Two sounds from the same band 

Recording, live shows, a dance floor apart

click to enlarge House music has always been at the forefront of the Masses’ music, photo by Nicole Fitzgerald
  • House music has always been at the forefront of the Masses’ music,
    photo by Nicole Fitzgerald

By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: The Masses

When: Saturday, Jan. 6, 9 p.m.

Where: Dusty’s

The sound on The Masses’ first full-length album, Drift Thing, emanates a very different style from their live shows. But with producer Ben Kaplan, of Blue Quarter and Freeflow fame, at the helm of the artistic adventure, The Masses willingly yielded carte blanche to the producer, resulting in a more rock-dominated sound than The Masses’ signature funky groove.

“We figured at the time that he knew a lot more than we did,” said Mark Strachan , The Masses guitarist. “We learned a ton from working with him and how to go about the recording process. It was more of a learning experience, but on a very large scale with a lot of costs involved. We’d sit down for 24 hours at a time. That’s the way Ben likes to work. He is very thorough.”

Listening to Drift Thing tracks at, rock beats are at the forefront of The Masses’ sound, but listen to one of The Masses’ live sets and it’s all about electronica mixing itself up with funk and jazz stylings. The Vancouver four-piece plays instrumental house music with the dynamics and energy that could only come from a live band.

“If you hear the recordings and see us live, you will notice a bit of a difference in the sound of our songs and the approach we take,” Strachan said. “We try to create more of an atmosphere when we play live, more trancy — but not trance music. We like to keep people’s attention, but we want listeners to be in a trance-like state by the middle of the show — providing we are doing our job right.”

House music has always been at the forefront of the Masses’ music, with band members drawing on 1970s funk bands for inspiration. But other sounds have subtly worked their way into sets because of band members’ eclectic music backgrounds.

“We bring what we know to our instruments,” Strachan said. “Sometimes it’s bluesy rock, old school funk and R&B. We throw it all into a fashion that incorporates house music.”

Strachan said The Masses’ sound illustrates a kind of music that has come full circle. He said the beats of 1970s funk bands were eventually spun onto DJs’ turntables. However, bands like The Masses have brought the style full circle by the band imitating what the DJ is throwing out; and therefore, is getting back to the root of the musical style.

“I think that is what is really original about us,” he said. “There are not a lot of bands running with that approach. This is definitely different. The crowds have always gotten into it.”

The crowds can’t get enough of The Masses with the band performing at numerous festivals, including the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and most recently the Big Bonfire Festival and Diversity Festival. The funk group also toured across Canada and has conducted numerous West Coast tours.

The Masses return to Whistler with their upbeat, unpredictable and original sound Saturday, Jan. 6 at 9 p.m. at Dusty’s. Get ready to dance.


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