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Funk on, Jackfruit

Vancouver-based funky foursome sure to strike a chord with fans of the defunct Slow Nerve Action

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Who : Jackfruit

When : Saturday, Oct. 2, 9 p.m.

Where : Ocean Port Hotel, Squamish

Cost : $10 in advance at Random and Trinity Romance, $12 at the door

Chris Berry is no stranger to the Sea to Sky music scene. Any old school bums will probably have a vague recollection of his shows with Slow Nerve Action: they usually involved over-the-top antics and some seriously overt sexualization on stage. But it's been quite a while since Berry and his crew rolled into town.

"Ian (Lamont) and I... actually started a band called Slow Nerve Action in Whistler."

Berry called Whistler home from 1999 to about 2002 and played with Slow Nerve Action for almost five years, touring across Canada with their rowdy show.

"It was coined a porn funk band," he laughed. "It was awesome!"

'Nuff said.

And where did they play most of their gigs?

"Mainly at the greatest spot on the planet: The Boot. But it's gone, and I really haven't been up there since," he said, chuckling. "I've been boycotting! I want to play right in the middle of the parking lot!"

The days of Slow Nerve Action came to an end in the early 2000s, with a new band, Jackfruit, born in its wake.

During their travels with Slow Nerve Action, Berry and keyboardist Ian Lamont crossed paths with bass player Stephane Fortin, who was playing with a three-piece electro jazz funk band called Blue Quarter.

"So Jackfruit was mainly just like an all-star band that we just were messin' around with for fun at the beginning, and then at the same time, Blue Quarter and Slow Nerve Action kind of ended and we continued that with Jackfruit."

The Jackfruit project organically evolved into a full-fledged group of its own, though Berry readily admits that it's been a struggle to find the right fit for a drummer (they're onto their fifth one now).

"Sean's the man! He's our homie," Berry said, sounding a bit relieved.

The band members - Berry on vocals, Fortin, Lamont and Sean Scallion on drums - hail, originally, from all over Canada, but today, they all live in Vancouver.

Their grand plan was pretty simple: "Really, it was just to keep playing our asses off and make great music and keep going and keep going! It's what we love to do, it's the only thing that keeps us working day jobs, is knowing that we can go and play music."

A name like Jackfruit is practically begging to be Googled. Apparently, it's the national fruit of Bangladesh and tastes like an unripe banana. According to Berry, it just smells terrible - though that isn't why they decided to name their band after the odd produce item.

"I moved in with the keyboard player when I moved down to Vancouver," he recalled. "...At that time, we still didn't have any money, so we were standing in line for the food bank, and one of the things our friend got was this can of young, green jackfruit. And the company was called Cock On The Mountaintop, and it was just a big rooster on top of a mountain, and it was like, 'what the hell is that?' We were just laughing our asses off and thought it was funny. I think when we left that house, the only thing left in the cupboard was the can of young, green jackfruit."

Reluctantly, they opened the can, only to discover that the mysterious fruit was stinky, yet quite tasty.

"People used to bring them to our shows, these really tiny jackfruits, and we were like, 'Don't bring them!' because you put them on the stage and no one wants to come near us!"

And that's a real problem for these party all-stars. While the songs on their album Conversations With Robots are fantastically funky, incorporating an awesome range of styles and genres into an infectiously quirky melting pot, legend precedes these guys - it's all about the live show for these musicians. Or "circus madness," as Berry likes to describe it.

"We're all fairly energetic on stage, so it's a lot of fun to watch," he explained. "... It's just power the whole way through."

But with such an eclectic musical mix, newcomers to the Jackfruit scene may be slightly shocked.

"I think people are usually really kind of stand back and wonder what the hell it is, and then there's the other set that just dances its ass off the whole time."

As soon as someone breaks the ice and steps onto the dance floor, and the drinks start flowing, more people from the first group join the party.

After a fairly steady summer of gigs and making musical connections with a few new groups on the city scene, like Go Ghetto Tiger, the band took a bit of time to travel and relax with family.

"It is tough now that we're a little bit older. I've got a little four year old and Sean's a new dad, and day jobs come in and mortgages - it's a little harder. But we still write and practice all the time and play as much as we can."

Clearly: over the past five years, Jackfruit has released two albums and done three East Coast tours.

They just returned to town last week, and now, are getting ready to play a few fall shows, including one in Squamish.

Opening the show is Fogon, a collective musical project that was started at Quest University two years ago. The play a unique blend of salsa, reggae, and "trip-folk." Today, the group consists of 15 musicians, songwriters and performers, with one album release, Paint The Sky , under their belt.

 

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