Who: Redeye Empire
When: Thursday, April 23, doors at 9 p.m.
Cost: $8, $5 Club Shred members at the cabin
Redeye Empire's music captures the spirit of the season - it'll have the crowd swaying to its reggae rhythms one minute, then fist-pumping to a rock riff the next second. Sounds like a great fit for the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival crowd.
Though the group is based in Vancouver, it has some serious Whistler roots in its lead vocalist, Mike Redmond, who was lured to Whistler in 1996 to ski. During his almost nine years here, he continued to cultivate his musical interests by playing acoustic guitar, privately.
"I'd never really thought about playing in front of people," he recalled.
But all that changed after going to the open mic night at the Crystal Lounge. There, he met the host and was invited up to perform. He soon began going every week, meeting other local musicians like Phil T. Beats and Rajan Das, and forming a group called Living Room, which played local shows around town. Eventually, he was also asked to host the regular open mic night.
"I was blown away, I thought it was like the coolest thing ever," Redmond said with a laugh. "I went home and quickly found out that I had to learn about 60 or 70 songs so I could get through the three-hour set that they wanted you to play."
Today, Redmond is a founding member of Redeye Empire, which came together almost four years ago. The group is Redmond and Gabe Davis on vocals and guitar, Eric Stephenson on bass, Ben Brown on keys, Ryan Davis (no relation to Gabe) on drums, and Andre Arsenault on guitar.
"Gabe and I have known each other since we were kids.... When I moved back down to Vancouver we were looking to do some sort of music project together," Redmond said.
At the time, they had written a few songs, but needed more members to make their sound complete. So, they started auditioning musicians, which was an awkward task for Redmond, who was used to the laidback Whistler music scene.
"It was a completely different process than I was used to," he said.
"...Whistler, when I think of a music scene, is really kind of my heart and soul because there are so many people that participate in the music scene up there, and it's all a bunch of people that seem to know each other. It's a real community and on a regular basis they play together at someone's barbecue in the back of someone's house. Whistler spawns good musicians and it spawns a real music community."
Davis and Redmond got lucky, and ended up finding the rest of the group through friends of friends and other musical connections.
Anyone who happened to check out Redeye's show at Main Stage, Skier's Plaza last Friday afternoon can tell you that a lot has changed since Redmond's days as a solo acoustic musician playing covers at the Crystal. The group's sound is definitely high energy and upbeat, a natural fusion of reggae, ska, rock and hip hop, with a pop feel thrown in, which is unarguably the direct result of the members' diverse musical preferences and backgrounds.
"I've always been a really big fan of Sublime and that Southern California Slightly Stoopid, and Fishbone. A little bit more punk," Redmond explained.
But all of the members had a shared love of reggae, which has helped unify their individual sounds.
"It melded together really nicely and all of a sudden we just came across this sound that we were aiming for, again; this kind of West coast reggae feel," Redmond said.
Lyrically, there are also some strong messages behind their music.
"(We) put thought into what we're writing and I think sometimes the hardest thing that we face is trying to come up with themes for songs," he said.
"...The intent of our songs is to make a point, to actually express a bit of ourselves in a meaningful and insightful way."
Since starting the group four years ago, they've had the chance to tour with some of their idols, talented musicians like Fishbone, G Love and Pepper.
"I think we've been incredibly lucky to go out and tour with some of the guys who were some of our biggest influences."
In that time, they've also managed to release two full-length records, and have another on the way, due out later this year.
The group recently wrapped up an east coast tour as part of Canadian Music Week, playing shows in Montreal and Toronto that were very well received, and they were just in Whistler last week to take part in the TWSSF's Zune Concert Series. Now, they're set to play yet another show in town, on Thursday at the GLC, with local artists Mike and The Tell Tales and Kostaman opening.