Five Alarm Funk

You haven't heard anything quite like Five Alarm Funk!  This band is a breath of fresh air and is probably best enjoyed in an outdoor venue on a warm summer night.  With a strong rhythmic section and colorful instrumentations, Five Alram Funk knows how to put on a party.  The Vancouver musicians are proud to be releasing their fourth album Rock The Sky next May 11th, 2012 which they will be promoting this summer so keep an eye out for them participating to different festival across the country.  A delicious experience for your senses!  For more info about this band, visit:
Interview by: Valerie Bastien
Valerie: Can you please introduce yourself! Talk to me about your music; what 3 words would best describe it? 

Thomas: Answering on behalf of  Five Alarm Funk, I am Thomas Towers, self-confessed maniac and congaholic.
Describe our music in three words eh? Dance-inducing delirium. Three words that best describe the music? Sweaty, heavy and outrageous.  We travel through too many genres to accurately describe it in so few words.

Something special about Five Alarm Funk, is that there are ten of you sharing the spotlight in the band.  What is that like (and why no woman?!)?

Thomas:  For the group dynamics, there is so much going on at any one time on stage, it is almost too much to take in. That's why you gotta come out to the show again and again, you never know what you might catch. As for women, we have dabbled with women early on but the sexual tension and coupling-off made things more complicated than say, 10 guys getting into a stinky sweaty van and driving 10 hours to get to the next gig.

I was watching some of your videos online and I'm a bit confused; is Five Alarm Funk mostly instrumental?   And if so, what attracted you to  the idea of not having a singer? 

Thomas: Yes, we are a mainly instrumental band, but we do love to showcase our drummers bestial growl, as a front man and vocalist, he shines.  And with vocals, often the singer becomes the focus, it's understandable; most people aren't musically trained, and the easiest thing to associate with in a song are the lyrics. But our strength is our ability to  groove; we seem to have a knack for making dirty filthy beats that people love getting down to. We come together and we all bring our instruments to the table and lay it down and see what's there and then we start to build around  it.

What inspires your writing? Tell me about your new  album Rock The Sky coming out this May. 

Thomas: With 10 members, we have a lot of different inspirations, whether it be a hot new artist we love or a classic tone found in albums past. We are kind of a melting pot of genres; any and everything is open to interpretation in the FAF style, whether it be classic 80's rock, balkan gypsy music or medieval death-funk.  Rock The Sky encapsulates all of the latest and greatest tunes we have crafted over the last several months,  and while every song has it's own feel, there is an underlying theme throughout the album that brings everything together. What is this omnipresent them you ask? Well, put the album in,  take one look at the album art, chant "Rock the Sky" three times, and tell me you don't feel the raw power.

Why did you feel the title Rock The Sky represented the overall delivery of this album?

Thomas: For us, Rock The Sky evokes imagery of lightning and thunder, of earth and air fighting over mastery of their domains. Clockwork steeds, metal-worked wings and a rearing Iron Pegasus raging over the charred and smoldering remnants of a once-great city.

Have you decided what the first single will be?  What does this song make you think about?

Thomas: Our first single will be Wash Your Face, a stunning tale of two angry angry young men at odds with the society that created them. It's being shopped around to all the major cosmetic companies but so far the corporate response has been lacking.

Compare t(w)o songs that are contrasting in styles.

Thomas: For Mastodon we tried to get back to our humble beginnings as a wanna-be afro beat band. We've taken experiences learned and genres explored to build upon the foundation laid by Fela Kuti while still keeping it distinctly FAF. Whereas you have Crimes of Passion, a haunting trip into the realm of the disturbed mind of a jilted ex-lover. While it's not explicitly stated, this track delves into the imagination and collective unconscious of a murder-bent dystopia.

What is the writing process like in a band with so many musicians involved?  Do you all share the writing duties?  How do you decide on the music to keep or toss (is it a democratic process)?
Thomas: Our writing is a combination of group collaboration and a few brave souls taking the helm to compose grooves, melodies, harmonies and transitions. We bring things to rehearsal and will often times labour over them until happy with the end results, and whether or not a song was brought to the group by single person  or if it was born in the throes of jam-induced passion, the end result has to sit well with everyone before we move on to the next tune.

What song would you hope for people to relate to specifically and why?

Thomas: Well, we  certainly don't want people to relate to The Critic. There's enough of that going around. We'd rather have people associate with Pulp, a lovely little ditty about garnishing food with citrus. Classic.

Do you have any near future touring plans?  Where can we buy your music and see you play?

Thomas: We'll be hitting the road mid-May on a tour out to Montreal and back.  It'll be sweet to get the wheels on the asphalt again  and leave the doldrums of day-to-day life behind. Then for the rest of the summer we will be performing at numerous festivals including the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival, the Kaslo Jazz Fest, and the Edmonton Open Sky Festival. Our music is available online through our website, which also has tour dates and venues for those wishing to get a hot dose of funk in the ear. Take a listen and spread the word!

Valerie Bastien is a vocal coach, teacher, musician and freelance journalist.
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