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Horns of Leroy have evolved to create a unique soul-funk sound

If you were to peer your head into the Malvern gardens one sunny Sunday afternoon in January, you might just hear the raucous and exuberant Horns of Leroy. 

Set to play the final day of Sunset Sounds, Horns of Leroy are the seven-piece soul-funk band you didn’t know you needed to hear.

An idea birthed in the enigmatic and mystical landscape of New Orleans, Travis Woods and Daniel Berry vowed to bring avant-garde soundscape back to Melbourne.

“We ended up in New Orleans and loved it and didn’t see this style happening in Melbourne so we decided to fill the space,” says Woods. 

Five years on from that, Horns of Leroy have found themselves on festival bills across Australia, from jazz to dance to folk. But with success comes a comfortable stagnation. 

“We got a little complacent because we were playing so often together. We had a period after we’d been playing for about three or four years and we were kind of doing the same stuff. We were averaging 90 to 100 gigs a year and after one corporate gig we were having beers and I just sat down and said ‘we should start getting our shit together.’ We weren’t writing, we would rehearse maybe three times a year and I said we should start writing and coming up with shit.”

2016 brought on a more dynamic and enthusiastic version of Horns of Leroy, who released a video cover of Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’.

“When we put out that Bieber song, we didn’t really do anything at the time. I thought ‘wouldn’t it be funny if we put out a Bieber song’ and it sort of picked up online and that’s when we realised people like, this so we should do more of it.”

The release triggered a new layer of enthusiasm as Horns of Leroy moved on from playing covers at gigs to releasing 2016’s Horns of Leroy and Lift Your Game in 2017; a collection of covers and originals. 

“The boys came together, we started rehearsing, and writing and recording songs we were playing live. Our trumpets started branching out and playing a higher register, punchier, more jazz and funk-inspired. Drummers changed gear and set up to make the music sound better. Over a couple of months we were a completely different band, the way we approached music was completely better. I wish we could re-record ‘Sorry’ because it sounds so different and better now, which is an indication of our maturity as a band.”

This month has seen the release of ‘Get Rekt’; an atmospheric party anthem for those who want to hear the energy of street music. The songwriting process itself ranges from track to track.

“Some songs everyone comes together, sometimes someone comes in pretty organised. Some songs it’s very minimal and then someone composes the melody,” Woods says. “We road test songs and play it out live and notice ‘oh people are liking this bit or hating this bit’ and adjust to how people react to it. Some of the songs change dramatically over time and others don’t change at all.”

When it comes to the energy of performing live, that’s where Horns of Leroy find their home; you’ll find them in pubs, on the street and at festivals living their passion.

“We are pretty lucky in the fact we can do street gigs and acoustic gigs. We can turn up anywhere, anytime and play. We enjoy playing the streets but the stage allows us to branch out musically. [Festivals like Sunset Sounds] allow us to play all ages and play to communities of people who may not have seen or heard of us before, different people who may not even be interested in music. At festivals there’s always a mosh pit of young kids dancing and that’s what we love, if you’re enjoying it; that’s why we make music.

“We aren’t changing the world with our music, we are just having a good time.”

Catch Horns of Leroy at Malvern Gardens on Sunday January 20 as part of the Sunset Sounds series.