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The Soul Rebels

Soul-Rebels

The Soul Rebels bring a touch of New Orleans to West Coast Blues N’ Roots this Sunday, April 13, at Fremantle Park. BOB GORDON chats with co-founder, Lumar Leblanc.

Lumar Leblanc is in his element. The vocalist and snare drummer for The Soul Rebels is with his band in their hometown of New Orleans and they are practicing. The only place he would rather be is onstage, but one always benefits the other.

“We’re in the studio now,” he notes. “We always go into the studio every month to create music so we can listen back and have a library of music we can pull from when we go touring. Touring’s just about non-stop so you have to be in tune mentally and physically to handle it; it’s a whole spiritual connection.”

“You  got to try to get along with each other, then you gotta create the music to please your fans. We’ve been blessed that we’re able to do it.”

It’s often noted that The Soul Rebels were once described by the Village Voice as ‘the missing link between Public Enemy and Louis Armstrong’, and so it should be. Leblanc formed the outfit with fellow percussionist Derrick Moss in 1991 and they have since toured the world, as well as been the house band on Thursdays at New Orleans hotspot, Le Bon Temps Roulé. Indeed, New Orleans and The Soul Rebels are both of, and with, each other.

“Well New Orleans is a place where music is life,” says Leblanc. “We have such close ties to our history, not only in how we play music, but how we create it. Music is still in the lives, deeply, of everyone in New Orleans, we have our own style and we have our own culture. With the communication systems that have evolved now with the internet and everything you’re able to see everything that’s going on all over the world simultaneously. So we’re able to incorporate other things from other parts of the world into what we do  and it makes for a big, pleasant gumbo of music.

“We still do music in different ways here. Some people like to record and play music in its authentic form and it’s accepted; and you have others that do it like Li’l Wayne and it’s accepted. You have so many different elements here that work together for the common goal of bringing good music.”

This has been especially important since Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans in 2005. While the soul of the city held true, it is music that has helped restore it’s broken heart.

“It’s a real spiritual thing,” Leblanc notes. “We were so connected with Hurricane Katrina and everything that went on, we were able to feel like we were part of the rebuilding effort for the city.  That helped a whole lot because our music got people all over the world through Hurricane Katrina – we still feel like we’re torchbearers for the spirit of the city. People are rebuilding here every day and they look at the music and the culture as one of the main things to bring the city back.”

The band’s most recent release, Power = Power, was a free downloadable mixtape featuring originals plus covers of songs by Jay-Z, Kanye West, Bruno Mars and Daft Punk. In the past they have also collaborated with Metallica, Green Day, Maceo Parker, Suzanne Vega and Dave Stewart.

“It takes a lot of energy and discipline and creativity to do collaborations,” Leblanc says. “You have to find where you and the artist connect, so you can basically create something that’s new and bright and will bring a whole ‘nother life to not only their soul, but your soul.”

“It takes a lot of creativity. It takes a lot of hours of investigating what can come out of it. Hopefully, it’s a spontaneous occurrence where you just get up there and play what you feel, and they play what they feel, and it comes out great. That’s basically how the process is, you try and find an artist that has something to offer like you, whom you feel can connect with your music. That’s what we do. We put forth the band and its instrumentation, which is so different from other groups, and that’s usually the key to making a new hybrid collaboration.”

As for the feedback from the artists they’ve covered…

“It’s been good and thankfully so,” Leblanc laughs. “You never know what a person’s going to think.  It’s always worked out that the artist that we cover has been impressed by what we’ve done with their record, and we’re impressed by how they respond to what we’ve done with their record. It’s like a journey that you go on, seeking something and hopefully you find some treasure. That’s what we’ve been able to do. And it’s beautiful.”

Throughout our conversation saxophones, trumpets and trombones have sounded off in the background, adding to the musicality of Leblanc’s already sonorous voice. Perhaps thinking our conversation was for radio (“You wanna have everyone tell you hello from New Orleans?”), he calls the other members to come to the phone to give some welcoming shout-outs.

‘Hello how’re you doing? It’s Julian Gosin man, on trumpet’. ‘Erion Williams, saxophone, Soul Rebels – God bless Australia’. ‘Paul Robertson, trombone, Soul Rebels – Australia, y’all alright’. ‘Yeah Australia, it’s Marcus Hubbard, Soul Rebels, trumpet – peace and love’. ‘Corey Peyton, trombone, Soul Rebels’.

“Derrick Moss sends his love too, bass drummer,” Leblanc chimes in to finish. “Yeah, so everybody’s excited. God bless, we’re looking forward to it.”

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