his time in New Orleans left a deep impression. Inspired by the Crescent City's modern brass bands, in 2006 he started the NO BS! Brass Band with trombonist Reggie Pace. They had a place to fit between 10 and 13 musicians for rehearsal, and they had the means to document their work. And, owing to VCU and its conservatory program — with a history of producing top-notch jazz players — they had plenty of great horn players at their disposal.
Funky and danceable, the NO BS! Brass Band takes after the full black-music continuum you hear in groups like Rebirth or the Hot 8. But it's also proggy, and a bit brutalizing, and full of pride in a different Southern outpost. The group's new album is called RVA All Day, after all. And about that jazz cred: In July, it'll release another album called Fight Song, so named because it features the band's arrangements of Charles Mingus compositions.
Recently, Koehler, Pace and nine other musicians piled into a bus and journeyed up the freeway to NPR Music's Tiny Desk in Washington, D.C. They blasted us with songs from the new album — it was so loud, you could hear the music on the other side of the building, a floor down. And this summer, when Pace isn't out with Bon Iver's touring band, they'll strike out from Oregon Hill to fly the Richmond flag up and down the East Coast.