You might think Whitehorse, Yukon would be an unlikely home for a hot funk band.
You’d be wrong.
“Whitehorse is a very magical place, kind of like Smithers,” said Toby Moisey the band’s saxophone player who hails from Smithers. “There’s a little bit of everything, but yeah, I was kind of surprised to find a funk band here too.”
Major Funk has been kicking around the territorial capital for several years honing their material and becoming a really tight unit. A relative newcomer to the band, Moisey said it has really paid off as they prepare to release their first full album.
“Now, there’s such great communication and really awesome ideas that just flow,” he said.
“They really know each other, so I think it’s after the band really getting to know each other and going through a few transitions as well they’re finally starting to drop their first big album.”
The foundation of Major Funk’s music is solid bass-driven grooves, perhaps not surprising given founder Étienne Girard is the bass player.
“That’s probably my favourite part is the bass-driven grooves,” Moisey said. “When that bass starts, it’s hard not to dance. I had to practice dancing and playing the saxophone at the same time, which is not as easy as it sounds.”
Layered on top of those grooves is a complex, but seamless, melange of soaring horns, complimentary guitar and keys and gutsy vocals.
That is also unsurprising given the collective credentials of the members of the seven-piece ensemble, most of whom have completed post-secondary education in music.
In short, this is a group who can really play. But, although highly technical, the overall effect is simply fun.
Major Funk is “the most danceable band I can think of,” according to Atlin Arts and Music Festival Producer and artistic director Angela Drainville.
Moisey is no exception. After growing up in Smithers where he studied piano and flute with Gail Olsen and played in Smithers Secondary bands, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Victoria.
From there, it was off to St. Petersburg, Russia for a Master’s in flute performance.
In addition to flute and sax, Moisey can play pretty much the entire suite of orchestral wind instruments courtesy of his band teacher education in Montreal.
It was the teaching certificate that brought him to Whitehorse.
“I was looking for a job in the north and when Whitehorse came up, I jumped at it,” he said.
Major Funk’s debut album Is That You? drops tomorrow (March 19). They are also performing two limited audience shows at the Yukon Arts Centre in the evening, one at 7 p.m. and one at 9 p.m.
Tickets are also available for the livestream of those concerts on a pay-what-you-decide basis.
Although the album is not officially released, there’s already a bit of a buzz.
“It’s really exciting,” Moisey said. “You hear the reviews or you see the attention and it’s really validating.”
As a touring band, 2020 was, of course, a disappointing year. They had even been scheduled to perform at the Calgary Stampede.
While gigs such the Stampede may be a while coming back online, Moisey is hoping they will be able to back on the road soon.
“There’s talks of a little Yukon tour happening because things are little more open up here,” he said. “So, small outdoor festivals and gatherings, I think that might happen this summer, just a few gigs, but it is a touring band and that’s a big part of it.”