Five Alarm Funk starts the party

Vancouver band set to kick off Arts Whistler Live! on Thursday (Nov. 2)

For Five Alarm Funk every day is Halloween.

The eight-piece Vancouver band was in the middle of California as part of a string of “Halloween-inspired shows” when drummer Tayo Branston answered his phone and let The Question in on a little secret.

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“Basically our shows are like Halloween all the time,” he said. “Every night is a wicked dress-up party. We love to have fun and make music while having fun. In Whistler you’re going to see the same Halloween-style show we’re putting on.”

The upbeat funk band has built a reputation for wild concerts filled with inflatable sharks, costume changes and plenty of dancing. The Halloween theme was a way to pack in a few more gigs — in California and Nevada — capping off what’s been a busy year. It started in March with the release of their latest full-length album, Sweat, followed by extensive touring — including their first stop at Burning Man — and an award for Instrumental Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards last month.  

“It’s been incredible,” Branston said of 2017. “I didn’t really know how crazy it was until I looked at all three of our tour posters. The drives we’ve done and the shows we’ve played, we probably spent a total of three or four weeks at home in the last four or five months. For us, that’s been our goal for the last 12 years: to rock ‘n’ roll as much as we possibly can. These days that’s what you have to do to make it as a band.”

To that end, Branston outlines their plan for winning fans over across the world. “You never stop building as a band,” he said. “There are always new places. Even if we conquer this side of the world, you go to Europe and you build again. We’ve had some really good turnouts in key places that we needed.”

But how does a long-running group with such high-energy shows sustain enthusiasm night after night? “You’ve got to love what you do,” he added. “To me the music is super exciting. I’m really inspired by the way my bandmates play. Each individual show has its little different intricacies. You inspire each other every night.”

Five Alarm Funk is willing to change with the morphing music industry as well. Branston cites relentless touring as the way to make a living in music as record sales continue to plummet. But also, the band is planning to experiment with the way music is delivered to fans, he added. While they just released a full-length album last spring, plans are underway to put out a seven-inch record with two singles. “We have this incredible release with the master of funk — I can’t release his name just yet — that’ll be on one side, then we have a new single on the other side,” he said. “We’re really excited about that… Where does the importance lie (in an album)? I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll put out these two songs on a seven inch and if we can muster up the 10 songs it takes for a full album by next year, we’ll do that.”

But in the more immediate future, the band is looking forward to coming to Whistler (after a 17-hour drive from Nevada) to kick off the Arts Whistler Live! series with a show at the Maury Young Arts Centre theatre.

“We haven’t done a theatre show in Whistler,” Branston said. “Most of our shows have been through Crankworx or on outdoors stages or at The GLC. But it’s not different at all. The band isn’t afraid of anything. We go on stage and do exactly what we do every night — whether you see us in a theatre or at a crappy, rowdy bar or a festival stage.”

Catch Five Alarm Funk at the Maury Young Arts Centre on Thursday (Nov. 2). Tickets are $22 for Arts Whistler members and $25 for non-members. Get them at artswhistler.com.

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