The Soul Rebels are an absolute standout on their own but they are also the kings of collaboration – from Metallica to Katy Perry these guys are everywhere, and next Easter you will get the chance to see them on the Bluesfest stage at Tyagarah.
In an exclusive interview from Houston, Texas last week, Seven caught up with co-founder and the drum in the brass, Lumar LeBlanc to talk about music, Metallica, and red beans and rice.
You and co-founder Derrick Moss are two percussionists and you started a brass band. How did that happen?
‘The original group was the offset of Harold Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band – we were blessed to be the junior band to that band. So while we were playing their music under their tutelage, we were able to start playing our music. We started playing music of our generation with the folk in the hip hop and gospel [scenes]. We didn’t want to disrespect them, so we thought ‘We’ve got to have a different name when we’re doing that’ – it was on a totally different level.
How does it feel to be a percussionist in amongst all that brass?
It’s great! The drums, as you know, are the heartbeat – that’s what makes the heart move and get the blood pumping. And all of the rest – accompaniment with the trumpets, trombones and the saxophones and sousaphone – it just makes a massive piece. We have been playing drums our whole life – all of us actually have been playing instruments, our whole life. And that combination is unique. It’s exciting. We’ve become very innovative with it – down to different techniques that we use, but it still is authentic – real beats, and that’s what I think definitely separates us from others.
Do you think people have low expectations of a ‘brass band’?
I think they do. Yeah, I think that they look at it more as an authentic, special commodity. Especially being from New Orleans, they kind of look at it as an extension of the culture, rather than something to take seriously like Nirvana or the Beatles. But, we’ve been able to turn it around and, as you saw, we played with Metallica and other bands because of the way we approach the music and the style. Early on, it was a hardship. We had to even get to where we weren’t in the street anymore – no parades. And then from there, we were able to go to the stage. And then on a stage it was a challenge, but we were able to get people to respect it there also.
What does it feel like to be able to share your experience of the way you see music with other people, for example, Metallica, who have a totally different approach?
Oh it’s exciting. You couldn’t imagine the energy that comes out of a formation like that. What we found when we collaborate with other musicians, who love and who are serious about their craft, like Metallica, all of the formulas and instruments kind of just become one. And we look at each other as artists. And the mentality and the vibe from the heart and soul, which is most important, begins to connect. It speaks to the level of musicianship. That can have a determining factor in the success of the collaboration also, when we’re able to listen to their music and appreciate it and master it to the point where we could give it back to them in a respectful way. When two serious groups of musicians connect, they’re not looking at us as a brass band, and we’re not looking at them as a rock band – we’re just one band. With all our collaboration we’ve had no problems at all. We’ve always been able to have the respect and the vibe.
What inspires you?
Oh, my goodness. Personally I’m a very spiritual person. I look at my music and I look at my drum as one connecting spirit extension of me lovely. Artistically, I’m inspired by so much. I love lyrics. It can be from Sade, to Jay Z, Beyoncé to Diana Ross – I love lyrics because I like the message. I write a lot of poetry. I write a lot of rap music. So those things inspire me. Obviously the drums do too, but I’m inspired by a lot of things at heart. I love – I just love – Louise Armstrong, Coltrane, Miles. Yeah, I love those people.
I heard that red beans and rice (a traditional Creole dish made on a Monday and we spoke on Thursday) is your favourite food?
I love it! I want some right now. I can eat that every day! (Laughs a long time…)
Definitely catch LeBlanc and the Soul Rebels at Bluesfest 2023: www.bluesfest.com.au.