The interview: French Horn Rebellion’s broke ass tour trials and tribulations

Depending on your mood, interviewing a band like French Horn Rebellion is either a nightmare or an unexpected treat. Walking in with a list of questions is pointless, given the chatty ping-pong style dynamics of the Brooklyn-based two-piece. We caught up with the lively siblings this past Sunday before their gig supporting Hercules and Love Affair at Brussels’ Botanique and, sparking off the conversation with a series of “Your mama’s so broke” jokes, the Perlick-Molinari brothers made it clear that this would not be your typical Q&A session. Instead, we found out about the importance of spins, the harshness of music critics, living 24/7 with your sibling and the trials and tribulations of being an independent self-promoted, self-tourmanaged, self-released band.

David and Robert Perlick-Molinari of French Horn Rebellion, getting their feet wet after their concert at the Botanique

The boys are currently without a label, and although they finished their debut album The Infinite Music of French Horn Rebellion a year ago, it was only released last month. “What we’re doing is truly independent and very entrepreneurial. It’s fun to see how it grows as a business when you put so much time and effort – and you’re like the owner of it,” admits David. “It’s really beneficial on multiple levels and not just for the musical reward you get. Right now it’s all fun but we’re building for something bigger, because there’s just no money in being all small potatoes like us.” Not having any tour support, it’s often a struggle getting their act on the road, and whilst most bands complain about crap food, sleep depravation or the flat screen of their tourbus being bust – David and Robert are faced with far more trivial, and annoying, details. “We have very limited means and fly most places because that’s the cheapest for us,” explains David. “With the equipment we’ve got, we have to work out exactly how much it weighs because we’re always so close to the edge. We made the mistake of bringing a guitar once and had to pay an extra €130, which was more than the actual ticket. There are just so many things you have to research and calculate. The challenges of organisation end up eating up the creative time. We talk about business a lot, but that’s because it just takes over our lives.”

The strains of managing a DIY operation is hard enough as it is, one could imagine that when faced with difficulties, touring with a sibling maximises the chances of getting on each other’s nerves. “Well yes, but it helps having a third person”, says Robert of Sam, their lighting engineer. “We realize it’s essential having a third wheel. Once you have a third person it just becomes more like friends hanging out.” Given their obvious complicity, we’ll take their word for it. Then there’s the highly entertaining constant back-and-forth banter, even when addressing odd topics such as onstage spins…

Robert: I’ve learned that my keyboard solos are better when I don’t drink at all and also so I can do more spins.

David: Who does that besides Michael Jackson?

Robert: Francis and the Lights.

David: But that’s like a Motown trick.

Robert: Man, I gotta go to Motown school.

David: Frankie Valli?

Robert: Frankie Valli’s not Motown, David.

David: I know, but…

Robert: I don’t think Frankie Valli did spins.

David: He didn’t?

Robert: I think he was more just like, a singer.

David: Well James Brown did spins.

Robert: Yeah, true entertainers – they do spins!

“Brothers communicate differently and have a different threshold of patience, I guess. But you can never quit brotherhood though,” David adds. Reminding them about how the Gallagher siblings seem to have managed to pull off that one, they ponder for a second and even consider injecting some added drama to their act. “Maybe we wouldn’t have a broke ass tour,” jokes Robert. Not having the luxury of their own booking agent, they patch up tours by working with different people in several countries, based on a network built-up over the years. But the boys don’t despair. To David, “it has to do with every new relationship you bring into your team. It’s all about the positive energies you put into something. It will somehow end up manifesting itself somewhere, just like some sort of cosmic principle – like karma.”

And although their tracks have been met great enthusiasm worldwide, they’ve learned the hard way that you simply can’t gather unanimous approval when working in the creative field. Speaking about the 5 Days Off Festival in Amsterdam, where they played the night before, Robert confesses he couldn’t help but feel a tad hurt by a less than flattering tweet. “It was good, we were really happy with the show. Then I went on Twitter and this guy was like: ‘What a mess, I’m so glad the DJ started playing again, it was so much better.’ He turned out to be a music journalist blogger, and I looked at what he blogged about and, of course, he loves Warpaint.” When asked if they’re not fans of the LA-based female band, they simply shrug. “No, we do, but it just seems that everybody that doesn’t like us like Warpaint.”

If they recount these tales of rejection with a smile, Robert admits he’s no stranger to the dark side every once in a while. “I was planning everything and doing all of the business stuff when we first started off. But sometimes it just gets to a point where you need help and can’t do it. I had put a whole US tour with our friends from Database back in 2009. They’re from Brazil so we had to sort out their work visas, pay for them, and make the whole thing look really professional. The missing link though was that this van that I bought was an absolute piece of shit. We were late to every gig because it kept breaking down and wouldn’t go faster than 55 miles/hour. Getting to Phoenix, the car had broken down several times, popped a few wheels in the middle of the night and totally finished in Tucson. We missed the soundcheck and the soundguy was really mean. We played but sounded absolutely terrible. There were loads of drunken college kids that kept on booing us, and I just totally lost it. I started bawling and crying, then told the promoter ‘don’t pay us man, we’re not worth it.’”

David: “I had to put a sweatshirt over his head and take him down to the hotel room to cool him down with ice and everything.”

Robert: “Something I find funny is that even though we do something quite positive, people actually get mad at us for doing it. We’re just making fun music that’s also interesting and satisfies our nerdy desires as classical musicians. We make it come from such a positive, innocent place, really – and then these people get truly angry about it!”

David: “That’s probably our biggest mission statement: to get people to lighten up.”

French Horn Rebellion’s debut album is available here.