Henry + The Invisibles: More Funk Than Meets The Eye
Picture yourself in front of the stage at Empire Control Room. Your eyes are shut as you wait for the band to start. The music kicks off with a fast, breaking beat. Soft electric keys come in to fill the mid-range. The bass line steps up with a deep and funky groove. A driving synth lead explores the higher notes before introducing a singer’s smooth voice.
When you open your eyes, you expect to see four or more musicians grooving behind their instruments. With Henry + The Invisibles, however, you’d open your eyes and only see one man -- Henry Roland -- behind an elaborate but efficient setup.
The Invisibles, in this case, are Henry’s multiple talents. Depending on the song, he is one part drummer, two parts keyboardist, one part guitarist and the sole vocalist. And all of these different talents are brought together fluidly on the live stage with little more than a loop pedal.
The product of his refusal to give up after a breakup with a previous band and countless hours of practice, Henry + The Invisibles is now an established one-man act that brings a distinct and inspired flavor of funk to some of the best venues in Austin and the surrounding areas.
With new music in the works and a busy live schedule, we appreciated Henry taking time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions covering the origin of Henry + The Invisibles, his transition to Austin, his influences and more. Read the interview below and be sure to see him live at Empire Control Room on New Year’s Eve as he opens for Earphunk. You can also see Henry’s live schedule at henryinvisible.com.
Can you tell us a little bit about the origin of Henry + The Invisibles?
Henry + The Invisibles (H+TI) started out about five years ago when I had a break-up with a previous band. You could say that H+TI formed from my refusal to give up my dreams of making music and performing live. Basically, when I found myself alone at the wheel, I decided to keep driving.
Having performed as a saxophonist and then percussionist in high school band, and as a guitarist or bassist for a few other notable bands, I began to ponder the possibilities when I was faced with what appeared to be adversity… and so H+TI was born.
San Antonio and Austin are so close together but in many ways the cities are so far apart. What inspired you to make the move to Austin?
Austin has always felt like home to me. It is where my earliest of musical roots had been planted since before I moved to NYC for about nine years.
How has the transition been and what do you like most about the Austin music scene?
This time around, the transition has been nothing short of magical. The music scene has been very supportive and awe-inspiring. What I love most about the Austin music scene is the abundance of talent in this town and the many beautiful and supportive music lovers and concert-goers that can make a Monday night seem like a Saturday night.
Are there any current acts here in Austin that are grabbing your attention?
Too many to name, but I often find myself catching Zeale, Gary Clark Jr., The Greyhounds, Ephraim Owens or Shakey Graves, if I happen to be off on a night that they are also in town. There are still so many other acts that I want to see, and will when I get the chance.
Listening to your recorded music, it’s hard for some to imagine how one person can bring all the sounds together in a live setting. What is the key to making your live acts sound like you have a full band backing you up?
The main key here is practice… I practice for hours on a given instrument, transitions, sounds to enhance the live show, etc. I also produce and mix my own recordings in my home studio, which certainly has something to do with the way I mix in a live setting.
It continues to be a learning process, which is the number one reason why I love creating music in the first place.
What are the limits to being a solo act, if any?
Limits are something I don’t think about too often; I think of those obstacles as hurdles, or more so, as challenges. When I first started looping, I was simply stoked to have all of the music in sync in a common time signature… now I am consistently working towards looping in a more modern approach of songwriting and transitioning between songs in my set.
At one time loading out of a venue with so much gear was a challenge, now I have a sweet hand truck.
What would it take to convince you to bring in another person into your act?
Cookies. Chocolate with chocolate chip! Haha.. I actually have invited several friends to sit-in on a set… drummers, guitarists, horns.
As far as adding another permanent member, it more than likely will not happen or, I suppose, I would have to change the name of the band. Perhaps sometime down the road I may do some recorded collaboration; it has been talked about.
Do you have any new music in the pipe? When can we expect your next release?
Yes, indeed. I have quite a bit of new music packed in my pipe. I am currently working on my first full-length album and have about 30 songs to choose from. My most favorite part of the recording process is the assemblage of the “Musaic,” as I like to call it. The release date is set for early 2015. I am producing and engineering this record and am very proud of the way it is coming along. Stay tuned.