Q&A with French Horn Rebellion: The Funkiest Band Around

Photograph by Haley Ballard

If you’ve lived your life woefully unaware of the heavy grooves regularly put forth by French Horn Rebellion, there is perhaps no better introduction than their new video for “Foolin’ Around.” The song and video perfectly captures the feeling of freedom and jubilant youth inherently baked into their music. In short, there is no better release from adulthood than the funkadelic grooves of French Horn Rebellion.

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When I hear a tune this good, I have an immediate need to dive deeper. I want to figure out who and what is lies behind the frenetic groove-laden madness. Luckily for me (and you), French Horn Rebellion were quick to answer. Perched on what is sure to be a runaway success, they were kind enough to answer a few questions.

When you listen to “Foolin’ Around” (or any other track on Milk Crater) we donate to charity. So feel free to spread the good word, discover some new tunes, and join the Milk Crater family 🙂

MC: Where does the name French Horn Rebellion come from?

FHR: Years ago, I was playing in the Chicago Civic Orchestra as a French horn player, and one day decided it wasn’t the right place for me. I needed a place where I could make my own music, put French horn on types of music it had never been, and just have fun with an instrument often labelled stale or out-of-date. So one day, I rebelled against the horn establishment and asked my brother David for help. We decided to make dance music and put horn on top. You’re not supposed to do that. So needless to say, we’ve been having a lot of fun. The obvious name for the project then became, ‘French Horn Rebellion.’

MC: Your sound is filled to the brim with funkadelic greatness. What bands influenced that sound?

FHR: All the funky ones! “Foolin’ Around” is inspired by a lot by late 70s AM Radio a.k.a. ‘Yacht Rock.’ The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins, Steely Dan were big influences. But over the last two albums, we have explored so many great and funky tunes. Growing up a classical French horn player in middle school through college, I was exposed more to Brahms than the Brothers Johnson, so over the last eight years, it has been an amazing discovery process. In 2008, we were listening mostly to electro and blog-haus. Later, we got very deep into New Jack Swing (Teddy Riley, New Edition, ABC/BBD). Now, we’re obsessed with soft, groovy stuff — some call it ‘dad rock,’ we call it funky times. Needless to say, we’re always excited about discovering even more amazing music that makes us want to dance— who knows where our music will go in the future!

MC: Where did the inspiration for your new “Foolin Around” video come from?

FHR: Being a French horn player in an electronic dance band is all about owning who you are, what you love, and how you want to live your life. Just as we are fighting against perceptions of the way we ‘should’ be musically as French horn players, these moms are living the lives they always have wanted to. They don’t have to be the stereotypical 90s mom, they can be anything and everything they truly believe is right for them— even playing Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction, swimming in a bed full of Beanie Babies, or rocking a wicked guitar solo!

MC: If you could co-write a song with anyone, who would it be? What would the song be titled?

FHR: I would love to write with Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, or Quincy Jones. If it was Zappa, I would call the song, ‘Feelin’ French Horny’ and it would be the funkiest thing ever, with the wildest melodies known to mankind.

MC: Your music has taken you all over the world, any places that stole a piece of you?

FHR: I absolutely love Latin America – we’ve played in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico – and every time I come down south of the border, I wish I could stay.

MC: You are forced to give all of your money to a charitable cause, which would it be and why?

FHR: This is crazy- but growing up, I wasn’t just a French horn player in marching band, I was also an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America! (Extremely, painfully geeky!) Being a scout, I learned a lot about myself and was exposed to the outdoors in a way that has been profound for me. I now am a regular visitor of the National Parks System, hiking, biking, swimming, and so on. Especially now that the scouts are open towards the LGBT community, I would happy donate my vast fortune (sarcasm) towards their cause.

MC: What’s next for French Horn Rebellion?

FHR: SO MUCH! We have a new album coming out this summer that will be only our third album in eight years. We are SO excited to release all this great new music to the world!