Music » Sound Features

Men of Few Words

Canada's Five Alarm Funk brings primarily instrumental funk to the Domino Room



or Canadian funk band Five Alarm Funk, their latest album, "Sweat," represents everything they've learned since forming in 2003.

"You can listen to the record and hear all of the different sounds and soundscapes in a refined and direct way," drummer and vocalist Tayo Branston says. "For us, and as musicians, looking back, these were the best things that we've ever been able to capture and get on a record."

Branston offers an interesting way to look at the album creation and release process. I asked how the sound has evolved and how it differs from their previous work, viewing each album as evidence of how a band's skills have increased gives a different perspective, rather than merely looking at how "good" or "bad" it sounds.

Five Alarm Funk recently won the title of Best Instrumental Act at the Western Canada Music Awards. As someone who has an instant connection and attraction to the lyrics of a song, instrumental bands like Five Alarm Funk intrigue me. For Five Alarm Funk, the music nearly always comes first. Many of the members have a love of artists like Frank Zappa and grew up on jazz, which makes sense in forming a primarily instrumental band.

"Instrumental music has always been very interesting for the band. And it's something we've always done. So now, getting into 'Sweat,' and where we want to put vocals and where we don't, it really comes down to the sound of the song and whether or not we feel like portraying a certain thing during a song. Each individual song will sing to what it needs."


or the band, they come up with a song, get into the studio and have the goal of making the best instrumental song they can. Sometimes it may call for lyrics and other times it may not— though Branston admits they do have a new song they'll be releasing in January that's primarily lyric-driven.

At a Five Alarm Funk show, it's all about letting loose and forgetting about the negative. Branston loves the cyclical energy of a concert and embracing the power and energy that the band gets from the crowd. Known for their stage show theatrics, not only will Five Alarm Funk make you dance, but you'll be entertained beyond the music.

"It's mostly improvisation, but we've played so many shows," Branston says. "We got into the stage show theatrics about seven years ago. Everyone has free range, but the players know what the other guys are doing. Different sections, like the guitar section, know what they are doing. The conga and timbales players are more maniacal."

The guys in Five Alarm Funk have built a family bond since the formation of the band in 2003.

"For us, we live to play and bring energy to the world, wherever we are," Branston says.

Five Alarm Funk

Fri., Oct. 20. 7pm.

Domino Room

51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend.

$12/adv. at

Latest in Sound Features

Add a comment

More by Anne Pick

  • Hot Hot Heat

    Hot Hot Heat

    Coolio, Larry and His Flask, Hell's Belles ... here's our take on the bands playing WinterFest
    • Feb 14, 2018
  • Choose Your Own Open Mic

    Choose Your Own Open Mic

    Looking to share the music bubbling up inside you? Find the open mic night for you
    • Feb 14, 2018
  • Could TCOs Get KOed?

    Could TCOs Get KOed?

    Proposed policy changes could see concerts at the Century Center much more limited
    • Feb 14, 2018
  • More »