Taking the band by the horn

For brothers Robert and David Perlick-Molinari, the French horn powers electronic dance beats.

by Jackie Renzetti

Robert Perlick-Molinari is using his French horn performance degree to make electronic dance music a little brassier.

He enlisted his brother, David Perlick-Molinari, and hit the road in 2007 as French Horn Rebellion. Since then, they’ve released one full-length and a steady stream of singles, which they plan to compile into another album this summer.

 “We’ve traveled almost everywhere, spreading the gospel of the French horn,” Robert Perlick-Molinari said.

Perlick-Molinari got the idea to switch from classical music to electronic pop after a summer interning with his brother in New York City.

They helped produce MGMT, whose lack of traditional instruments inspired them to do something similar.

“We’ve been telling people that you can play your French horn, oboe, whatever it is, and it can be fun,” Robert Perlick-Molinari said. “It doesn’t have to be strict like in orchestra.”

The duo performs “next jack swing,” which is new jack swing revamped with “heavier beats and funkier bass lines,” Robert Perlick-Molinari said.

Their track “Girls” exemplifies next jack swing with its friendly, persuasive groove, channeling ’80s pop geared to make the listener move.

As with many electronic groups, French Horn Rebellion often record songs for the sole purpose of sampling them later, often opting for miniscule samples only seconds in length. The beginning of their song “Caaalifornia” shows the outcome — a stimulating series of notes formed by a repeated sliver of a manipulated earlier recording.

Almost every track has French horn in it, though it’s sometimes muted. Other times, it’s mistaken for a different instrument, as in the middle of the 2014 single “Swing Into It,” in which the horn mimics a synth guitar.

On the road, the band adds a drummer, Jake St. John, to emulate the original tracks’ preprogrammed drums.

“It’s challenging but rewarding,” St. John said of the translation process. “They’re very particular about how they want an instrument to sound.”

The band challenges itself to play the tracks live without betraying their original musical aims.

“Part of why we’re so meticulous about the arrangement is because part of the intention is to make stuff that’s crazy and couldn’t be played live,” David Perlick-Molinari said.

Creating that kind of music was exhilarating for the brothers and channeled the frustration from constantly replicating parts in orchestra and band. Their goal isn’t to be replicated, but to draw a response from other artists and their listeners.

“What we’re trying to send with the whole ‘band geeks gone wild’ thing and French Horn Rebellion is that you can be in an orchestra in a modern context in today’s culture,” Robert Perlick-Molinari said.


What: French Horn Rebellion with Hollow & Akimbo
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: 7th Street Entry, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $12-15
Age: 18+