Where there's smoke, there's fire.
And where there's fire — and a ruckus — you'll probably find Five Alarm Funk.
The Vancouver groovesters make their return to Whistler as part of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival's (WSSF) Fido Outdoor Concert Series. The nine-piece will grace the Fido Mainstage on Saturday, April 16 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Drummer and lead vocalist Tayo Branston says the crew has been hibernating during the fall and winter in order to write and rehearse, and with the WSSF serving as their return to the festival circuit, they are excited to see the reaction their work generates.
"We're kind of going back to our roots. We've gone with some classic funk and afrobeat, but with a twist," he says.
"Our stuff always has a slight edge of prog or metal or whatever it may be. We've taken a step back with the knowledge that we have of how to write prog and all these different styles that we put into it. We've taken it and gone back to the straight-cookin' funk and serious afrobeat."
The summer season won't be used to promote the new tunes so much as it'll be used to perfect them, Branston explains. Once Five Alarm Funk completes its summer sojourn, they'll lay down the tracks for their followup to 2014's Abandon Earth, which featured "We All Scream," a horn-and-chant-driven ditty about a maniacal ice-cream man.
"We've got a great plan cooking. We're pretty much almost done writing the record... we're going to take the material on the road this summer and we're going to burn it for audiences everywhere," he says.
"We're going to go into the studio in August when the songs are ultra-tight and we've played them over and over again for the past two months."
The record will be released in early 2017.
Branston explains the band has not only gone back to its origins musically, but with its approach to songwriting as well. With over a dozen years as a group, the musicians have developed an ESP of sorts.
"We write with a really interesting process and it's changed over the years," he says. "It's a nice thing. We've gone back to the first way that we started writing. For a while, we did it in a group of one or two or even three and then brought it into the whole back as almost a finished product. But we're doing it at rehearsal again. We're doing it (where) we stand in a big circle, everybody's got their instruments and we grind out a part 'til it's like 'Yes, that's exactly what needs to happen.'
"We've been doing it for so long together that there's almost kind of this telekinesis... We get together and we just write music all together."
With a full complement of nine people in the collaborative process, Branston says the major stumbling block of potentially having too many cooks in the kitchen is that only one or two slave over the hot stove at any given time.
"People go in and out of putting their input in. For me, personally, I know when it's my time to step up and I know when it's my time to sit back. If the horns are grinding out on a really notey pattern, or something like that, I'm not going to get involved," Branston says.
"But when it comes down to getting beats arranged, that's what I love to do so that's when I really step in. Everybody has their own thing that they bring to the table."
Being just a hop, skip and a jump down the Sea to Sky Highway, Five Alarm Funk has had its share of performances in Whistler at everything from the Olympics to Crankworx and, of course, the WSSF. Branston is thrilled to get the opportunity to return and get the people movin' and groovin' once again.
"It's a beautiful crowd in Whistler. Their people have a certain energy about them and they make you want to play," he says.
"It's a really special place. We've had so many amazing shows in Whistler so to get invited back once again, it's an honour.
"I can't wait. I hope it's a beautiful, sunny day and we get thousands of people out."
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