The one band I desperately wanted to see at SXSW this past March was French Horn Rebellion. This set of brothers put on such an exhilarating live show, and their music have this quality to it that makes me want to go crazy and dance my ass off. Sadly the show I decided to meet them up at was poorly run and had terrible sound. I really felt bad for these guys. The band, however, didn’t let that get them down. Their onstage antics got the audience going despite the large, boisterous crowd next door amping up for Moby. But that’s SXSW – you can have the greatest, most energetic band ever play the weirdest, shittiest stages in Austin. After their set I caught up with Robert and David Perlick-Molinari to talk about their thoughts on the music industry and their driving forces behind French Horn Rebellion.
Robert Perlick-Molinari: It was kind of fun to do a show like that again because we haven’t done one like that, with a really bad sound system where we have to do a lot of other fun things.
Heave: I mean you have some other shows over the week.
Robert: Oh we’re definitely going to do those other two shows. This one we were kind of, maybe going to do it. We weren’t sure if we were going to do it or not. Probably shouldn’t have done it in the end.
David Perlick-Molinari: You know SXSW it’s got it’s own charm but I have to say if could go a year without it, I would do it (laughs).
Heave: This is my first year going.
David: Oh! I’m sorry to say that then. Because the first couple times I went, I loved it.
Heave: It’s very overwhelming.
Robert: The problem is that everything sounds like shit because nobody has the time…
David: There’s no sound check.
Robert: Right, there’s no sound check. And it’s not just like a festival where it’s like great systems, great stages, everything’s very organized. SXSW is just like, throwing a bunch of shit against the wall and seeing what sticks.
David: That’s actually what I think the best term for it is, a shit show. But shit shows can be fun. But it is a shit show
Robert: There’s a nice spirit about it though because the spirit is like, hey let’s just make a bunch of music, it doesn’t matter if you’re bad or good let’s just make something.
David: A lot of people that come here come here to check out music that they potentially want to work with or people they want to work with.
Robert: It’s so hard to throw a good show here though, it’s really really hard because you have no time to sound check. There’s no sound check, there isn’t even a line check. And also in Austin, every time we’ve played here, the sound systems are always really, really bad.
David: Well it’s because there’s so much being thrown at them throughout the day. You change your setting for one thing and then the other thing is completely different with different levels. With music there’s a veil of simplicity to it but extremely complexed when you get down to the differences between different acts and whatnot and what they do and how they achieve it. So such a diverse group of people that come down here to play music they’re forced to stick to one thing.
Robert: That’s why so many bands sound the same because of the way the house has their engineering done on it. Everything kind of sounds like a jam band really., if you have a drummer and a bass and everything. You know what I mean? When you listen to a band and it all sounds kind of jammy? That’s kind of what happens, because they have those settings set in.
David: It’s quick, it’s about quickness.
Robert: It’s better for us to play DJ stuff probably.
David: DJing is much more rewarding.
Robert: And also there’s no sound check required because you have all your tracks. You know what tracks are going to sound good.
David: Yeah it’s like you’re plugging in a CD player. You can give a signal that they know what it is. That’s what’s interesting about what we do though. We try to blend a DJ set and a live set. I don’t know how much of [our show] you saw but we’re playing keyboard and doing things live but we’re also playing with beats that are pre-beated (laughs).
David: Yeah, pre-arranged beats. You know in a live show how DJs will take you and there’s an ebb and flow to how they go from beat to beat? We have a lot of that with what we do and generally when we do it well, we have that. And we also have live performance on top of it. So it’s a bit of a unique thing that’s hard to get just right. But I guess when it’s just right to us most people can’t tell the difference between just right and just wrong.
Robert: I think it’s kind of divisive too, especially with a set like today where the sound is bad.
David: It wasn’t that bad, the sound was all right. It was just the levels, we came in too hot in the first song so it just sounded like mush. Over the course of the set it got better.
Robert: Well there was this guy who came up to me and thought he was really funny and he said “Man I bet when you guys play you get so many haters.”
Heave: What does that even mean?
Robert: It’s because our set is a pastiche, it’s kind of tongue in cheek but it’s fun. It’s fun tongue in cheek and it’s not very serious and it has a lot of personality.
David: I really dislike these people that have become passive about music performance. We try to be active. When we do it well the activeness is very natural and it’s something different.
Robert: The reason why that guy said that was because he doesn’t think that somebody watching our show or listening to our music would understand what to take from it. Whether or not they should take it seriously and be really unhappy about it or whether they should go with the flow and love it.
Heave: But shouldn’t you want to enjoy the music that you’re listening to and have fun with it? Wouldn’t that make sense?
Robert: That’s what we think!
David: I think people that often go to a lot of music concerts who are scenesters or people that just get involved really heavily with music and believe very strongly in something tend to get a little rigid with the way that they enjoy things.
Robert: It probably stems from the fact that a lot of these people don’t make that much money, they’re trying to make money with music and then they get jaded on the facts like this can make me money and that can make me money.
David: That’s a different point but it’s a good point. That’s another reason why you get a lot of people who don’t understand why you’d want to have fun. That’s exactly what we want to do, exactly what we want to do. When we started doing this we wanted music that was fun. We didn’t feel that the things that we were involved with at the time were what we were passionate about or having fun with. It’s kind of something that clicked when we realized we didn’t have to do that, we can do something that we want to do.
Robert: It’s been a long journey, trying to figure out to have fun.
David: It’s a lot easier for us to have fun when there’s other people who are having fun with us. That’s a really funny perspective that you said. Why wouldn’t people want to have fun?
Heave: I don’t know, it’s beyond me.
Robert: You know what I think it is? I think it’s because we’ve been away from the States too long or doing too much stuff outside the States. Because I don’t think people in other countries really want to have fun. Well they do, people everywhere want to have fun…
David: What are you talking about? What other countries?
Robert: I’m saying like there’s a different thing for everyone. The number one thing for them is to be cool, at least in the UK. Everybody’s obsessed with being cool in the UK. They don’t really want to have fun really.
David: But they do! They have fun being cool!
Robert: Well I’m generalizing here, it’s a gross generalization. It’s not really fair to anyone who lives in Europe.
Heave: I think that happens a lot with music writers too. They say that they like bands because it’s cool, it’s the cool band to like.
Robert: Well of course, that’s why we’re not really popular.
Heave: Aw, I like you guys! But I studied film studies instead of music journalism so I feel like I’m on the outside of the music writer blog scene world. I approach music a little different than a lot of my friends that are writers.
Robert: I think that’s the way it is in the current music scene. It’s not really about music. Actually this is why I think we’re unique in a way because we were trained in music, we were music majors in college. I guess we just want to do something different. Actually I wish we were doing more film stuff.
David: We already are! I’m already writing film stuff, I’ve been doing it for a while. I’ve been doing music for short films and video. And that’s exactly the kind of experience that we put into our album. The whole album is ready to be visible.
Robert: My point is, most bands that are cool don’t come from a music conservatory background. In fact, I don’t know anybody personally that went to music school that’s in a band that’s doing what we’re doing. Most everybody went to art school. They went to art school or they went to some kind of visual arts or…
David: Well it has to do with the state of popular music.
Robert: It’s hard for us because we don’t know anything about aesthetic outside of how we sound.
Heave: Well that’s all that should matter, how something sounds.
Robert: That’s what we think, but it’s not always the case. We’re learning really harshly that that’s not the case. Some people like our aesthetic.
David: Well we’re concerned about aesthetic. It’s another tool to use in how to create the sound.
Robert: Our music videos kind of make fun of that in a way because we have no idea what to do.
David: You’re talking about making fun of people who are outside of aesthetic and outside of the tools, just concerned about some elusive cool factor? That’s what you’re talking about?
Robert: Yeah right.
David: The thing is, it’s not just black and white. The battle against trying to be involved in projects you love isn’t cut and dry. Just to be involved in concerts you love, to be involved in anything you love. It’s hard. Not only is it hard to find the things that you love but then it’s hard to make the thing that you love something that can be sustainable, otherwise you’re just doing it as a hobby. Which is great but then you got to do something else too. It just depends what you want to do and we want to do is have fun and express ourselves by eclectic means and do stuff that challenges us. The problem is that that’s not something that comes easily, not even to us or to anyone.
Tune in Thursday to read about the band’s new album The Infinite Music of French Horn Rebellion and how Moby keeps screwing them over in part two of our interview with French Horn Rebellion.