Geordie Hart is none too pleased about the East Village.
When Vancouver city council re-named a stretch of Hastings Ave. the bassist for the world-influenced rock outfit and Peak Performance Project alumni The Boom Booms, Geordie Hart says some of the soul from the neighbourhood was drained
"It takes the identity (out of it). I know they're trying to clean it up and take Hastings out of branding of the neighbourhood but really, it's Hastings that defines this place."
He has a reason to be displeased, of course. Without Hastings-Sunrise, there would be no Boom Booms, as we know it. At their core, they're a rock band that blends all manner of world music into the mix, from Latin to soul to folk to African to reggae, for a style that is both resoundingly multicultural yet comfortably West Coast.
Hart says their interest in world music was influenced, in part, by the multiculturalism and sense of community in the Hastings-Sunrise area. But it was a road trip that he and Ross took, when they drove from Montreal to Mexico then flew to Cuba, which changed everything. He says there was something about the people that they met and the music that they heard that ignited their interest.
"We'd listen to old soul tunes and classic rock but that (trip) really opened the door to this new world thing that we wanted to do," he says.
"Right now it's about developing particular style with (these influences) and I think we've experimented with lots of different types of music from all over the world and I'm excited, because I feel like we're really honing in on something that's more crafted, rather than emulating. We're creating a style that brings these elements in but doesn't overlook the music that we grew up with."
Their latest release, Make Dat Do Dat EP, released earlier this year and recorded with the money they won through the 2011 Peak Performance Project, is the sound of a band finding their footing. Where their first two albums found the Boom Booms playing around with styles that interested them, they now have a greater sense of what sounds work best for the songs.
The songwriting is more mature, filled with unique instrumentation mined from various musical styles while staying rooted in traditional folk-rock structures. Frontman Aaron Ross's vocals tie it all together, manifesting the charm of Ben Harper while hinting at influences from Otis Redding to Marvin Gaye.
The band started in the schoolyard, when childhood friends Hart and Ross formed their first band in the sixth grade called The Unknowns (they planned to change their name to The Knowns once they found fame).
They carried on throughout high school, adding Nazrul's brother Sean (vocals/ukulele/cavacino) and Theo Vincent (percussion) to the lineup. They met Tom Van Deursen (guitar) and Richard Brinkman (drums) while tree planting one summer.
They started playing at the old The End Caf on Commercial Drive, incorporating Latin music into their sets to appease their salsa-enthusiast friends who were looking for a place a venue (and the right band) to let loose and steadily gained enough of a following to win them a coveted spot in the Peak Performance Project, a contest for unsigned bands held by 100.5 The Peak.
Hart says it was a career-defining experience.
"Besides having won a bunch of money that's going to help our careers immensely, it's helped us to just gain focus in our careers as musicians," he says.
They came out of the process, which is essentially business boot camp for up and coming bands, with a higher profile on the Internet, relationships with publicists and booking agents and, perhaps best of all, a legion of new fans.
Now they're gearing up for a cross-continent tour where they'll play festival stops along the way, including the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in July. They'll road test a batch of new tunes that they plan to record in Hart's home studio with the money left over from the Peak Performance Project.
The Boom Booms will play Whistler Olympic Plaza Saturday Sept.1