Consider this. An opening slot on a Kitsuné Maison compilation. A live gig at a Jean-Charles de Castelbajac catwalk show. A ‘Record of the Week’on BBC Radio 1. Heck, this band even had Les Inrockuptibles’ editor championing it as if his own mother was the drummer. And we ain’t talking your usual one-hit-wonder, I’m-a-celebrity-dj-get-me-out-of-here band of the moment. We’re talking down-to-earth, “how the hell did we end up here?!” type of guys. We’re talking the French Horn Rebellion, two unassuming brothers originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who released a single back in 2009, and who have since enjoyed the kind of praise Phil Spector could only dream of. To say that these cats have burned a couple of (red) lights would be an understatement. Indeed, the intensity and rapidity of their ascension has, if anything, made the usual industry cynics question their relevance. Make no mistake though, the French Horn Rebellion is as relevant to this decade as Kurt was to the 90s.
I met up with the ‘brothers slim’ a couple of hours before they are set to take the stage at Brussels’ K-Nal as part of some Hilfiger Denim-underwritten showcase that sees them paired together with, amongst others, Das Pop, Team William and DJ Motor. The minute they enter, I am immediately struck by the energy the two siblings bring with them, somewhat similar to the music they make. Engaging and moving, yet soft-spoken and inclusive.
“We’re mainly an electronic band because of Kitsuné” says Robert, who confesses that ‘Up All Night’ (their first single) actually was the first ‘four to the floor’ tune he’d ever written. “I had heard Fox & Wolf’s Youth Alcoholic track and instantly went and got all the Kitsuné Maison compilations” reveals Robert, explaining his attraction to the label’s ecclectic and quirky style. “(When word came) about being on the Kitsuné Maison 8, we were dumfounded.” You don’t say: your first ever single ending up on what is probably one of the most respected compilations around is quite a feat indeed.
Pressing the duo on the specificities of their sound, several (mixed) responses are belted out, giving the impression that they don’t feel the need to label themselves, or their music, in any way that’d make it easier for the industry to package them. “We create moods and like the unexpected” explains David (the more experienced of the pair whom, as a producer, worked on MGMT’s Time to Pretend EP). Robert, ever the classically-trained musician and a French Horn rebel himself, even goes a step-further (sometimes, one suspects, to have one-up on his older brother), stating “I don’t know why I make dance music”.
Sticklers for timing, programming and curating the acts booked for one night (they throw regular parties in Brooklyn under the Brass Magic moniker), their inability to define themselves is compounded by the very clear idea they have of when they should take to the stage (or the decks): “We’re definitely a half past midnight band,” says David “evening and late night is when we play well.” To put it in their words: “We launch the party, and the DJ climaxes it.” Definitely the brainy type (we spent a good 5 minutes talking about the merits of reximing other bands’ songs, and how enriching it was to study other people’s musical layering), the band’s approach to making music is very much shaped by their sibling complimentary. Robert does the demo, and David finishes it. “When I (write or compose) a track, it sounds incomplete without David.” says Robert who goes so far as evoking Tarantino’s approach to movie-making as inspiration: “We take the old to make new.” And new their sound is.
Their single ‘Up All Night’ definitely is driven by a dance-like tempo says David, although the melodies and moods that regularly pop up mean it could just as easily provide the background music to a picnic in the park. Contrasts people, it’s all about contrast. Here is a band that thinks nothing of layering a French Horn (an instrument which, let’s face it, doesn’t exactly buy you an induction into the Rock and Roll hall of fame) on top of a patchwork of electronic beats and synth-driven punch lines, supplemented by dreamy vocals. Think Sébastien Tellier with a little Chromeo.
Their music, just as themselves, doesn’t take itself too seriously (check the hilarious ‘Williamsburg version’ of the ‘Up All Night’ video, which takes direct aim at the neighborhood’s commuting boho-hipsters as proof), provides the soundtrack for a generation of debauchery-prone understated anti-hipsters with more than just a little free-time on their hands and a good dose of untapped talent. Call them dancefloor nerds, even nightlife poets.
Thing is, David and Robert evidently seem to be having the time of their lives, yet have no illusions that this could all end tomorrow and that they could be back to their former lives – with David probably earning yet another producer credit on the next major indie release coming out of the Big Apple and David waving his magic wand as lead conductor of, say, the New York Philharmonic).
French Horn Rebellion don’t believe the hype people. They shape it, then move on to the next thing.
Get your exclusive download here.
Stream the band’s new EP, Beaches and Friends, here.