Interview: New Orleans Brass Act The Soul Rebels Make Two Bay Area Show Stops at The Independent and Amoeba Music

New Orleans brass act The Soul Rebels have two upcoming live performances in the Bay Area, gathering first at the Independent, followed by an appearance at Amoeba Music the next day. The sound, coming from the eight-member ensemble, incorporates elements of soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, rock and pop music, using a contemporary brass band framework. Their latest album, Poetry in Motion, released last year, features the single “Greatness”. The song became ESPN’s official College basketball theme anthem.

To find out about their shows at The Independent on January 24th and Amoeba Music in the Haight on January 25th, we asked snare drummer and founder Lumar Leblanc about the formation and creative approach of the group, what they like about visiting San Francisco, and their upcoming plans.

When did the Soul Rebels form and has it always been an eight-person collective?

The Soul Rebels have always been a seven to the eight-member collective. We first started in the early ’90s, when my partner bass drummer Derrick Moss and I met as members of another legendary brass band, and we decided to start our own group to produce and perform music that we felt was more contemporary and progressive within the structure of the brass band. We wanted to innovate the style of brass band music, and draw inspiration from popular music; hip hop and rock. The Soul Rebels was born from the desire to innovate and progress the capabilities and perception of what a brass band could do musically. We’ve always honored and embraced the tradition, but our goal was to draw from the tradition and push the boundaries. We wanted to enter a new era of a contemporary and modernized brass band style, to play the music we were hearing on pop radio, but within the context and with respect to the long tradition of the New Orleans brass band makes up.

What instruments does each member play and do some members play multiple instruments?

Every member of the band plays some piano and arranges music and can sing well. The band also has members that rap, produce and compose. One of our trumpeters Marcus Hubbard is heavily involved with the overall production of the band’s music and songs. One of our trombonists Corey, and our trumpeter Julian both compose, produce and rap as well. All of the members of the band use their singing voices. The band is comprised of very talented musicians that also teach music as well. The Soul Rebels consist of myself on snare drum, Derrick Moss on the bass drum, trumpet players Julian Gosin and Marcus Hubbard, trombonists Corey Peyton and Paul Robertson, saxophonist Erion Williams, and sousaphonist Manuel Perkins. The band today is a powerhouse collective of talent. It’s an all-star band.

Who are some of your musical inspirations?

We draw from so many artistic and creative inspirations. Our families and community inspire us. Artists ranging from Rakim, Bob Marley, James Brown, Nas, Jay Z, Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Dr. Dre are all major inspirations. Miles Davis is a huge influence. We are a band with a lot of multi-dimensions. We’re inspired by music ranging hip hop, jazz, classical and electronic music. We work with Marilyn Manson, Wu-Tang Clan, Metallica, Nas, Talib Kweli and a wide range of different artists, so our sources of inspiration are very broad and we love music. We are inspired by the artists we work with as well. As mentioned, Nas and Talib Kweli are in our circle of musical collaborators, and they deeply inspire us. We’re also huge sports fans, and we’re inspired by great performance, style, and athleticism. Fashion and style inform our music, look and sound as well. All of that plays into our sound, style, and culture of our music.

Could you describe the group’s creative approach for making new music, given the number of participants?

Our creative approach is very collaborative and very emotional. We put our entire beings into this music. The music is a reflection of our lives. There’s a lot of storytelling within our music. Some of us compose and produce, and some work on arrangements. We tour and work so closely, we’ve learned to work together as a family. We gel very well. We’ve developed a very natural and comfortable process, and we all know what strengths we all have as individuals. Sometimes music speaks louder than words, and we’ve found a way to naturally work together, and inspire one another throughout that process.

What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received since releasing your latest album?

All we care about is creating music we love and are proud of and that our fans love. It’s amazing to be touring internationally, and hear our a song from the new album on TV oversees. Anytime you hear your music on television or on the radio, or at a mall or movie theatre, it’s a rush and a proud moment.

What do you enjoy most about visiting San Francisco?

San Fransisco is a second home. We know when we play the market, we’re playing for true and loyal fans. We’ve been playing San Fransisco for decades, but in recent years we’ve developed a very vibrant and energized fan base.

When in town, we always make it a point to visit our family at YouTube. Stopping by the YouTube office to visit, have lunch and hang out with the good folks over there has become a tradition before soundcheck. They always make us feel at home.

What is in store for the band in 2020?

WOW! 2020 is a big one. We have a lot of touring and special projects. Some new amazing collaborations and working with friends, such as Big Freedia, DMX, and others. Pretty soon you’ll see a new project we have with the Wu-Tang Clan. We’re planning to tour Europe and jump into February with a 20-date tour of the Northeast. 2020 will be our biggest year yet, and we’re thrilled to be able to launch the new decade performing in the Bay, supporting our new album.

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