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Victoria’s Wes Carroll Confabulation play as much with gender roles as saxophones on new jazz album

Recently signed, Wes Carroll Confabulation make a splash with socially-conscious new record Helium on Flatcar Records
Victoria-based jazz musician Wes Carroll. (Ross Whelan)

By Jonathan Brenneman

Ever since their founding in 2015, the Wes Carroll Confabulation, named after the band’s lead singer and songwriter, has been playing with the jazz genre in a very free-spirited—dare I say it? Jazzy—way, mixing elements of soul, hip hop, and electro-fusion, and producing complex compositions they later riff on at live concerts with extreme spontaneity. Lyrically and thematically, their compositions are no less dynamic. Frontman Wes Carroll is known for singing about climate change and mental health with as much intimacy as he sings love songs.

Even so, their new record Helium, promises to break new ground for the band, introducing new instruments like ambient slide guitars and vibraphones to the mix, which find good use weaving experimental arrangements between more traditional horn lines.

“Over the past couple of years I’ve been incorporating slide guitar into live looping,” says Carroll. “As for the vibraphones, I’d actually never played that instrument before but quickly learned that simple ideas add a lot to the mix. The haunting, oscillating sound of just a single note brings the mix to life!”

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This choice of instruments also affects the mood, which Carroll says is by design, as is the title of the album Helium, a metaphor for a lack of groundedness pervasive in our modern era. “I wanted to explore the multiple levels in which the attributes of helium mirror capitalism’s dysregulating effects on us as individuals and as a society. I also liked the aesthetic of myself holding balloons on a fairly serious album cover.”

Playing with and subverting some of these ideas seems to be part of the band’s modus operandi, clearly exemplified by their first single, Put It On. Propelled by twirling horns, Wes Carroll’s hip hop-esque flow, and a sumptuous jazz-fusion keyboard solo by bandmate Dakota Hoeppner, the song feels like nothing less than the best kind of wild night on the dance floor. But the lyrics too are subversive, evoking sweaty dancing bodies, high fashion accessories, and flowing dresses, tempting men to cast aside traditional gender roles and embrace the inner feminine.

“I’ve been so grateful for how gender play has emerged as a fun and productive way to do the ‘work’ of re-inventing my masculinity and healing from patriarchal socialization,” says Wes. “I also loved the process of writing a rap song about it! The two hip hop tracks on this album are about wearing women’s clothing and inventive sexual feather play—imagine that back in the ‘90s!”

If you want to give Put It On and the rest of Helium a listen, the album will drop on May 24 through Flatcar Records and will be available on all the usual streaming platforms. Of course, with an eclectic jazz fusion band, there is nothing like a live show. Catch the Wes Carroll Confabulation live at Hermann’s Jazz Club on the 30th, tickets available at

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Helium album cover by Wes Carroll Confabulation. (Photo taken by Seth Brooks)