That’s how Five Alarm Funk, Canadian funk-force to be reckoned with, envisions the end of days in their upcoming concept album. The nine track record, due out this fall, will tell the tale of the band’s journey to the centre of the Earth, their devastating ride on the back of a robo-dragon, and the ensuing clash between humanity and the demonic hordes — bookended by encounters with the sinister ice cream man.
Whew. A hell of a concept for a funk album, right?
The apocalyptic plot started taking shape last summer, dreamt up by the band’s drummer, Tayo Branston, during their cross-country tour. As it turns out, in awesome twist of geekery, the guys kill a lot of time in their tour van playing fantasy games, like Magic Cards and “Lore,” a choose-your-own-adventure RPG. That’s what got Branston’s mind clicking towards an epic fantasy concept album.
“All the fantasy that was going on in the van, all the imagination and stuff, really gave us the idea that we could start writing songs about particular things,” said Branston. “We had this song about the ice cream man and we thought ‘where can we go from there … to take people on the most devastating, outrageous, fun and vibrant journey that they could possibly go on?’”
The first stop on their outrageous journey is the subject of Five Alarm Funk’s first feature music video, “We All Scream” (see above). Released on June 19, the video centres on the kidnapping of the band’s conga player Tom Towers by the diabolical ice cream man. There’s a lot packed into the four minute film, including ice cream fight scenes, sexy candy-coated pole dancing, and kind-of-gross extreme hallucinogenic ice cream eating closeups. Shooting the music video was “one of the best, most exhausting experiences the band has been through.”
“Basically we did the whole video in about four days,” explained Branston. “Two of those were about 14, 15 hour days. And you can see from the video, there’s a lot of moving around, jumping, and digging to the centre of the Earth (which is the next song in our saga, you could say.) [Shooting] the dancing and the ice cream fight was a truly exhausting but rewarding experience.”Joined on set by at times more than forty crew members and volunteers (mainly dancers and extras), the energy levels never dropped below ehem funking high.
“It had to be wild,” said Branston. “It had to be exactly what we are on stage put into music video form…. Everybody in the band blew me away with all the creativity and all the wickedness that they brought to the set. Nobody was shy, everybody got their stage face on and did it proper and it was really really exciting to see.”
The “We All Scream” video marks the beginning of a larger, more extravagant multi media tie-in for the concept album. If Branston has his way, over time the video will be expanded into a 45-minute audio visual saga, chronicling the entire wild adventure, complete with animated segments (not only because they’d be cool in an Animatrix-y kind of way, but also because it’s slightly cheaper to animate a robo-dragon than to build one). The band is hoping to get their hands on some grants to help fund the project and may also try crowdfunding on Indiegogo.
All this will start to come together in the fall and into 2014. This summer Five Alarm Funk is in full-on tour mode. With thirty tour stops in a month and half, they’ve got a lot on their plate. It’s the busiest tour in the band’s history, and Branston couldn’t be more thoroughly stoked.
“It’s gonna be very very intense. Lots of driving, but that’s exactly what we do. We’re intense, and we want to get out there and we want people to come out to the shows, and we want to play for them and have fun. Being on the road is the best time. It’s the best experience, I think, that a musician can have.”
You can catch Five Alarm Funk in Saskatoon on July 1. Their Canada Day performance will officially close the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival Free Stage. The show kicks off at 9:00 pm.
The We All Scream Saga: The Story So Far…
“We All Scream”
A deranged ice cream man taints his tasty treats with a cornucopia of psychoactive substances and unleashes the diabolical concoction on the members of Five Alarm Funk.
“Journey to the Centre of the Earth”
Five Alarm Funk, hell bent on hallucinogens and in a state of chronic psychosis, receive a revelation. Though they do not understand their purpose, they now wholeheartedly believe they must dig deep down into the interior of planet Earth. Equipped with shovels and a stolen ice cream truck converted into a tunnel boring machine, they speed through the Earth’s mantle. A military force tries to intervene but are overpowered by FAF’s savage, drug-fueled ferocity. With the soldiers dispatched, the band can proceed towards their destiny, the Center of the Earth.
Upon reaching a cavernous region within the great magma heart, Five Alarm Funk discovers a creation of mythical proportion. Laying docile, a massive mechanical monster sleeps before their eyes. With the knowledge that their great journeys purpose lay dormant in front of them, a monumental jubilation occurs as FAF realizes there is only one thing left to do… Turn the colossal robots power switch “on.”
The great robot is alive, and its power providers are now safely secured within its command center. Thrusters ignite, augers spin ferociously, they cut through rock like it was air as the quest to the crust commences.
Upon the Earth’s surface, shamans, seers and psychics alike all start ranting of impending doom and unheralded havoc!! As quick as the predictions come so does the mayhem. An ear-splitting sound and incomprehensible shaking paralyze a northern nation as the gargantuan robot explodes through the Earth’s crust followed by a massive blast of molten magma.
Flying at the speed of sound and uncontested by the human’s lowly jet-fighter technology, robot and FAF seek demolition upon the planet by summoning Earth’s great natural disasters! “THUNDER” , “MAGMA” “EARTHQUAKE” , “TORNADO” , “VOLCANO” they scream. The actions are louder than words as a hellstorm of ferocity is unleashed upon humanity.
At this point, Five Alarm Funk is riding the giant robot dragon, flying around the Earth erupting volcanos and bringing the unnatural out of the ground. It’s massive war between humanity and the gargoyles [and zombies, banshees, basilisks, sirens, hellhounds, cyclops and ogres] that are coming out of the ground. Meanwhile, FAF rides around the planet on the back of their giant, doomsday robot, in this apocalyptic setting.
The robo-dragon unleashes a doomsday device — a giant particle collider at the centre of the Earth. This launches a black hole at the centre of the Earth and starts sucking the world in on itself. Through the eyes of the band, the whole world is collapsing in on itself, and the devastation that has occurred from the band’s journey becomes apparent.
The ice cream man is back! His plan to make an ice cream concoction that breaks you down to a place where you no longer you feel you are anything in the world has succeeded, and Five Alarm Funk is still under his spell. He has taken the band on a massive hallucination and they’ve destroyed the world, and are about to destroy themselves. They’ve been reduced to nothing, and now the ice cream man is rebuilding them as his own personal ice cream army. As the band begins to believe they are his ice cream army, they set out to put the rest of the world under the ice cream man’s spell.
Photo: Johnny Liu Photography
Poster: Andrew Mitchell