This week on American Routes, we’ve got live performances by the Soul Rebels. We go to the stage for a conversation with the group’s founding fathers, bass drummer Derrick Moss and snare drummer Lumar LeBlanc, to talk about how Soul Rebels came to be.
Lumar LeBlanc: Soul Rebels started in 1991.
Derrick Moss: Established.
LL: Established. But we originally were members of Dejan’s Young Olympia Brass Band from New Orleans. A band led by Mr. Harold Dejan, Milton Batiste, this band laid a fine tradition so that all of the other brass bands could basically go on. But being the Young Olympians to Dejan’s senior band, we kind of went into the Soul Rebel thing. We wanted to do music that was not just basically the traditional jazz repertoire. Even though that was the foundation and an essential part of our training, we moved on to the hip-hop, the funk, the reggae, calypso, and other different forms of music, and we still held true to the second line jazz music that New Orleans created. But out of that, we got a whole new persona. We began to experiment with different sounds, different rhythms, different outfits, we became more of a, kind of a Black Power group to be honest.
Nick Spitzer: I remember those old records you had, the flags on there, very Afro-centric…
LL: Very Afro-centric.
NS: And very rebellious.
LL: Yeah, Derrick actually drew the first design with the fist.
NS: All that talent!
LL: Busting out of the X. But from there, you know, we were known as kind of a rebellious group because of the style of music we played in New Orleans, people looked at us as we were kind of disrespecting tradition, actually.
DM: We didn’t come out doing what everybody else did. Everybody, there was the Rebirth, the New Birth, the After Birth…
DM: You know everybody wanted to be the birth. So you know, that was the thing. But for us, you know, we were in marching band, junior high, high school, college, and you know, we were on the college level. We were leaders in university bands and also…
NS: At Southern University?
DM: Well, all over. We got Southern University, we got Texas Southern University…
NS: Yeah, you got a whole league here.
DM: We got Dillard University. Xavier University.
NS: Look out.
DM: Yup, yup, we, look we got degrees. And they only a couple of them are in music.
DM: You know, we got degrees. So anyway, I say that to say that we learn music on a level of, I guess above the street level, you know. We all got some street in us but, to sound like this, you have to study. So that’s my point. Stay in school!
NS: So take us from the street to the club. How do you make that kind of transition from a second line playing or marching all the time?
DM: We had to make a decision. You can’t be both. It’s like we were on the street. To play on the street with no amplification, you know, it takes a lot of blowing, like you’re in a marching band. But you can’t come from that and then come into a club on these mics, see how, like, this thing is hot. You can’t blow into this like you come off the street. These people would be running out of here. So, and for guys that play horn, you can’t blast off all day and then try to play low, the lip, the lip will be gone, you know, so we had to make a decision. And I don’t want to be on the street anymore.
LL: It was a, you know, an artistic, it was an artistic thing, really. We still bring the street to the stage because, you know, the instrumentation is authentic, still have a sousaphone, two trombones, two trumpets, a saxophone, bass drum, and a snare drum.
LL: Just warm bodies playing through the horn, giving you that soul from that individual person.
NS: Warm bodies.
NS: I think the bodies are hot.
LL: You still have to have that. You know, you still have to have that.
NS: I’ll tell you what gentlemen, we got a crowd here. Could I ask you to take it to the stage tonight?
LL: Well sure.
NS: We all need to have our minds freed sometime. Welcome them back with a big round of applause, Soul Rebels.
To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 5 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.