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Putting music to words

The Whistler Writers Festival turns to Some Assembly Required to jazz things up

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Some Assembly Required is a Whistler ska, reggae and gypsy jazz band that solidified as a pub band about four years ago, but its origins came from those heady days of big bookings in the run-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"From about 2004, they had an arts festival every February, and I got a call from Arts Whistler to perform. They were looking for someone to do some poetry with music to tie in with the Whistler Writers Festival," says Some Assembly Required's vocalist and guitarist Stephen Vogler.

He was connected with upright bass player Rajan Das, who is now a close collaborator, and the rest is history.

"We were hired to play for eight minutes and we got this exorbitant rate. Pre-Olympics, all that money was floating around waiting to be spent," Vogler laughs.

"We were, like, 'Wow. This is awesome!' and it's been downhill ever since in payscale."

That may be the case, but for Vogler and Das the music has stayed sweet despite the change in pay. Many of Vogler's other music and arts projects have come out of his work at The Point Artist-Run Centre as executive director. Some Assembly Required had a slow incubation from there.

"We started to play with other musicians and adding them in, and that's when the name of the band came," he says.

"Some Assembly Required is a really good catch-all, because the band expands and contracts from a two-piece up to a five-piece, depending on the occasion."

The four-piece version of Some Assembly Required is playing on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the main Whistler Writers Festival (WWF) gala reading event, "When Reality Looks Like Fiction, How Do You Write Your Way to the Truth?"

Joining Vogler and Das are Dean Feser on drums and Geeta Das on trumpet.

"Geeta is Raj's sister and she is a phenomenal horn player. She also plays sax, flute, and sings. I love having a horn play; it gives us a whole other angle."

Music has had a home with WWF from its earliest days, he says.

"Stella (Harvey, the founder of WWF) likes that multi-disciplinary aspect, and so do the audience members, I think," Vogler says.

The band members are also performing at the Literary Cabaret on Friday, Oct. 13.

"The Literary Cabaret is fun, kind of risky. The writers and musicians are not quite sure what is going to go on, and that adds good energy to the night," Vogler says.

"Writers' festivals can be a bit dry, a bit bookish!"

Some Assembly Required is also planning its first recording, taking the whole thing in a new direction.

"It's an EP that will be out this winter. We don't have a name for it yet, but we will have five or six songs. New originals that I've been playing with the band," Vogler says.

He's also exporting his music to Ontario to perform with the band's former drummer, Michael Faiella, who he considers very much part of the lineup.

"That's the name again — it shows that we're very flexible," Vogler says.

"I've learned from being in a lot of bands that it is a good approach. They're like families; it can get pretty intense."

Music at the Whistler Writers Festival

• Literary Cabaret is a night of reading and performance on Friday, Oct. 13, at the Maury Young Arts Centre. Geeta Das is music director for the event, pulling in Pemberton pianist Rosalind Steel, upright bass player Raj Das, and percussionist Dean Feser.

Featured authors include David Chariandy, Leanne Dunic, Terry Fallis, Steven Heighton, Helen Humphreys, Grant Lawrence, Mark Leiren-Young, Suzette Mayr, Sandra Ridley and Terry Watada. 

• Songwriting Workshop with Juno Award-winner Shari Ulrich at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The workshop looks at what makes songs effective. Participants bring songs to share and the event welcomes beginners.

• "When Reality Looks Like Fiction, How Do You Write Your Way to the Truth?" Reading event with Doug Saunders, Leslie Anthony, Claudia Casper and Gurjinder Basran at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

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