Long distance relationships never work.
Unless, well, unless you really want them to, need them to, can’t live without them.
It’s rare, but it’s a mileage heavy relationship Stu Wershof and the rest of the members of Afrobeat, funk, soul, disco, jazz-rock collective Freak Motif are fully committed to.
“I guess we’re all addicted to it,” Wershof says from the Toronto airport — where he is on business — awaiting a flight home to Montreal, before he’ll eventually head to his former home of Calgary this week for a pair of Freak shows. “It’s just so much fun. It’s totally impractical, but we all feel the need to keep it going, make time for it and make it work.”
Montreal, Toronto, Calgary — the members are spread out, but still in touch and onboard.
Not surprising, really, because it’s something that the band even had to maneuver when they lived in the same city, due to the fact that they number eight plus and their shows and rehearsals required “a lot of logistical footwork.”
The band began as something of an “accident,” growing out of an improvisational jam session a decade ago, with people showing up, not showing up, coming in, leaving the fold. It got a little more serious and cemented in 2012 when they released their debut La Casa Blanca, following it two years later with a four-song EP, fittingly titled, Across the Nation.
They kept it going, getting together over the past five years, getting together every few months for rehearsals, shows and recording sessions.
“When the right opportunity comes along, we rally the troops and make it happen,” guitarist Wershof says.
Those fits and spurts in different parts of the country eventually produced the band’s remarkably cohesive sophomore album, the full-flowing, groove-inducing, electrifying funkifesto Hot Plate.
It is, in a word, eight tracks of: Daaaaaammmmnnnnn. With seven spacey instrumentals songs and one soulful, sexy, thumper featuring the vocals of now-T.O.-based vocalist Lady C, it’s heady, body-moving shit that’ll get you up and on and off the floor, son.
While Wershof admits that getting it all together was something of a chore, considering the geographical challenges, he also admits that absence and distance also made the album what it is, how remarkably progressive yet timeless an album steeped in past sounds can be.
“The fact that we’re all listening to different music, living in different places, bringing different influences, we’ll come back after a couple of months and people will have different inspirations to bring into the mix, which keeps the music forward, which is also a positive force.”
The band, sadly sans Lady C, will release the vinyl LP with a sorta, kinda hometown show Thursday, Feb. 21 at the King Eddy, following it up with an appearance at the SoundOff Summit the following night at the Commonwealth.
Expect to hear most of Hot Plate, albeit in the typical Freak Motif, improv-heavy way with “launch pad, jam, and a landing point,” letting the superb players go off and get off while grooving on.
And lest ye think that there might be a few missteps due to the aforementioned long distance nature of the Freak Motif relationship, know that, yes, they will all be on the same page and in the same pocket.
“Yeah definitely,” Wershof says. “I think because of our crazy arrangement it forces us to be on the same page more. It takes a much more deliberate effort to make it happen and I think there’s a lot more meaning to the project in a lot of ways,” he says.
“Originally there was an element of, ‘Let’s hang out and jam,’ and that’s how it started, and there wasn’t too much thought about what the project could be after that. But now, ‘Let’s hang out and jam’ requires travel between cities and everyone has different responsibilities in life that you have to make time for music you have to think about, ‘Why are we doing this, what does it take to keep it going?’ so I think we talk about it between ourselves more and think about it and are on the same page.”
Freak Motif release their new album Hot Plate Thursday, Feb. 21 at the King Eddy. They also perform Friday, Feb. 22 at Commonwealth as part of SoundOff Summit.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.