The Soul Rebels came together under the idea of combining contemporary music with traditional New Orleans Jazz fundamentals. What results from this foundation, is a unique brass section with exciting originals and amusing renditions of popular songs. Coming to the Loft this Friday, drummer Derrick Moss spoke with Alex May about their unique sound and increasing popularity.
I hear you just got back from Haiti, how was your trip?
It was awesome, we were honored to be there and accepted and received by the US Embassy and the ambassador, and we even performed the next day at the ambassador’s mansion, and it was great. She even got up and danced, front and center!
Having eight instrumentalists in the band, how do you begin arranging songs?
Well, with all songs we start with the bass line. Once we establish the bass line with the sousaphone, then you mostly, the melody of the song is played by the trumpets, then people can recognize the singing mostly, like the part that would be sung by the singer, will be played by the trumpets. Then the trombones actually pick notes with the saxophone to form the chords in the background that go on while the melody is being played. And then us drummers, we basically will play a beat that’s similar to what the song is, but probably add a little extra to it, to make it rebel. I call that rebelizing the song.
How do you pick which popular songs to play in a brass arrangement?
Well, it’s through our marching band experience. All of us, there are certain songs that are perfect for horns, which are songs that have a lot of songs in it already, for instance, like anything by Earth, Wind, & Fire. And then the songs that we don’t usually try to play are songs that are more electronic. That’s a number two for a marching band, any kind of band with horns. We want music that has real instruments in it, and not electronics.
What are some important brass traditions to keep in mind when arranging contemporary styles of music?
Being that we are a brass band, we still use the instrumentation of a traditional brass band. We still use that style of arranging music, which is getting the bassline down, then having a song that has a recognizable melody that you can, that anyone will recognize when they hear it, some are being played by horns, or trumpets, and then the trombones will play the chords and background parts, but basically music that is through real instruments, preferably real horns playing, and if not, even horns, horns parts that are played by keyboards, we can still play those and make the song sound great. So once again, it was like any song, we can play any song, but the ones that really sound great are the ones that have real instruments, preferably horns, already in the music.
Your recent album is named “Unlock Your Mind,” can you tell us a little about what the title means?
Right off the bat, the main thing we mean by that is like the contemporary new wave message from our very first CD, which was “Let Your Mind Be Free.” We have been letting our mind be free for many years now, and now for this latest CD we did, we call “Unlock Your Mind” is because even though a lot of people have let their mind be free to express themselves however they choose, there are some folks who still hold back from true freedom of expression, so when we say Unlock Your Mind, we mean to express yourself, express your music exactly the way you want it to be expressed, and that’s being accepted a whole lot more now than in the early 90s, when we started.
It’s much easier now to record different styles of music in different types of settings than it was twenty years ago. It’s a great thing for us, because we play so many different styles of music, and we do incorporate those styles in our live shows. So now the transition of the music industry really is in our favor.
You have shared the stage with everyone from Metallica and Green Day to Eurythmics and Cee Lo. Who were some of the most memorable artists to play alongside with?
The Neville Brothers, played with Bootsy Collins, we just did a show with Ice Cube not long ago, and then there’s several others that we.. oh my God, the biggest surprise of all was when we got the opportunity to open up every night for the 30 year anniversary shows for Metallica. At the end of the night, we actually performed (Enter) Sandman on stage with them, and that’s documented on our website. I was stinging righter next to Lars, the drummer, playing the cowbell and tambourine while he’s rocking out on the drums, and we’re looking at each other rocking out and a picture of that is in their magazine, and it was awesome.
You played at the nationally televised 2013 NFL Honors Awards Show on CBS. How did you get involved with the show?
We were recommended by them. When they came to town wondering what band they could use, to pull this off, and one of the guys who was present a year or two before saw us play a live event during the NFL, I think the Saints played someone in New Orleans, and we actually played for that event. They recorded us playing one of the NFL tunes, and I remember the people saying “wow, we didn’t expect this to turn out that great,” but we take it serious, and we did a good job while playing the NFL theme song, and they remembered. And someone remembered, and when they came to town, they said “Man, you should check these guys out, they did it well when the Saints played that time”, so they came and checked us out, and we did it. They sent us all the different NFL tunes that we hear on the different TV shows and ESPN, and we learned ‘em all. The came and heard us play ‘em live on stage, they loved it, and we got the job.
Get your tickets to the Soul Rebels, this Friday 1/31 at the Loft!