“Thunder bay knows how to party”
By Savanah Tillberg, Arts and Culture Editor
Thunder Bay’s favourite funk group made their annual winter appearance last week as a part of their latest North American tour. Five Alarm Funk, an 8-piece eclectic funk band has been stopping in Thunder Bay for almost 10 years. The Argus was able to interview drummer and vocalist for the band, Tayo Branston, where he said, “We love Thunder Bay. It’s been probably one of our main stops that we’ve hit for the last 10 years – it was actually the first stop on our very first tour going out east, so Thunder Bay is like home to us.”
For anyone that has ever attended one of their concerts, they know that their shows are unlike any other live musical experience. The band’s performances are incomparable to each other, with each one being exciting and crazy in a unique way. Branston said, “It’s all just about having fun. We do this night after night, day after day, and to be able to get on stage and surprise your band mates with something that you might have been thinking of – and [the point] basically is just to have fun with the unit.” Branston emphasized that it was important to all the band members to make an effort to keep their shows engaging and different, he adds, “We make the music really fun and different every time we play [so we can] give the audience something to look at – I mean, we’re not just there to play music, but we’re there to play music for people. So, we want to be as inspiring to look at as we are to listen to – it’s not just a singular focus.”
Although Five Alarm Funk is well known in our little town, the band has recently started catching the eyes of music-enthusiasts from around the continent. Last year they released their most recent album, Sweat, and this past February it was nominated for Best Instrumental Album at the upcoming JUNO Awards. An increasing number of talented Canadian musicians and musical groups are commanding the spot light as of late, and Branston said, “Canada is pumping out serious content right now and it seems like the world is taking notice – I mean, we’re travelling farther than we ever have down into the States now and it seems like we’re not just the little brother or sister anymore. We’re up there and we’re producing content in Canada that is at the top for sure.”
In addition to their new album, Five Alarm Funk released a mini EP last week. Side A is collaboration piece called “We Play the Funk” with famous American musician, Bootsy Collins, and side B is remake of Five Alarm original, “Wheels on the Bus.” The band is hoping to expand their reach and convert a few more music lovers into Funk-heads. Branston announced that the band is aiming to push their “very strange, eclectic, super funky music into more of the mainstream eye.” He said they are wanting to bring some of their song’s lengths down a little bit while also doing more collaborations with various artists to hopefully get their music on the radio. He adds, we are “kind of pushing for that mainstream while still keeping this original, eclectic, funk sound that we have.
Five Alarm Funk is an independent band, so they operate and create outside of the constraints that come with traditional funding. Branston told The Argus that doing what they do hasn’t always been easy. He said, “There’s been times things just aren’t working out well. But it’s really a tough lifestyle to live if you’re not doing it right.” Despite the hard times the band seems to be coming out above it all, “We always wanted to be the greatest band we could be – we always wanted to be touring and playing festivals as much as we can and we always had the drive right from the get-go to just never give up and never stop doing what we’re doing through the hard times. We kept on pushing and it seems like now everything is coming together and that were able to do this and do it professionally [is amazing].”
No one can deny that Thunder Bay knows how to party, and Five Alarm Funk is no exception. “Thunder Bay knows how to fire it up. You guys are the hot spot and I don’t understand why more people don’t go to Thunder Bay – I think the music scene there is as far as what we get from the audience and what we get from the people it’s a very exciting place to come play. This is one of our favourite destinations in Canada.” Branston couldn’t give exact details on when the band would be back, but he told us, “You can expect us back in the near future.”
Five Alarm Funk’s latest album and mini EP are both available on Spotify, and if you’re interested in seeing the band perform before their next visit to our lake-side city, tour dates are available on their website.