A&E » Arts

Recipe finding the right mix



WHO: Recipe From A Small Planet

WHERE : Garfinkel’s

WHEN : Friday, Aug. 10

Take one part funk, two parts soul, a dash of reggae and some Latino to taste. Shake your booty vigorously and serve with a generous heap of rock and roll. It's a recipe for a guaranteed good time on the dance floor. It's Recipe From A Small Planet.

Perhaps the most important ingredient in the mix is youthful zest, matured far beyond its years. At the ripe old ages of 21, the members of RFASP already sound like a seasoned act and boast nearly 300 servings a year. Calgary boys, Ben Curties, Pablo Puentes, Steve Fletcher and Jason Crocker, were already jamming together when they hit puberty, and at a time when most 13 year olds would have been engrossed in Metallica or Nirvana, they listed Bob Marley, Johnny Cash and Stevie Wonder as part of their collections.

"The Beatles especially (were a big influence). They took every sort of style but kept it in the pop mould and simply wrote good songs," explains Curties. "We're not going out and trying to have a checklist of styles, like 'oh, it's time to write a polka song.’ But we do try to incorporate whatever sound fits the mood of the song."

Their latest CD, Babel Fish , is one moody compilation! From the hip-gyrating Latino vibes of Sleeping Cities to the instrumental funk of Candy Gun, RFASP displays a wide yet cohesive variety of sounds. Their inspired live jamming has earned them descriptions such as a young Grateful Dead or Phish, but their disciplined harmonies and tight sets insure they'll keep the attention of both unconventional music lovers and mainstream party seekers. Even the title of the disk implies RFASP can offer up something for every aural appetite.

"In the book, The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, there's a fish that the people put in their ears and they can understand all languages. So I guess we were getting at the fact that music is a universal language and the CD is our babel fish," says Curties.

And the people do seem to be listening. RFASP has become a hit on college campuses and radio. Their first EP, Hovercraft , stayed in top 30 rotation for six weeks on their hometown station, CJSW. Despite the lack of mosh-inspiring screams or angst-riddled lyrics, twentysomethings are packing the dance floors. RFASP admits to having experimented in the alternative rock vein, however, they now enjoy exposing their peers to musical influences different from the commercial norm.

"We were having a conversation about this just the other day, listening to the satellite radio in a bar," says Curties. "Music today is kind of strange. There’s a lot of music coming out that’s not very good. I guess some of that is because people are trying everything they can, especially if record companies are involved, they just want a hit. Any Ricky Martin that comes along, they have to put out 10 more because they found something that might just sell. In a climate like that, I think we’re offering something a little different and we might have a chance to be successful."

And their appeal doesn't stop there. One of the band's favourite memories on their present cross-Canada tour was about two weeks ago on Saltspring Island. Audience members were largely the age of the boys' parents and even grandparents, but RFASP's infectious energy won the pub over from the first song.

"I think they were just waiting for an excuse to dance," laughs Curties.

Need more proof that RFASP is a deliciously good time? How about the 2,000-plus CDs sold just from the side of the stage. How about beating out 360 bands to win CBC Radio's Performance 2000 competition. Or the sheer loyalty of their fans. It's not every band that finds total strangers eager to repay them just for an evening of great music.

"On our way to Montreal we blew a tire. It just exploded! We almost went off the road. It was wrapped right around the axle, so we had to have it removed. We finally got the spare on and got back on the road to make the gig. But then the tread came right off the spare. We ended up missing the gig. That was a crucial part of the tour where we had just paid off a bunch of bills and had absolutely no money and we were going to use the money from that gig to keep going. We were totally screwed," Curties says earnestly.

"Then this guy who had been at our CD release party in Calgary recognized us on the street of Montreal and came up to talk to us. We told him our story and he lent us $700. I think that was very symbolic of what makes all the touring worth it."