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French Horn Rebellion blends rock, classical for unique sound
BY SELENA FRAGASSI | FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
French Horn Rebellion is bringing sexy back—to classical instruments. As the name of the Brooklyn by way of Chicago group might imply, they’re a little bit classical, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, or “what I like to call the ‘orchestra gone wild,’” laughs founder (and trained French horn player) Robert Perlick-Molinari.
Along with his brother David and a rotating cast of characters dubbed The Party Ensemble that join them on tour, they were all once just kids in school bands that decided there were other ways to make old instruments new, and even fun, again. “There came a point when I realized I was playing this music that’s so antiquated, and I got the courage to tell the conductor ‘I’m sick of Beethoven. I’m going to play some hot dance music with my brother, and I’ll catch you later.’”
So, that’s what Perlick-Molinari did in 2007, quitting his appointment in the The Civic Orchestra of Chicago to start French Horn Rebellion. Although the concept of the band originally began as an extracurricular project with his classmates at Northwestern University, it started to get serious the following year with the recruitment of his brother, a computer sound engineer who helped hone the band’s sound. Together, they bring a heavy dose of ’80s-inspired electronic pop they call “New Jack Swing” and were one of the first behind the growing trend of incorporating horn sections into modern electronic and dance music, a style that has since been picked up by popular acts like Capital Cities and St. Lucia.
The two brothers grew up in Milwaukee with the same degree of formality and wanderlust, their father a football player and their mother a “cultured lady” who enjoyed the symphony and fancy nights on the town. “Of course when she had kids they were all boys and so out of fear that we’d all become these heathen athletes, she made sure we all played some sort of instrument,” recalls Perlick-Molinari, noting that every Christmas, instead of getting toys, the brothers would receive sheet music. “But it totally backfired because here we are now these bawdry rock and rollers.”
That’s not totally true. Perlick-Molinari, missing the community he once had, recently joined the Symphony Orchestra of the United Nations, an ensemble of amateur musicians who work at the UN and other international agencies in New York. His brother David, too, has found success working behind the boards for MGMT among other bands. Yet as French Horn Rebellion, they have been the most prolific, releasing countless singles, like their latest, the Swing Into EP that features Nini Fabi of the popular indie band Haerts who got her start singing backup for the brothers.
“We’ve been lucky to play 50-60 shows a year all over the world, and it has given us the chance to meet so many people we’ve cultivated into a great circle of friends and collaborators,” says Perlick-Molinari, noting they’ve also worked with Savoir Adore, Ghost Beach, JD Samson and even Jody Watley. Look for a large compilation of all their one-off tracks this summer, followed by a tour with Chicago band Hey Champ. “That’s why we call it The Party Ensemble and that’s why we invite people on stage at our shows. Everyone is welcome to be a part of the French Horn Rebellion. It’s an orchestra for everybody.”
FRENCH HORN REBELLION
When: 8 p.m., May 4
Where: Schubas, 3159 N. Southport
Info: (773) 525.2508; schubas.com