Most of us have wondered at one time or another where the boundaries of reality lie, where truth meets fiction and dreams meet reality, where ice cream meets the apocalypse. . . Wait what?
Five Alarm Funk’s new concept album Abandon Earth features a nefarious ice cream salesman who hides drugs in his ice cream, lures the innocent consumers into his lair, and takes them on a psychedelic adventure tunneling to the middle of the earth, where a scary technological behemoth lies waiting to unleash endless natural disasters and monsters on poor planet Earth.
Five Alarm Funk is touring Canada to promote their fifth studio album, released June 7 in Vancouver. I spoke with Gabe Boothroyd about the band, the album, and the concept.
Nancy Berman (NB): It seems that a lot of bands are working on concept albums these days. Why do you think this is?
Gabe Boothroyd (GB): It seems like the album is a dying form. While we were writing, we realized that we had a lot of repetition, a lot of motifs that kept returning in the music, and this gave direction to our writing. We decided that we were working on a cohesive whole piece of music, which we mapped out according to the songs we put together, in order to represent the story we were creating. The motifs and repetition in the music helped us to tie it all together. The idea is fantastical, not firmly paralleling reality, but the destruction of the planet does seem to be something people think about lately.
NB: Do you think the concept album is a bit of a reaction against people’s shrinking attention spans?
GB: The songs on the album stand on their own — people aren’t required to listen to the whole thing. They can consume as much as their attention span allows. But hopefully people will check it all out, since it does have a sense of cohesiveness.
NB: How would you describe your sound?
GB: That’s always an evolving question. We really try to incorporate many different things, and we’ve been influenced by different things at different times. But it’s the energy on stage that gets the crowd going, it’s the thing that glues us together more than any specific genre. Lately we’ve been trying to incorporate Balkan music and Bangra, although not in any authentic sense, but rather filtered through our background as rock and funk musicians.
NB: How long have you been together? How did you come to work together?
GB: A few of us started out playing together in Vancouver, and then we started looking around for horn players, through friends of friends of friends. But horn players tend to play in many different things, so it’s hard for them to commit to one band. Our horn players are integral to our sound; they’re like the lead singers, playing all the main melodies. So we needed people who could commit to six-week tours and so on. We have solid people now. Everyone’s been in the band for at least 5 or more years.
NB: What kind of a stage show do you put on?
GB: Energy is the main thing. We like to get people jumping. We often have goofy dance moves and little bits of choreography. We like to get people involved in moving. Our shows get hot, half-naked, and sweaty, which is how we like it! People can’t always get a sense of our energy unless they see us live. It’s a good party.
Five Alarm Funk plays Divan Orange (4234 St. Laurent) Thursday July 10. $12/15.