Latin-jazz influence to Saskatoon’s Dalai Lamas 

Who: The Dalai Lamas

Where : Howe Sound Inn Brew Pub, Nov. 24; Garfinkel’s, Nov. 30

The Dalai Lamas mix up art and intellect in a Latin fusion sound with funk.

In terms of nurturing the sound on Theta Waves, their latest album, the band considers college fans their primary fan base, which makes sense for a group that couples erratic study schedules with offbeat leisure activities.

Speaking by phone after a CD-release party the previous night at Amigo’s, Vince, one fourth of the Saskatoon quartet, discusses how the Lamas design their musical flow.

"We don’t consider ourselves to be a pop act or commercial scene. In our situation it’s different for songwriting, as we think in terms of the college circuit."

Some of the hooks in songs bring in a Latin-jazz influence, which they pursue heavily on this album. That influence was first introduced as guitar riffs by former Brazilian bandmate, Richard Kapronczai.

"All of us are really 50 per cent intellectual, and 50 per cent crazy party types – (you can hear that on) songs from Return to Funk-Fu Alley , where you might sit and listen, or you might dance too," says Vince.

Various musical companions continue the band’s song flow, with underlying rhythmic beats.

"We work on that Latin-funk combo, influenced by what we’ve heard," says Vince. "We consider ourselves song innovators, rather than creators. Those influences come from all over. I listened to groups like The Red Hot Chili Peppers in high school."

Return to Funk-Fu Alley features drums, bass, guitar and horns, as the band grew musically and reduced in size, from four to seven members, over the last three years. They have performed with The Philosopher Kings, The Millennium Project, and The Spirit of the West.

Appearances on MuchWest, Toronto’s music support channel City TV, and Canadian Music Week 2000 have helped to broaden the fan base. The first single, Precious, was later included on the Canadian compilation Go West, which also features blues boy Colin James, Jann Arden and Wide Mouth Mason.

"Production-wise the album is really raw sounding," says Vince. "We wanted to record it all together in one room."

The Dalai Lamas self-produced their latest project in conjunction with engineer Paul James, who co-produced for The Crash Test Dummies. When friends in the band Moses Mayes introduced them to James, a relationship was born. Vocals come from Tim and Vince, with Brian Hankewich on drums, and the two Seans on guitar: Pion on electric (with vocals), with Viloria on bass. The band works with musical director Vincent Spilchuk, who also plays with the Saskatoon Symphony.

Guest percussionist Scott Senior and Jay Stanley on trombone round out their new sound. The band recorded the vocals and mixes, then completed drum and bass overlays at Private Year recording studios, Winnipeg.

With the attention to micro detail, developing each song piece by piece, song order on an album is usually determined last.

"The album is strong at the beginning. Fans can expect a similar sound from our previous album," says Vince. "Songs ebb and flow; we’re happy with the way it turned out. Everything has a nice, rounded out feel."

Fresh from two nights at the Purple Onion in Vancouver, catch The Dalai Lamas’ set once, or twice, this Saturday in Squamish and Nov. 30 at Garfinkel’s.


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