Five Alarm Funk brings the party back to Whistler 

Vancouver band reflects on busy year ahead of WSSF show at the GLC

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MAGGIE MACPHERSON - funky fresh Five Alarm Funk play the GLC on Friday, April 13.
  • Photo by Maggie MacPherson
  • funky fresh Five Alarm Funk play the GLC on Friday, April 13.

It's no secret that the internet has changed the music industry in a huge way.

But instead of dwelling on how it's decimated physical album sales, forcing most bands to tour relentlessly in an attempt to earn a living (which is old news anyway), Vancouver band Five Alarm Funk likes to focus on the positives.

For one: "It makes getting a hold of people way easier," says Tayo Branston, drummer for the upbeat, eclectic group. "People are on Instagram or Facebook messenger or email now. Getting in touch with people is much easier and everyone is readily available these days."

That proved to be true when Five Alarm Funk reached out to the "Father of Flash Funk," Bootsy Collins (Parliament-Funkadelic), to see if he would be interested in collaborating on a track. It turns out, he was.

"We talked and flew music back and forth (over the internet) to each other and it was done in the new age," Branston says. "We couldn't be happier with the outcome. He put his heart and soul into it."

The result is "We Play the Funk," one side of a seven-inch record with the group's single "Wheels on the Bus" on the reverse side.

"For us, the era of records isn't as large as it used to be," Branston says. "We wanted to pump up some content and get the stuff we were cooking up out...It just made sense to get this music out when we had something and not sit on it too long. There's no point in sitting on something."

While they might not be blindly committed to the album format, Five Alarm Funk recently received some pretty big accolades for their last record, Sweat. It was nominated for Instrumental Album of the Year at the Junos (though Do Make Say Think ended up winning the category).

Although the band had been nominated once before, it was a treat to attend the ceremony in their home city last month, Branston says. "It was a blast," he says. "The Junos are a ton of fun...We got to bring our partners to walk the red carpet and go to the big Sunday night event. The Junos put on an excellent event where you can talk to so many people in the music industry. Everything is prepared to a T and they treat everyone wonderfully."

Another big win in their hometown: they recently sold out a show at the Commodore Ballroom in record time.

"That was our fastest sell-out in Vancouver," Branston says. "It's all the momentum cooking for the band—the Bootsy thing, the Juno nomination was big for us. We haven't played a show in Vancouver since jazz fest in July. There's a lot of anticipation for us to play in our hometown once again."

The group seems to be on a never-ending tour of Canada and parts of the U.S. (although they tend to take the "hardcore winter" months of November to January off). But that's part of what it takes to be a musician today, Branston says.

"We have a pretty heavy schedule. In this day and age, if you want to be a musician you have to get out and play shows—unless you're crushing it on pop radio. For us to get out and be successful in our own lives, we have to get out and play concerts for people and get them out of their seats and onto the dance floor," he adds.

That includes a regular stop in Whistler a couple of times a year. The wild dance party—often complete with onstage costumes—is a perfect fit for corridor crowds, who are always ready to hit the dance floor, Branston says.

Next up is a show at the GLC on Friday, April 13 as part of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. "The GLC is always pumping; it's a great place," he says. "The people of Whistler, we do believe, they want to party and Five Alarm will always bring the high-intensity party."

Catch the band on Friday at the GLC. The show starts at 10 p.m.

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