Make no mistake, Major Funk and the Employment is a big band with a big sound and big plans. It has also had some big personnel changes since bassist Etienne Girard put the group together two years ago.
“We wanted to have a trumpet onboard from the beginning,” Girard says. “It’s basically imperative to have that in our sound. We’re a loud party music band, and the trumpet is loud.”
The addition of trumpeter Adrian Burrill also doubled Major Funk’s vocal presence, with the former Nova Scotian sharing singing and lyric-writing duties with original lead singer Fiona Solon. And the ubiquitous Andrea McColeman is now on keyboards, taking over from Chris Reynolds.
“Chris said he would never quit the band unless he was offered a job by the Toronto Star, and he got offered a job by the Toronto Star, so he moved to Toronto,” Girard says with his signature hearty laugh.
Another addition is guitarist Glen Emond, who previously played with Girard in the now-defunct Nemesis and is also part of the heavy metal group Sanctuary.
“He was new to funk, but I wouldn’t say he is anymore. He’s pretty well got it down pat.”
Rounding out the current eight-member lineup are newcomer Olivier de Columbel on saxophone, Dave Dugas back on guitar after a year’s absence, and original percussionist Yves Paradis.
Girard admits being stoked by how far the band has come since he decided to take a flyer on a genre he had never tried before.
“I always loved whatever funk music I heard, but I wasn’t as well-versed in it as I am in some other styles. I just knew that it was a kind of music that I thought would be the most fun, and something that everybody could enjoy.”
A self-confessed perfectionist, Girard says part of the payoff is having a team of experienced and disciplined musicians willing to put in the hard work it takes to produce the tight sound he wants.
“We rehearse on Friday nights and have a really great time,” he says.
“As funny as it sounds, on the musical side that’s actually kind of key, because we’re all in a good mood and we’re able to really express that through the energy of our music.”
In February, Major Funk took a major leap by recording (and videotaping) a live show at the Old Fire Hall. The resulting CD, Hot Off the Floor, gets its launch on Friday, June 10 with a four-hour dance party at the Jarvis Street Saloon.
“We worked really, really hard on this recording,” Girards says. “We knew we’d be live, so we spent a lot of time beforehand, making sure we would be the best we possibly could, and that we’d arranged the songs in the best possible way.”
The eight-cut CD is bookended by two numbers of special significance, starting with “Bare Bones”, which Girard describes as the first song the group wrote collaboratively.
“It’s really fitting to open the album with that, because I think the band is really gelling, and this album marks a milestone in terms of us being more of a unit than ever.”
Girard says the closing track, “Nostalgia” is one that always gets the best audience response whenever the band performs.
“Everybody loves the song. We love it. It’s the song that’s going to be featured on the live recording video that we had done by Nah Ho Productions,” he says.
With Burrill on lead vocals and Solon’s “really awesome” backup, the song also features a rocking guitar solo by Emond before it “vamps out really nicely” at the end with a trumpet melody backed up by de Columbel’s sax harmonies.
Recorded by Jim Hammond, of Green Needle Records, the CD includes “Oceanic”, a cut “about the high seas, love, boats and fishing”, which partially inspired the whale-themed artwork Burrill created for the cover.
Another of Girard’s favourites is the fifth track, “Stick Around”, the first song he ever wrote for the band.
“Fiona’s vocals on the chorus are very passionate, and it really sends a shiver down my spine. I love playing that song.”
Prior to writing it, Solon’s only experience writing original material was when she was with another Girard band, Hammerhead, a decade ago. He wasn’t sure what to expect when she presented the lyrics.
“I was just blindsided. It was awesome. She wrote these really super lyrics, very passionate, very soulful. I think that song just kills it that way.”
The CD release party for Hot Off the Floor will run from 10 p.m. Friday until 2 a.m. Saturday. Those who can’t be there can sample the big party sound via the group’s Facebook page, or at www.majorfunkandthe employment.com.
Major Funk and the Employment will perform at a closing party for the Magnetic North Theatre Festival on Wednesday June 15 at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, as well as Arts in the Park on July 20 and the Dawson City Music Festival, which runs July 22-24.