Five Alarm Funk is an amalgamation of worldly musical forms rising to crescendo. Having honed their skills over thirteen yeas, their tunes are a masterpiece of calculated chaos. With supremely-tight timing, wacky creations and non-stop energy, this nine-piece hailing from Vancouver, Canada is best experienced live. The plethora of genre-bending and experimentation is exciting, and punches with humour at the perfect moments. Recently, I spoke with powerhouse drummer Tayo Branston regarding their upcoming tour and band history. Read on to see what these intriguing dudes are all about and support their PledgeMusic campaign!
How’s it going? Branston: Great! We’re just getting all geared up for our tour. We’ve been rehearsing heavily, and have tonnes of new music to play! There’s a lot of new merchandise, vinyl, and new live DVD, called Live In The Moment. It’s an awesome piece of merch. So yeah, we’re basically getting ready to get out and start our thirty-five day run. We’ve always wanted to release a live DVD, and we had opportunity to film a set in Vancouver. We mixed it so it sounds like a live concert, but has the quality of studio record! We used five cameras. It’s honestly so incredible, and we are so happy. I think we captured the essence of what we are live, as well as well our fans! How are YOU?
That’s awesome! I’m well thanks, just boiling in Peterborough. Branston: Peterborough! I love it there. We’re really excited to come through Peterborough, it’s a great place to play music and just enjoy yourself. I think we’ve always done a Tuesday night there, and it’s been totally awesome. We always play at the Red Dog. You guys have a wild crowd there.
That’s awesome! We’re really looking forward to you guys coming through. So, what is the philosophy behind Five Alarm Funk? Branston: You know, there is no set philosophy in the band. The way we’ve worked... we’ve been together for thirteen years and we’re always pushing together, even though there is no set philosophy. We are all about working hard and having fun while doing it! That’s where we get our huge sense of satisfaction. We are with our friends and doing this thing that’s so much bigger than us as individuals. To be able to have that fun, and the work ethic and drive to be professional, and have a great sound is really what drives the band. What audiences get to see is nine guys the having time of their lives, and sure, it’s the most fun thing in the entire universe, but what you don’t see is the three hour rehearsal every Monday and Wednesday slugging out music and constantly creating. There is a lot of work that goes behind making this epic performance come to life!
Check out the song "Robot"
Six hours a week, that’s pretty intense. Branston: Well, for any band, you have to have a regiment in order to believe in and continue the process. Stagnation in a band - in anything - is never a good thing. For us to continue, we have to do that.
Can you describe what it’s like making music with the guys? Branston: Oh man, it happens all sorts of different ways! It can be organic; we wrote a new song called "Power of Funk", and we literally wrote it in two rehearsals as a nine piece. It flew together, and we all liked what everyone brought to the table and it just worked perfectly. Some songs may not come as quickly, like "Widow Maker", for example. Me and Jay came up with this thumping groove, all we had was this groove, and we didn’t really know what to do with it, and it took some work to put it together. It took about two weeks to perfect, you now? It's different no matter which song you’re doing. There is an organic way and non-organic way.
You’re very well known for your live performances. Was it curated over time or did it come together naturally via all your various personalities? Branston: I think it all came together by years of playing together. Everyone on stage is very loose, and that’s hard to come by until you get comfortable. So, even for us it’s taken years to get all these quirky things out that people want to do on stage. By repetition, and playing many shows, doing little things over and over again, as well as allowing space for the other bandmates to do their thing, we’ve been able to be ourselves on stage. Repetition, comfort and trust in each other has made our stage shows what they are today. I mean, we are super fun loving individuals. I think that even the most serious people in life, behind closed doors, are probably so quirky and funny. Don’t be embarrassed to show your fun side!
I’ve got to ask, what inspired the track "Wash Your Face"? Branston: It’s funny how much that song has become like the Five Alarm song that every one knows. It’s our most well-known song, and it came about just like every other song. This one was actually through our guitar player Oliver, who grew up in Essex, and "wash your face" was a saying where he grew up in England. It was a saying for when you got in a tussle. So, he came up with guitar line and wrote the first verse, and I’m the one who usually writes the lyrics. So, we went with his full idea, with no changes except some timing stuff. It was him who brought that all in, and I wrote second verse. Oliver spearheaded and brought that song to the table. Actually, last year we made these cool tanks that said "I’m Gonna Wash Your Face". They were a hit and we ran out fast!
What’s your favourite venue to play at? Branston: That’s interesting, because every place is very different, and all venues are great if they are packed with people who are enjoying themselves! We find that where we find our best niche is when we play bigger festivals, like Evolve or London Sunfest. Our goal as a band is to be a great festival band, if we get people out and they’re having fun, that’s all that matters. Yeah, for us, being able to travel the world and play festivals is the ultimate goal. There are festivals everywhere!
Whenever I listen to you guys, I always end up on this full live set! Branston: Yeah, that’s the London Sunfest!
Cool. So, which musicians do you guys draw inspiration from? Branston: Everyone is so different, and they all grew up with totally different styles and artists they love. I was a rocker when I grew up, and I loved Nirvana, Primus, Zappa, Rage Against the Machine, that kind of stuff. In High School, I started listening to Salsa and Afro-Beats. I had this Latin-African-Rock-Grunge mix thing going on. That’s the kind of music I love. Some of the other guys were jazz guys when they were growing up. It’s totally a wide spread of who and what the band loves. Our rhythm guitar player loves Prince, Prince is his favourite artist. It definitely molds our music and explains our music, and you can totally see where the influences come from.
What should we know about this tour? Branston: The thirteen years we’ve been playing has brought us together as a band, it’s brought us to the most positive and wonderful spot the band has ever been. When we go on the road, we are gonna bring our best show, with most energy you’ve ever seen, and best music Five Alarm Funk has ever created. Look forward to merchandise booth! Look forward to our new DVD, Live In the Moment, we have vinyl, we got our tanks and shirts, and the merch table is definitely a great place to come meet the band as well. We like to get to know people, we don’t want to run off stage. We like to connect with our audience, so come say hi! We hope to see everyone on dance floor.
Anything you’d like to say to your fans? Branston: We’re doing something we’ve never done before, and it’s really exciting for the band! We’re trying to involve the audience and fans in the future of our group. We’re running this PledgeMusic campaign. On June 6, we’re releasing the campaign on social media, and you can get exclusives with the band, and updates for those who use PledgeMusic. We’re running the campaign to get our audience involved. It’s different than Kickstarter, but also similar in that you can buy pre-sales of the record, but through Pledge, you can get signed vinyl, signed merchandise in general, updates from the band on the road, and personalized messages and videos. So there is a lot of really cool stuff coming up soon! lots of really cool stuff.