Five Alarm Funk with Tonye at Imperial Theatre
$20 Advance - $25 at Doors
Five Alarm Funk
Hot, sweaty dance floors with feet stomping and every body moving. Grooves for days. Monster horns, crushing percussion and shredding psych-rock guitars.
These are among the elements that make up the Five Alarm Funk experience. The Vancouver-based band is nine men strong and over a decade deep into a career that has seen it release five acclaimed albums and burn up stages across the country on four national tours. And this vehicle isn’t about to slow down. In fact, Five Alarm Funk is just picking up steam.
Don’t be fooled by the name: there’s more to Five Alarm Funk than, well, funk. Just ask drummer Tayo Branston, who says that, although they are rooted in the style that gives the outfit its name, he and his bandmates thrive on being able to transcend that genre by seamlessly mixing in elements of Gypsy rock, Latin music, ska, and even prog-metal. “I would say that it’s intense, passionate, and fun, genre-spanning music that really anybody can get onboard with,” Tayo says. “It’s got such an array of different sounds, and you can tell that each player has his own individual take and input into each track.”
Need proof? Take a listen to any of Five Alarm Funk’s studio albums, which include Anything Is Possible (winner of Instrumental Album of the Year at the 2011 Western Canadian Music Awards) and Rock the Sky (which was nominated for Instrumental Recording of the Year at the 2013 WCMAs and Instrumental Album of the Year at that year’s Juno Awards.)
The band took the album’s Balkan-inspired horns, prog-metal six-string shredding, and ambitious, cinematic arrangements on tour across Canada and into the United States in the summer of 2014. And the road goes ever on.
FAF’s fifth studio LP, released last June, is the hard-rocking Abandon Earth. Produced by Ben Kaplan (Mother Mother, Biffy Clyro), Abandon Earth is a concept record about the destruction of Earth by a giant tyrannical robot. In 2015, Abandon Earth won a Western Canadian Music Award for Instrumental Recording of the Year, with Kaplan also garnering nominations for his engineering and production. In 2016, the album’s single Robot was nominated for a Leo Award for music video of the year. The band also released their first live album/DVD ‘LIVE’ In The Moment in 2016 and toured across Canada and the USA in support.
Five Alarm Funk will hit the studio again this winter, with a new record slated for next spring, and after that? Well, the plan is to take on the entire planet, but FAF will be happy to get the party started in the U.S. And Europe. Not to mention Australia and New Zealand.
“If we can capture those audiences like we’ve captured Canada, I think the band would have a huge opportunity to make year-long tours happen,” Tayo says. “We love to play!”
Tonye was the go-to feature singer for Vancouver’s EDM producers and DJs for years, a soulful, powerful voice that stood out, giving her the confidence to create music of her own that reflects who she is. Signed to 604 Records after two solo releases, her new EP, Villain, is a fun, groovy, electronic-spiked R&B/soul recording that declares the arrival of an artist not to be messed with.
She is outgoing and outspoken, a big personality, who can just as quickly laugh at the error of her ways as she can fall in love. Her music is all about that: Love. She writes better in hindsight — “Oh, that guy! What was I thinking?” In fact, she can’t wait to call the guy out from the stage who inspired her song “Villain” and declare her worth (and every woman’s) in her anthem “Queen.” The lady speaks her mind.
Produced in separate sessions by Kevin Maher (Carly Rae Jepsen, Kat Von D) and Colin Janz (Jepsen, The Katherines), Villain follows 2013’s The Solar Twin and 2011’s White Wizard, both self-released EPs that were straight-up sultry R&B/soul. But when she entered the studio to write and record with Kevin, they decided to mix it up and create something that represents Tonye’s eclecticism and tastes.
“We said, ‘Who are you in love with right now? What’s the sound? What is the feeling that makes you go crazy?” says Tonye, “And I was like, Janelle Monae, Jamiroquai, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and one of the big influences was producer Mark Ronson who has a talent for picking amazing voices. So we figured out who our influences were and then were like, ‘Let’s put that flavour on everything that we do.’ “There wasn’t one coherent sound we were going for,” she says. “It was more a vibe, an approach to the music, and that sound is soulful, groovy, has a good beat and incorporates live instrumentation with electronic sounds, which is something I’ve always been doing. So Villain is a combination of everything I was going for in the past.”
Tonye, who sometimes puts “human” down before describing herself as a singer-songwriter, is heavily involved with charity as well, through #GROUNDUP, which has helped raise over $50,000 for various local and international causes. Her unofficial foundation, The Living Society, is focused on using the arts to connect with the community and bring to light social issues. She does this all through her music; she knows its importance.
“A lot of people get into music because they want to be famous but for me I came from an amazing but sometimes dysfunctional family and music was my home when I felt like I didn’t have one. It helped me be able to express myself when I couldn’t in many other ways,” Tonye says.
“I’m a very outgoing person and I have no problem standing in front of people and talking my face off, but when it comes to expressing the truth of what’s in my heart, I have a hard time with that, so it’s really important for me to put out in to the world, ‘Yeah, I sing and yeah I make music, but when it comes down to it, I’m just a human being that’s messed up and finding my way to express myself and be happy.”
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