French Horn Rebellion
It’s all in the name.
French Horn Rebellion is what it says, an act of musical defiance against what Robert Perlick-Molinari was supposed to do as a young horn player making his way into the business in Chicago. Take freelance gigs. Play with this orchestra and that opera. Stick to the literal script—or score, in this case—and proceed accordingly. At some point, Robert says he just grew tired. Hence the rebellion.
Fast forward a few years and Robert along with his brother David are a dynamic, collaborative force to behold. They’re remixing MGMT, headlining coast to coast with Mystery Skulls, and preparing to release a new LP on the heels of the delicious Foolin’ Around EP. Whether producing or collaborating with other artists, writing their own music, or searching for inspiration, Robert says he never stops working. Maybe it’s that Midwestern work ethic.
Stereo Subversion: It’s rare that I speak to an artist this early in the morning—
Robert Perlick-Molinari: I guess a lot of artists work with other producers, but we produce other people. We have to be ready for everybody. That may be the reason why we’re one of the few early risers. It’s funny because we come from Milwaukee where people have this industrial background and people get to work at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m.
SSv: That good Midwestern work ethic.
Robert: If I get up at 10:00 a.m., I feel like a lazy guy. [Laughs]
SSv: Let’s start there with these musical plates. How much of your time is invested in French Horn Rebellion and how much is for the projects of others?
Robert: Well the way it works right now is that almost everything we do is related to French Horn Rebellion. If we do something for somebody else, it’s known that we’re working with them. It’s a remix or a mixtape or a co-write. A lot of it at this point has to do with FHR, but maybe once or twice a week, there’s something that’s not related. I’ll do something out of left field where someone needs something recorded, or I’ll play horns on someone’s stuff. So there’s a lot of various things.
This week actually has been a lot of French Horn stuff. We’re working on an official MGMT remix, which will be coming soon and that’s exciting. That was Monday. On Tuesday, there’s an artist called Beat Market who are friends in Montreal. They’re an all instrumental group, so I took one of their songs and sang on top of it. On Wednesday, I was working with this guy from Denmark named Gregor making some music for a potential album for him. Then I finished our mixtape for the fall and I’m working with our bass player on original music. So when we’re off tour, we’re doing stuff all the time.
We’re preparing to release a full-length next spring, so we’ve been writing a lot of music for that. And we’re preparing for a big tour in March, so those are the big things.
SSv: Does this feel like a great opportunity ahead?
Robert: We’ve gone on a lot of national tours. Our live show is really fun and it’s awesome to do. We went on a lot of tours in the past—we did one with Hey Champ and that was awesome. We did some shows with Zak Waters last year. But this time, we’ve got our ducks in a row. We’ve got a new management team. We’re releasing new music. It should be a bigger tour than the last one.
SSv: Do you enjoy spinning so many plates? Is that the work ethic you mentioned? Is part of that being so inspired? Is part of it about staying in front of fans?
Robert: I can tell you that you can work as long as you want on something, but if you don’t have an idea, then it’s fruitless. If I have something to do, I’ll take a walk or a bike ride or hike or read a book until I’m inspired. It’s a constant struggle to look for stuff that inspires you, not only just sitting down and doing it.
SSv: Has there been a recent time you’ve struggled to access that?
Robert: We’ve ran into that in the past, but that’s why we do so many collaborations. When you have other people in the room, you create a dialogue and get inspired by that. For us, the mission is about trying to create positive vibes and encourage them to be who they want to be, to be independent and comfortable in who they are and what they offer. That’s a huge well of inspiration that constantly brings out new avenues.
The French Horn Rebellion started because I was practicing as a french horn player in an orchestra. I was playing at Western University in various groups. I played in the Chicago Civic Orchestra. I played in the Jerry Springer opera in Chicago. I did some freelance stuff. So I was practicing all of the time, and I felt like I couldn’t express anything that I wanted to express through music. I was making all of these sacrifices to be a musician, but I wasn’t taking the opportunity to make my own sounds, my own message. So that’s why the group started is because we wanted to say: you don’t have to play excerpts as they’re written.
As a horn player, you play the same thing perfectly over and over again. It’s how you succeed. It’s not about the creativity you put into it. It’s about how well you can play them. It’s clockwork, like a machine. But with French Horn Rebellion, it’s the opposite. It’s about the message and the voice that you have. It’s whatever you have that is unique to you. The great thing is that you’re encouraged to embrace your individuality. So that’s where the inspiration comes from. It’s not like you have to get inspired by some classical piece like a melody or harmony. It’s drum, bass, synthesizer, guitar—whatever you want, you can get inspired by it and build from it.
SSv: How does inspiration play into your chemistry with your brother? Do you run into the wall at times or do you keep each other from doing that?
Robert: The way we work is that we don’t work in the same room in the initial phases. We make demos separately and then work together farther along in the process. In that way, it helps our creativity. It’s my job to continuously bring new energy into the project. I’m the guy working with other artists or producers or lyricists. I’m always bringing in new people or new energy and then he does mostly commercial work. He gets the music at a later stage in the process, so he comes with fresh ears, which is always helpful, to work on it. That’s our process.
We haven’t necessarily run into a stagnant period, really. However, this new Foolin Around EP, we were doing singles and singles for so long, and for this EP, it was actually supposed to be an LP. We didn’t have enough outside creativity or inspiration coming into the project. We’d written it ourselves and we were stuck in our old stuff. We wanted to find a new sound. Now, six or nine months later after we’re farther along in this, we’re realizing the importance of collaboration with new and different people.