About four years ago I walked into Hemingways Pub and saw a guy setting up instruments on their venue stage. Little did I know, I was in for a show that I still haven’t seen anything like anywhere else.
In his sequined shirt, oversized sunglasses and platform shoes, this one man funk/Latin/rock group played song after song overlapping or looping several instruments ranging from electric guitar to symphonic keyboard. By the second song people were off their seats dancing or grooving in their seats waving to whatever beat Henry created. Fast forward to today and Henry + the Invisibles are still keeping true to funk originality. Playing at Rebar (8134 Broadway) every Friday night at 10:00 p.m., Henry + the Invisibles, fronted by solo musician, Henry Roland, have been gaining a loyal fan base since their his first show. Before his performance last Friday, Henry and I were able to sit down and talk about his music and personal experiences as the Invisibles sat quietly and listened.
When you were introduced to music?
When I was about four, my father had an old classical guitar and there was this episode of The Muppets where George Harrison came out and played “My Guitar Gently Weeps” and he sang this song with such passion I found it amazing. Also listening to records in my father’s collection like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Santana.
Of all the sounds you incorporate in your music, which is your favorite?
The soul stuff, the funk stuff but if you asked me it tomorrow, it could be rock. Soul is really the biggest thing like Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and Al Green. Anything with a groove like disco which is really making a comeback in Europe. It doesn’t have to be all about gold chains and open shirts and stuff but it’s the mentality of dancing again. You look at old videos of Bob Marley and Sly and the Family Stone and it’s undeniable that everyone is having the time of their life.
What have been your biggest venues?
I was the main writer in a band called the Gingerbread Men. We played at the 1996 Olympics in New York, opening for Tito Puente. We also sold out the House of Blues. I also played for the Parliament-Funkadelic.
Why the one man show?
The last major project I was in was trio called Starchild. We played for about four or five years and I looked around and didn’t see any support or momentum so I decided to take a break from the band. I had a couple of shows booked and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I purchased this loop pedal and started messing with it. I started doing more research and found a whole loop society.
On his first few shows…
The Hemingways gig was actually my fourth show after this place 1to1 in Austin and a show in Corpus. My first show was at Bar Fly, but I really couldn’t consider it my first show. I had a water jug, a snare drum, and two guitars. At the time I was just jamming but around the third or fourth show I started developing songs and kept whatever got good crowd reactions in for the next show. I slowly got a repertoire of about two hours of music.
How did you come up with the name Henry + the Invisibles?
Originally, it was just called Henry and it was pretty boring. I was trying to think of something funny, clever, kind of witty and the invisible thing just popped in my head. I was playing around with a couple of names but nothing stuck. A lot of people at the time were saying it’s too long but now people think it’s kind of cool. I’m fronting a band of invisible musicians.
On his shows/parties…
When somebody first sees the show they really don’t know what I’m doing. “Is he pressing buttons? Is he sampling?” I’m just one guy so if you walk halfway into the song it could look like I’m doing karaoke but if you know the show then you know there’s dancing. I’m all about making people groove and move; lose a few calories.
I look at it like a package deal. It’s a spectacle, its fun, the music speaks for itself but if you took any on element I don’t think it would come across the way it does. It’s really essential for the audience to feel a part of it. It’s about making people feel good even in a time of disparity and it heals me sometimes too. When I’m down I especially can’t wait to play because it’s reciprocal it’s like I’m feeding the audience and the audience feeds me. Since I’m a one man band it’s kind of like we’re all in this together.
What’s the message you try to communicate through your music?
Reminding people not everything is the way you want it to be but true happiness is acceptance. If everybody in this world stopped trying to tell people what to do or what to be or what mattered most, we’d have a lot more intelligent discussion. When you strip it all down we’re only human. If people could get past the exterior we should be able to coexist.