Graphic by Mike Royer/KCRW

2021 Breakthrough Artist: Gabriels

It's hard to conjure suitable words to describe the feeling of being immersed in Gabriels' music for the first time without sounding hyperbolic — “magnificent,” “breaktaking,” and “transcendent” come to mind — but these words exist to describe extraordinary things, and in the case of soul-R&B trio Gabriels, hyperbolic praise is appropriate.

The story of Gabriels began in the most LA way possible: at a casting call. Group producer Ryan Hope was directing a film that co-producer Ari Balouzian was set to score. In searching for a choir, they were introduced to the virtuosically talented singer Jacob Lusk, who at the time was working as a choir director, singing backup for the likes of Beck and Diana Ross, gigging around town as a solo artist, and holding down a job at a sunglasses company.

Lusk got the gig on the film, and Hope and Balouzian would later approach him about working on another more experimental project without a defined end, and so the seed for Gabriels was planted.

The trio spent the next four years making music together and honing in on the sound of Gabriels before releasing last year's stunning debut EP, “Love And Hate In A Different Time” EP. The release was a goosebump-inducing triumph headlined by its title track, combining elements of (deep breath) soul, gospel, disco, R&B, deep house, electronic, and classical music into a blend that felt both timeless and timely.

As the world began to thaw from a COVID-induced freeze, Gabriels checked the box on a number of firsts in 2021, including their first European performances, a first headlining show in Los Angeles, and radio and television debuts on both continents. The trio also continued an impeccable streak of releases with a couple of new versions of "Love And Hate In A Different Time" and a gorgeous new EP, entitled “Bloodline.” Packing a cinematic punch that's come to define the group’s sound, Bloodline offered no hint of a sophomore slump. 

If we've learned anything from the last couple years, it's that you can't predict the twists and turns the future may bring, but betting on Gabriels seems like a firmly safe wager. Watching the three members interact in person at a forthcoming KCRW live session, it's clear they have genuine love and admiration for each other, well positioned to keep bringing goosebumps to arms and tears to eyes in 2022 and beyond. You might even say the three dreamers who met at a casting call seem fated for a Hollywood ending.

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