French Horn Rebellion's French horn rebellion
How to go from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to working with MGMT
Beaches And Friends, the latest EP from dance-pop duo French Horn Rebellion, is a piece of pure summer bliss that applies rock and funk influences to an exuberant electronic stew. While brothers Robert and David Perlick Molinari now make their home in Brooklyn, they were raised in Mequon, and Robert honed his musical chops as a member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The group returns to Milwaukee Thursday for a show in support of Beaches And Friends at The Cactus Club. In advance of the show, The A.V. Club talked to Robert Perlick Molinari about Milwaukee, ditching the French horn, and being influenced by Epcot.
The A.V. Club: You grew up playing the French horn in Mequon. How did your experiences growing up in the Milwaukee area shape your trajectory as a musician?
Robert Perlick Molinari: Milwaukee is hugely influential in our music. I was in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and when I was a senior in high school I was actually in the UWM Wind Ensemble, or maybe it was the Symphony Band, which is the group right below Wind Ensemble. So when I was a junior and senior in high school, I used to go down to the city of Milwaukee from Mequon every single day, either for MSO or UWM. That was when I was playing French horn, and I really wanted to be a professional French horn player. That was the beginning for me. I used to watch the Milwaukee Symphony and the Skylight Opera all the time—I just couldn’t get enough of it.
AVC: So did you continue playing the French horn after high school?
RPM: I went to Northwestern for college on a French horn scholarship. It was fun and cool and all of that stuff. But I kind of got frustrated with practicing all the time and not being able to make fun music. The French horn can set you free but it can also trap you. [Laughs.] Most practice rooms at Northwestern have a piano, and instead of playing the horn I found myself writing songs on the piano.
AVC: What you’re doing now doesn’t sound anything like MSO.
RPM: Well, Beaches And Friends is a departure from our earlier material into where we are going with the group. The upcoming album is about traveling—geographically, harmonically, and conceptually. My brother was working as a producer and he was really frustrated and unhappy with his computer, or by the fact that he was working with these artists that didn’t want to do anything fun or new. But then he got the chance to produce MGMT and that was a really big departure for him because they did whatever they wanted to do; they didn’t have any filter on what they wanted to express. We thought that was really cool, and we began to think of ways to use the computer to expand and do new things with our music.
AVC: There is a timeless feel to Beaches And Friends. It sounds like it could have come out in any year since the ’70s.
RPM: That was exactly what we were trying to do, and I’m so glad you think that. David and I don’t really listen to a lot of electro-disco-house, which is really interesting because we get asked to do a lot of DJ sets. We never really learned how to play the guitar, so the way that we chose to express ourselves was through electronic instruments like keyboards and synthesizers. And we’re really bad at drumming. [Laughs.] Though we can program some pretty hot beats.
AVC: There’s also a reverence for childhood in your songs. Do you try to think like a child?
RPM: Definitely. The music represents our life journey and experiences. We want to take you, the listener, on a journey or a fantastical adventure. I’m thinking of something like Disney’s Epcot, which was supposed to be an accurate representation of the future. It was a really exciting and cool time, growing up in the ’80s, dreaming of going to Mars and stuff like that. And all of those things that we thought were totally possible—the future was so bright when we were kids—turned out not to happen. So we try to make music that can fulfill those dreams.