Ten minutes into an interview with Tayo Branston and he’s already dropped the four-letter “F”-bomb about a dozen times.
F this, F that … after a while, it gets to be a little bit distracting.
How many times a day do you say “Funk?”
The frontman for Vancouver outfit Five Alarm Funk laughs.
“It’s quite a lot, especially if we launch a post on Facebook — like a big announcement — we definitely say funk quite a lot,” he says and laughs again.
“But it’s something that comes up all the time in our line of work, you know? If you make pizza for a living you probably say ‘pizza’ quite a lot.”
Good analogy. Because, yes, indeed, they do make the funk. It’s something they’ve been doing for the past decade-plus, harnessing that sexy, swaggering, sensational party energy in a way that’s reverential, but brings a whole lotta new-school life to it.
And the folks, they funkin’ love it. FAF’s latest album Sweat just received a Juno nomination for Instrumental Album of the Year, and the current tour, which brings them to The Palace Theatre this week for a funky Friday night, has been filling every room.
Their profile should only rise over the coming months, as on March 9 the eight-piece will release a new mini EP, Boots and Wheels, which features a track called, what else, We Bring the Funk. Funking up the funk factor, though, is that the title track is a reworking of the Sweat song Capital City, which features vocals provided by the legendary funkmeister (see, now he’s got me doing it), Mr. Bootsy Collins.
Prior to their Palace show, and while the band was actually in Calgary for a couple of days off before a Golden, B.C. date, Branston spoke with theYYSCENE. Here’s an excerpt from that interview.
Q: Congratulations on the Juno nomination.
A: Thank you so much, man.
Q: When did you get the news and how?
A: Well, we knew Sweat was a good record and we submitted in for the Junos because we got nominated with (2012’s) Rock the Sky. So when we submitted Sweat we thought, “Well, we probably have a decent shot at getting a nomination,” just because we all believed in the record, we knew it was our best work that we had ever done. So I actually woke up that morning and watched the live broadcast they did … the livestream of the actual announcements. I was tired, but I got up — it was 10 a.m. Eastern, so it was only 7 a.m. (in Vancouver), but I’m more of a late-morning kind of guy than an early-morning. (Laughs) So I watched the livestream and then when they announced the category I jumped up and ran around and started getting the calls out to the band and everything like that. It was a really exciting time and we’re super honoured, pumped to be nominated for Instrumental Album.
Q: Will you be going to the Junos this year or will you be on tour?
A: The amazing thing is, our hometown, it’s in Vancouver this year, so, yeah, we’re gonna go. We have a trip down to Boise on the Thursday and we were gonna make a small tour of, say, Idaho and Montana, but we decided let’s just one-off it down to Boise, come back home and we’ve got the Friday night, then the gala awards are on Saturday and the big awards are on the Sunday — the broadcast awards are on Sunday. So, yeah, we’re going to be there, we’re gonna make it and we’re gonna enjoy it and have the best time possible. I think it’s going to be a blast, especially in our hometown.
Q: OK, now Bootsy — what a fantastic track.
A: Bootsy! (Laughs)
Q: How did that come about?
A: It kind of came about last summer. We were rolling around in the bus, we’d just played a couple of festivals, rolling around in the bus and were like, “Man, we’ve got all of this great instrumental music, we should get some vocals cooking on it.” We had thought about collab-ing with people in the past and were thinking and thinking. And then we were just like, “What about Bootsy? What about Bootsy? He’s the funk icon, man …Bootsy’s super iconic, but he’s also, he’s that flash funk, he is kind of the original inception of what Five Alarm is all about. He just loves to have fun and he’s super-funky about it. So for us the combo was a no-brainer. And then it was just reaching out to management, “Hey, can you get in touch with Bootsy’s management and see if he wants to take a listen to this track?” And he did, he listened to it and he loved it, and it was a very short process of the time of, “Hey, it would be great to work with Bootsy” to us hearing, “Hey, Bootsy would love to rip some lyrics on this song.” It was some of the most exciting news we’ve received in the last while — I mean, nobody beats Bootsy, he’s the funkiest.
Q: And then when you got it back — you can’t critique it, can you? You can’t say, “Try again, Bootsy.”
A: (Laughs) No, no, we got it back and it was super exciting … We got the track back and we sat around with our producer, Ben Kaplan, in the studio and did a little bit, because Bootsy did so much work on the track. We weren’t sure or knowing of what he was going to do on the track — we weren’t going to say, “Do this, do that — do whatever you want, fire it back and we’ll see if we need to do anything.” So we took a little bit of it on with our producer, Ben Kaplan did the mix a little bit more, we sent it back to him, and that was the dialogue about how we were going to go. Then it went on to mastering and there you have it. We Play the Funk is probably the most fun and funkiest tune we’ve created for sure.
Q: Has there been talk of him maybe teaming up with you again in the future or maybe for a live show or two?
A: Um, yeah, absolutely. I don’t how deep I’m supposed to go with this, but we’ve definitely talked about doing some live stuff together. That was really pretty exciting. I don’t know how much I’m actually allowed to say on that, but I think there’s going to be plenty of crushing funk to come.
Q: The Calgary show — what can people expect? Obviously to dance and sweat and to have a good time?
A: Yeah, absolutely — dance, sweat, groove. We’re bringing probably the hottest funk show that we’ve ever put on. The band is super tight, the band is ready to absolutely bring the hottest funk party to the people of Calgary. We’ve been playing here for years, and support for the group in Calgary has just gone up and up and up and up, and we couldn’t be more pumped to bring it to The Palace this time and really shake the walls.
(Photo courtesy Brendan Meadows.)
Five Alarm Funk plays The Palace Theatre on Friday, March 2. For tickets please click here.
(If you would like to support independent local arts and culture journalism in Calgary, please consider becoming a patron of theYYSCENE by clicking here and donating to our Patreon campaign. Thank you.)
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.com. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at email@example.com.