An Interview With The Vancouver-Based Band FIVE ALARM FUNK!
Posted On 13 Mar 2017
On March 3rd, the Vancouver-based groove masters FIVE ALARM FUNK released their sixth full-length album. Entitled, “Sweat”, it is the latest in a string of projects that has earned the eclectic 8-piece a Juno nomination and several Western Canadian Music Awards. Sweat is produced by Ben Kaplan (Rise Against, Mother Mother, Biffy Clyro).
Although they are rooted in the style that gives the outfit its name, FIVE ALARM FUNK thrives on being able to transcend genre by seamlessly mixing in elements of gypsy rock, Afro-funk, Latin, ska, punk and even prog-metal. “I would say that it’s intense, passionate, and fun, genre-spanning music that really anybody can get onboard with,” drummer/vocalist Tayo Branston explains. “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.”
Learn more about Five Alarm Funk in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So, now that 2016 is over, what are some words you would use to describe the year for you? What were some of the highlights for the band? What are you most excited about for 2017? Did you any of you make New Year’s Resolutions?
2016 was an extremely successful year, but very much filled with ups and downs just as any other. We had some long time members leave the group which is always difficult, but the replacement process has been an awesome journey. The band is super tight and we have tons of momentum on our side in 2017. Persistence and positivity are words I would use for the success of FAF through 2016. The band is tight, hardworking and ready to take on the world. The highlight for me came at the end of 2016. The accomplishment and turnout of our new record ‘Sweat’ takes the cake. It’s by far the best album we have ever put together and I’m very excited to take 2017 on by storm with this record! My resolutions for FAF are always the same…make this the best year possible, work your butt off and succeed!! We have a great team, a great unit, and a great direction. I’m very excited about the possibilities 2017 presents thus far.
Growing up, did you all always want to be musicians? Can you recall some of your earliest musical memories?
Music was always in our house growing up. My pops played the organ and my mom loved to dance Salsa. My dad was a firefighter and one day, when I was 6 or so, he brought a drum kit home from the firehall. That was my first memory of banging on the skins, and I loved it. I always wanted to play and had my first band and concert at the school in grade 6. We sucked. 🙂 I just loved it though, I was lucky enough to have tons of support for my passion in music. My parents always worked very hard to get me into lessons and behind the right equipment. I was very fortunate in that way.
Can you talk about how this band first came together? Why do you think you all continue to work so well together?
The band spawned from a jam party at a friend’s house. They wanted some live music for the party so asked anyone who could to bring out some instruments. A few of us played together that night and we had an instant connection. It felt very natural. After that initial meeting, we moved into a garage to keep rockin’. Playing for fun was the name of the game but not long after we started jamming. We knew we could take on a concert venue. A then 5 piece band, we were playing very outside of the box instrumental jam/funk. We knew that to make a successful concert we would have to tighten the music up and make sure we could keep the interest of the audience through these lengthy instrumental tunes. All having many musical influences but with Funk, Jazz, Latin and Rock leading the pack, we knew we wanted horns and more percussion. I believe we work so well together because we continue to have fun with music. We have always kept a sense of humor within the band and always work together with the pure element of joy that creating music can bring. Though conflict within bands is inevitable, we have been able to maintain a lightness and positivity within the group.
How did you come up with your band name? Was it difficult to settle on one name that described your music?
It wasn’t difficult because we didn’t make it a decision written in stone. We played around with names and even did a few shows under other names. Once we hit Five Alarm Funk, the search was over. The name stems from my father’s work as a firefighter. The Five Alarm Fire is the hottest most aggressive of fires. All bells in all halls. An inferno. We thought, no better than to explain exactly what we wanted to create, Five Alarm Funk!
This spring you will release your sixth full-length album called “Sweat.” Can you talk about putting this collection together? How do you think the band’s sound has changed and really grown over the years? What about the band dynamics? Do you think that what drives you all to make music has changed at all?
The band’s prolific side never rests. We always rehearse, play and write as much as possible. ‘Sweat’ came together over two years of writing but mostly took shape in the spring of 2016. Something very special happened in the rehearsal space and we pumped out 7 new songs in a month or two. The writing was still very methodical but the band was on fire, writing like we were possessed!!! It all came together as the best, most concise and cohesive music we have created. We now had the full catalogue for ‘Sweat’ so we jumped on booking the studio and putting the wheels in motion. The band’s sound has always progressed and shifted through the years, but the more seasoned we have become, and in tune with each other personal writing styles, the more we have been able to create a sound all our own. We want a sound that when our music is on, you know it’s us. A signature sound. I think that’s what we have created in ‘Sweat.’ Through the years of playing and writing Funk, Latin, Ska, heavy Afro Beat, sinister Zappa-esque Prog, we were able to find out exactly what works for us and what doesn’t. ‘Sweat’ is all of this training, all of the years of practice put together. Personally I’m driven by the exact same feeling that I’ve had my whole life…creating to enjoy life. Having fun and pushing your imagination will always be the heart of FAF.
What was the inspiration for the songs on “Sweat”? Because there are so many of you in this band, how do you go about writing a song from start to finish? Do you have an equal input and say about a song?
The main inspiration behind ‘Sweat’ is our live peformances. We live to play in the flesh. To bring people together through the raw power and fun of live music. ‘Sweat’ was created to be a concert in your mind. Ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. A roller coaster of creation that is as hard hitting and passionate as a our live shows but with the body and definition of the studio. We want you to put it on, and not stop moving until it’s done. Every song in ‘Sweat’ came to life in a different way. The main writers in our group are myself, Kent, Gabriel and Oliver. The songs spawn from hitting a hot groove at rehearsal or an individual bringing in an fragmented idea. That idea is then dissected and added upon in smaller groups of 2 or 3 and brought back into rehearsal. It’s hammered out night after night until we know it’s finished. It’s an interesting and fun way to write as everyone is usually present during the “hammering out” stage. Some participating more than others but generally everyone is playing and dropping input when they feel it. I think that’s where we have found our signature sound. It’s a very inclusive writing process.
What musicians continue to inspire your music? Is there anyone that you would all love to work with one day?
Personally, the music of my childhood and early adulthood has always been the biggest inspiration in my writing. Rage Against The Machine, Primus, Zappa, James Brown, Fela Kuti, Tito Puente, Sharon Jones to name some. But if you asked any member of the band their answer would be totally different. That’s what I love about it. Everyone brings their own inspiration to the table. I think FAF would absolutely destroy a creative session with Beats Antique or Ozomatli!!
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you unwind from it all?
I love to cook!!! Out of all my hobbies it brings me the greatest joy. I usually end up deciding what’s for dinner by how long it can keep me in the kitchen for. Not only to make something incredible but to be able to share it with loved ones. Sit down, relax, have a chat and enjoy some beautiful food.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
To live in the moment. Enjoy every breath that you have been given. To let all the trash of life that builds up in your head go, and exist in an instance of fun and feeling alive.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about your music or the band?
We couldn’t be more thankful for those who have supported us as band. It has made our lives truly exciting. For those who haven’t heard us, we can’t wait to meet you and hopefully spark that same bonding relationship that only music can bring!!