It’s not often you come across a musical trio like Gabriels, whose powerful presence is matched only by their gloriously old school, singular gospel sound.
The Los Angeles via London group’s soulful crooner, Jacob Lusk, placed fifth on American Idol back in 2011, before enjoying an on-off solo music career, as well as working as a choir director and backing singer for the likes of Diana Ross. He then crossed paths with director-producer Ryan Hope and classical musician Ari Balouzian in 2016, when the pair were working on music for an advert in LA. It just so happened they were on the hunt for a choir.
Hope and Balouzian stumbled across Lusk, who fit the bill perfectly. The three of them connected straight away and started symbiotically creating original music together every few months. Gabriels – named after the street Hope grew up on in Sunderland, England – was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
“We’re all from very different backgrounds, but the thread that joins us together is a love of music,” Lusk says. “That’s the line we meet on – we all want to make the greatest music possible. [Gabriels] started just for fun, it wasn’t like a label put us together or we’re trying to take over the world. It was kind of an escape from our jobs. We’re each other’s safe space.”
Defined by hazy jazz and R&B influences, Lusk’s breathtaking vocals on each Gabriels track could be compared to vocal legends like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. “Even in the valley/Children smile through the misery/Diamond tears hide the casualties/Grace and mercy, do you follow me?” he sings on Love and Hate in a Different Time, which was released last June and lauded by Elton John as “one of the most seminal records I’ve heard in the past 10 years.” No biggie.
Still, the trio are yet to release a debut album, which is in the works alongside a highly anticipated single due for release this month. “All of our songs are really deep,” Lusk continues. “They sound fun, but after you listen to them you might want to go smoke a cigarette – or smoke a fag, as they say in London town! This single is about being in a relationship you probably shouldn’t be in. Like, if loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right. That’s the sentiment of the record.”
Gabriels are currently touring with Celeste, but if you haven’t nabbed tickets, catch them playing THE FACE stage with Tems and Enny at this year’s Great Escape festival. For now, get your 100% fill on Gabriels below, via Lusk himself.
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
Jacob Lusk: I was born in Compton, Los Angeles, I was raised in Compton and I now split my time between London and LA. Ryan was born and raised in Sunderland, and he splits his time between London and LA now, too. Then Ari is from LA, lives in LA and… is still in LA!
20% What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?
JL: Just real stories, to be honest. And not just things that we’re going through, but that everyone in the world is, too. Especially with Covid in the States, we all knew someone who died. It was getting closer and closer. When I got it, it was really bad for me. Then, for example, everyone’s been in a relationship they shouldn’t be in, has dealt with or knows someone who’s dealt with addiction. We’ve all had an unhealthy habit to break or wanted better for ourselves. Our songs are about life.
30% How have Gabriels evolved over the last couple of years?
JL: I think we know who we are more than ever before, even though there’s also more pressure now to perform and do well.
40% What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself?
JL: The overarching thing that I missed for a long time was being myself. I was trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be. I’m now finally in a place where I’m completely and authentically myself.
50% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
JL: One of the things that my grandma said to me about the way that she was raised was that there’s no mountain too high to climb. Wow. Even if you lose a few steps, you’ll be able to get back up. You gotta keep going. I’m not going to succumb to the waves.
60% Name something that you love, like and hate.
JL: I love my grandma and really good pastries. I like happiness, peace, candles and a clean room. I like Hyde park – it’s a whole vibe. I like a good ratchet rap song. I hate mean people.
70% What’s the most pointless fact you can share?
JL: Aretha Franklin released eight jazz albums before she came out with her soul music. Eight jazz records before I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You!
80% If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?
JL: Oh baby, we would all eat cake. I would make Beyoncé a queen of some sort. I would make everyone go to therapy and I would ban people who do things for clout. Doing music or becoming a doctor for clout? You’re out!
90% What’s the strangest DM you’ve ever received?
JL: Someone told me they liked my toes. I also once got a DM from someone saying that they saw me somewhere and knew it was me because of my speaking voice. And they saw me from behind. How do you know what I look like from behind?!
100% Do you usually respond to those types of messages?
JL: I typically respond because they know you read it and I don’t wanna hurt nobody’s feelings. And I don’t want them to think I’m mean. I be feeling bad! That is my ultimate thing, I do not wanna be a mean diva person.