You know what dance music has been missing? More French Horn. And more bassoon, oboe, clarinet and flute. At least that’s the opinion of French Horn Rebellion, the Wisconsin-born dance band who just launched a site to put classical musicians on the dance floor.
Band Geeks Gone Wild is a site that encourages band kids – and their band instruments – to play over hot beats and, in the process, learn how to create unexpected music from entirely conventional instruments. Users pick a backing track created by French Horn Rebellion, choose the right key for their instrument, and record themselves as they play along to the provided sheet music.
The site is like a civic service for band geeks who think they’ll be stuck playing Tchaikovsky for the rest of their lives. It gives them a shot to be cool, find a creative community and change minds about what you can do with a brass instrument.
“A lot of people would come up to us after our shows and say, 'I used to play clarinet or oboe in high school and I always felt like I was a band geek or an outcast,'” said Robert Perlick-Molinari, the French Horn-playing half of French Horn Rebellion. “You feel self-conscious about what you like to do… we want [the site] to be a place where people can share what they enjoy.”
The idea grew from the M.O. of the band itself. French Horn Rebellion is a tightly produced dance band made up of brothers Robert and David Pelick-Molinari. While they both have classical backgrounds – Robert played French Horn with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a time – the two were drawn to the creative freedom and joie de vivre of dance music.
“When it really started was the summer after my freshman year of college,” Robert said. “I wasn’t able to get into any of those classical festivals, so I called my brother and said, 'Hey David, I know you’re working at a studio in Midtown, do you need an intern?' He was working at a studio in New York doing mostly commercial work about seven years ago and that year he ended up mixing MGMT. I thought to myself, 'Wait a minute, you don’t need a guitar to make rock music?'”
From there, the brothers started making pop-inflected dance beats, testing out how to push the limits of their formal training. They put out their debut album, The Infinite Music of French Horn Rebellion, in 2010, but realized they were drifting away from why they started the band in the first place.
“Two years ago we got this realization at the end of our first album campaign -- we’re cool as individuals, we need to embrace our individuality.” They rethought their core message and “one of the first things we thought of was this website,” Robert said.
They showed it to a friend who worked at music site The Wild Honey Pie and paired up with Squarespace, a website building service, to make Band Geeks Gone Wild a reality. Right now, the site has collected five videos, including one from a college band director that Robert can’t stop raving about.
“I think the key to this is creativity,” he said. “If you want to be a classical musician, you need to play a certain selection of excerpts or play them perfectly in order to succeed. Classical kids aren’t going to get in on [the site] right away. That’s one thing we’ve noticed, is that the kids who are classical kids are really hard to shake up; you end up getting stuck in this paradigm you have to break out of.”
French Horn Rebellion is sweetening the pot to encourage participation. Every video post automatically enlists the poster in the band’s “Party Ensemble” music collective and earns them two free tickets to the next French Horn Rebellion show in their city. Thankfully, there will be opportunities. The band is heading on a 13-date tour starting November 30 in Chicago and releasing a music video for their single "Caaalifornia," one of the available tracks on Band Geeks Gone Wild.
If there’s one message to the site, it’s one of inclusion, no matter how silly it may be to play a baritone on the dance floor or start a band with your brother that features – however improbably – the French Horn. In Robert’s words: “French horn players unite, we’re everywhere.”