Soul Rebels' Lumar Leblanc on Drum-Battling The Roots' Questlove: "I'd Love the Challenge"
Photo by Rick Olivier
The Soul Rebels are a mighty force from New Orleans that's rocked with Metallica, covered Jay Z, and marched with instruments across the London Bridge for the BBC.
Now this eight-piece brass band is coming to Miami's favorite 24-hour liquor, food, pool, and sports center, Will Call. And founding drummer Lumar Leblanc says the band is going to put you in the "Rebel Zone."
We here at Crossfade called him up in Louisiana to find out about drum-battling Questlove, where twerking came from, and legalizing marijuana.
Crossfade: How is jazz like hip-hop?
Jazz is like hip-hop, because it requires a improvisation-type atmosphere. But jazz was created in New Orleans and hip-hop is from New York. But the two have similar roots in the hood, and both evolved into the mainstream.
Who is your favorite drummer of all time?
My local heroes I grew up with: Ruben Watts, Armen Mercadell, Quitman Thomas. These people took me under their wings. They influenced me. I would be in foul error if I didn't say they're truly my heroes. They shaped my career, and taught me the basics, how to hold the sticks, read music, how to play, how to do it all.
Where'd you get your first drum?
My first drums were actually bongos. I was in a school play in nursery school in New Orleans. I was one of the children chosen to play the drums. After that, I kept playing at home and using pans for cymbals and beating on a gumbo pot for a bass drum. In the first grade, I joined the school band, but I really started when I was five years old.
I kinda had a natural talent for it. Usually, whoever is the best drummer plays the snare in marching band. And when I was young, I was pretty naturally advanced. In high school, I wasn't the best, so I played bass drum.
Who would win in a battle of the bands between Soul Rebels and The Roots?
Oh, lord have mercy. We're both good at what we do. I admire them as a model for the contemporary urban live hip-hop band. I wouldn't dare cross a line or try to violate them, but I would love the challenge. And I think the world would like to see that. I hope we could be brothers together. I would love to do it. But Soul Rebels are all organic, with no electric instruments. All horns, two trumpets, tenor sax, bass drum, cymbals, percussion, snare, and sousaphone. So we would have to be judged according to instrumentation.
Who would win in a drum-off between you and Questlove?
Oh, lord. Well, Quest is one of my mentors. I look at him like a forefather, even though I'm probably older. But he plays the trap set. I play the snare. I couldn't handle him on the drum set. But on the snare, I could definitely hold my own. I love Quest. He's the man. I hope we could do something together.
I've done songs and shows with Bill Summers that are nothin' but all drums. I would hope to get Quest on something like that. All drums. Hopefully one day we can do that together.
What beat or rhythm makes the people go the craziest?
Hard to say. People love that New Orleans second-line beat. A Latin Caribbean beat really gets 'em dancing. And the hip-hop makes them bob their heads. It's the mix of those three, with the Latin Caribbean at the forefront.
Best dancing you've ever seen?
There used to be a guy who'd come to our gigs a long time before Katrina. He looked like Mick Jagger and he couldn't dance on rhythm so much, but his energy was awesome. And one time, I saw some African dancers getting down to our music, which was really inspiring. Then there's the Latin ladies, and the lap dancers, so many different people. I had an Asian lady at my last show who just blew me away. She had to be trained, every part of her body was so rhythmically in sync. She's on my list too.
The real origins of twerk and booty shaking?
They been twerkin' and all that since I was a kid. Twerkin' would have to come from New Orleans.
How many people in the band and their names?
There's Derrick Moss on bass drum and percussion, Edward Lee Jr. on sousaphone,
Erion Williams on tenor sax, Lumar Leblanc on snare drum, Marcus Hubbard on trumpet,
Julian Gosin on trumpet, Corey Peyton on trombone, and Paul Robertson on trombone.
You're going to Port-au-Prince right after Miami for the Festival International de Jazz, right?
Yes, indeed. That's gonna be awesome. Truly gonna be a treat and I've been looking forward to it. I know the history. It's a country of rebels and freedom fighters and I'm looking forward to connecting with the people.
Your Power mixtape is great. Any more covers coming?
We love those songs. I mean Jay Z, the Drake, and all that. We love Nicki Minaj. The Power mixtape is just an awesome piece that reflects the times and current trends. We look forward to playing those songs in Miami. We also got a tribute to Nelson Mandela that we haven't played outside New Orleans and some new Jay Z and Pharrell things that we're working on.
What bands or musicians would you most like to jam with?
Quincy Jones for sure. Eric Clapton. Sheila E. And Anita Baker to name a few.
You've played with Metallica. What's more heavy metal, a guitar or a tuba?
Tuba is all metal. There's no wood on it, except a cork to stop the leak from a spit valve. But it's hard to compete in heavy metal without an amp. Once there's an amp, you can make the sound tenfold what it is.
What do you think about legalizing Marijuana?
I think it's good. I think it's definitely better than alcohol. It's not a drug, but it definitely has health and medical benefits. And it's an herb that creates peace and love. Legalizing it could create an atmosphere of love, peace, and non violence. I hope it spreads legally all over America.
See ya at Will Call!
We gonna rock the house and put you in the Rebel Zone.
Soul Rebels. With Molly Gene Whoamanband, plus a DJ set by Haitian Hillbilly.Saturday, January 18. Will Call, 700 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $10 plus fees via brownpapertickets.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-577-5900 or visit willcallmiami.com.