I am honored to announce that MUSAIC, my first full-length record was voted in this year's Austin Music Awards - Top 10 Albums of the Year category.
Multi-instrumentalist Henry Roland is quickly changing what it means to be a one man band. Based out of Austin, Henry + The Invisibles incorporates the sheer songwriting finesse of Elton John with the technical virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix in his loop-based arrangements. Roland’s abilities on guitar, bass, keys, and vocals coalesce for high-energy performances filled with seamless transitions between instruments and songs – all while the man himself has the time of his life onstage.
Recently the world was graced by Henry + The Invisibles’ debut full-length album, MUSAIC, which showcases Roland’s songwriting and performance talents as well as the undeniable fluidity of his songs when heard in succession. While MUSAIC covers a lot of sonic territory with a complete listen, the sophomore track “Whoa” exhibits everything that makes Henry stand out: smooth R&B vocals over a chopped up jazz piano sample (evocative of ’90s hip-hop) and a funky bassline culminating in a sing-song-y rap verse and a soulful saxophone solo.
“Whoa” appears on MUSAIC, out now.
– Jack Anderson // host, Monday & Tuesday, 8-11 p.m.
If you’re looking for musical inspiration that will walk you through an inner-self journey, look no further. Local one man phunk band Henry + The Invisibles’ new album–MUSAIC–is set to release this Saturday (Sept. 17).
Henry + The Invisibles is an Austin based band that has the effect of a five-piece funk ensemble but is really just one man, Henry Roland. Henry started this endeavor after playing with numerous bands in Austin and New York. He realized that he not only didn’t want to deal with bass players not showing up to gigs and unreliable third parties, but he didn’t need to. H+TI made its debut with the EP Onemanphunkband in 2010.
Each song that Henry + The Invisibles releases takes a step further from sounding like the one man loop track that people take it for, and a giant leap towards the sound of a stand alone band. Now, we are ready to finally experience the first full-length album from him. In an interview with Austin360, Henry said that he feels the concept of healing would be prominent theme throughout MUSAIC.
On Vinyl had the opportunity to get a sneak preview of the new, highly-anticipated album. So lets dive in, shall we?
“Whoa,” the second track on the album, is a quintessential example of the groove we are used to getting from Henry. This song has all the parts: tantalizing vocals, a great sax solo, piano and even a little bit of rap. It was pre-released for your listening pleasure here.
Vocals, bass and drums are the stars in the next couple tunes. “If You Were, I Would” is a love ballad that hangs on the edge of the back beat. “You Made It” has that same feel but this time the lyrics are all about personal freedom and living life for yourself. Talk about soul, Henry adds flute and scatting into the mix, and man does it work.
Skip forward after a couple of higher tempo jams about living for yourself and your future, and the album makes a turn into the home stretch. We now get a live version of his song “Inspire.” Hearing the crowd kind of gave my ears a breather from the studio sound and brought great energy to the middle of the album. This song has a lot of diversity between the voice that H+TI uses for the verses, chorus and bridge, and the lyrics are all about that person in your life that brings you inspiration.
A track later, “Equinox” freakin’ steals the show. Twinkling synth supports a beautiful vocal line with some seriously meaningful lyrics about changing this world we live in and finding some peace. Favorite line: “How many pages must we really have to turn before the same lesson is finally learned?” Okay Henry, now you are speaking to my soul.
“Long Way Home” follows “Equinox” and doesn’t disappoint by any means. This song really sounds like five guys jamming; I don’t know how he does it. Add on to that the lyrics about this crazy journey we call life and the picture of “healing music” is definitely starting to come to fruition.
“Fly On” is a little bit about loss and a whole lot about relationships. The most beautiful thing is that H+TI can encompass these deep rooted lyrics inside of complex and intriguing rhythms and harmonies. That shines clearly through in this song.
In the end, a solid album by one man on his own. Henry did the musical job of ten men, and he has opened a new window for everyone living this crazy life to go to for some healing and balance.
If you can’t get enough funk, join OV and Henry as we celebrate his newest release this weekend at Empire Control Room & Garage with a party that will be one for the books.
Henry Roland is an Austin music lifer. He logged his first gig on Sixth Street at the legendary old Austin dive, the Black Cat Lounge, when he was just 16. During the ’90s, he played in the regionally popular funk outfit Gingbreadmen, before decamping to NYC for nearly a decade in 1997. When he returned town in 2006, he briefly messed around with rock ‘n’ roll in a band called Starchild, before diving back into his funk roots, this time as a solo act. “I wanted to experiment with how far I could push the looping envelope,” he says. “As far as songs with ‘verse/ pre-chorus/ chorus’.. that sort of song structure that is not common with conventional looping.”
He started playing gigs as a one man band in 2009 and rapidly built a solid following with his energetic live shows. His debut full-length as Henry + the Invisibles, “Musaic,” is due out on Saturday, Sept. 17, and he’ll celebrate at Empire Garage that night. The first single “Whoa” is a funky love song, featuring saxophone licks from Jeff Dazey, who also plays with Leon Bridges.
We caught up with Roland to find out a little more about the release and what’s next for his “Onemanphunkband.”
Austin360: Intricate layers of sound are so integral to funk music. As someone who used to make these sort of songs with a large band, what have you learned about yourself as a musician doing it solo?
Henry Roland: When I first started H+TI, I realized that in order to make the kind of music I wanted to hear I first had to get in some serious practice time. Although I had been a bassist in a few bands while living in NYC, the kind of funk bass I aspired to play was something I had to work for… still am. I also hadn’t played much piano in a live setting until H+TI… or created beats on a drum machine for that matter. I rented out a rehearsal space (a hospital ward in an old pre-war building that used to be a bomb factory… haha, I miss that place sometimes) and basically locked myself up there for about 2 years. It was there I finished my first EP, focused on my craft and made my looping station… what I now call “The Spaceship".
I guess you could say I learned that with focus and diligence those kinds of musical goals, and I suppose most everything in life, are truly obtainable and ultimately rewarding.
How many instruments do you play and what’s the max you get going at one time on stage?
At a live show I’ll play the keys, guitar, bass, percussion pads, drum machine and I sing… soon to add the alto sax. I try to incorporate the variety of instruments differently for each song and most times use all that I mentioned. Sometimes playing a timbale solo while hitting some accompaniment on the keyboards, or a bass solo while keeping steady on the kick drum. I try to challenge myself with tricky combinations, as far as rhythm syncopation and harmony, and work those kinds of moments in my show. It definitely keeps me on my toes!
Obviously, the financial logistics of touring as a solo act must make a lot of sense, but is it harder to rock a crowd by yourself?
I can honestly say that after having lead a few high energy bands in the past, getting the crowd lit by myself seems quite natural to me. I feel the synergy from an enthusiastic crowd the same way I would feel the on-stage energy when performing with bandmates… it really is a beautiful thing to have that sort of reciprocity with a vibrant audience.
You talk about how the process of putting this album together included “healing myself with the messages of this music.” What do you mean by that and what do you hope other folks take from the album?
Yes, I feel most messages to be healing on this record… “You Made It” talks about how we are in control of our destiny, whether you believe it or not. “Future” talks about the realization to take action in life. “Inspire” talks about that person or people that inspire you most… in this case I was singing about my fans, but the message could be translated in many ways. “Equinox” is a peace anthem for the World we live in… Lord knows we need it. “Long Way Home”, one of my favorites on the record, is all about the journey we call life and the lessons we learn along the way. “Fly On” is about the loss of a loved one and partly about a relationship that has drifted apart… and there are more tales of life which I feel we all experience and could use some music to help make some sense of it all.
I think the beauty of poetry is that personal interpretation will speak to whomever needs the message needed at that time. My hope is that folks are going to appreciate some thoughtful lyrics with some solid grooviness and that the songs will help in some way to make life a bit brighter, and to remind folks to hang in there and to keep love strong in their hearts… and, of course, with the party tracks on this record to start dance parties in their living rooms!
“MUSAIC” is a collection of these emotions and stories that when given a moment to reflect, one will see the big picture of life… or musaic, in this case. Here is my definition I made for the word: MU·SA·IC – /myoo͞ˈzāik/ noun – A picture, pattern, or concept produced by the imagination created by the arrangement of vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to conjure beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.
You can read the interview on the Austin360 website here:
To define the definition of what I feel this album means to me is a great joy. It makes sense. I mean, years of work have gone into this record... the practice and writing process (my favorite part, btw) the production and concept, and this time, the entire engineering side of the desk. Although I mixed the demos for "ONEMANPHUNKBAND", I took the journey much further this time to challenge myself to make my own record from start to finish... playing all of the instruments (aside from Jeff Dazey's saxophone solo on "WHOA"), tweakin the knobs and making some good music. Choppin' beats, laying vocal harmonies... but most of all, healing myself with the messages of this music.
There is a learning curve, no doubt, and by all means have so far to go... but this record was an incredible journey for myself and those in close proximity. So much in my life that needed true reflection... poems that needed musical accompaniment and beats that needed bass and riffs... and so on. All mixed in are the many stories of love, laughter and loss.
When you look back at life at any given moment, you realize that we are here now. At this very moment. And it's amazing when you think about it.
When the pieces of experience in my heart had the time to resonate, I started to envision this album in hopes that the music and messages would speak to you the way they speak for me.
So here is my mashup of a definition for love, life and music if you could imagine them in a mirrored mosaic:
MU·SA·IC- /myo͞oˈzāik/ noun A picture, pattern, or concept produced by the imagination created by the arrangement of vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to conjure beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.
I just would like to say THANK YOU for taking time to read this. In such a busy World, I feel honored to have you sit a minute and check out the sights and sounds.
til nxt tme,