I had the chance to see Freak Motif play The Market Collective Street Frostival last month. They created a big party on Stephen Avenue and turned everyone that was milling around the festival, shopping, or just listening in on their way to dinner into happy, excited participants.
The band started playing that day for a small crowd of fans, then shoppers heard the live music and came to check it out. The band ultimately ended up playing for a huge crowd with break dancers and a conga line. Fans were singing, clapping, playing percussion with any items they may have had on them and anything else excited people do when they get way into the spirit of the show. Anybody that wasn’t already jumping around got to when the Amber dance group came to perform and dance with the crowd.
“Sometimes people sing, paint… start doing crochet work!” jokes Henry Raul Yu (vocals/guitar) after the set when I had the chance to meet some of the members and learn more about how this band evolved into the behemoth that I had just seen and what to expect from them in the future.
Freak Motif is an eight-piece (but sometimes up to 15) funk, hip hop and soul collective with elements of reggae and ska. They are fun, happy, talented guys that formed three years ago mostly from a call for musicians Matt Walkey (bass) placed on Craigslist. It got a big response. More and more, friends of friends came to jam after hearing what a good time these guys are. Rappers, singers, DJs and all kinds of musicians and creative people from all over Calgary started coming to jams and collaborating.
With Freak Motif being a very community focused group, they were open to making music of all different sorts and went to their very first (surprise) gig at Vern’s with no pre-set songs. “We have never used a set list,” says Raul Yu. They decided to be themselves and play with whoever came to play that night. This has become the only constant at a Freak Motif show: expect the unexpected.
The improvisation that they do is very representative of their “go with the flow” style and they go with the energy of the audience — being energetic and wanting to sing and dance with them, people painting, or a break dance battle erupting in the middle of the crowd. Each show is a unique experience.
Their upcoming album, La Casa Blanca, is another new direction that they’re taking, not only keeping the jam feel of the outfit and integrating their trademark spontaneity into recording, but also writing songs and developing a tight live show.
They also hope to play outdoor festivals, like the Folk Fest during the summer (and Coachella!). Judging from what an exciting show they put on, summer festivals seem to be tailor-made for them.
I became a bigger fan after seeing their live show, as did many of the people at Frostival where they sold out of all their albums and T-shirts in what seemed like 10 minutes. Three tracks from their new album are available for download on their Bandcamp-powered website. Look forward to having a lot of fun, hearing awesome jazz jams, seeing who will perform and what other surprises are in store for us at when Freak Motif descend on the Palomino for their album release party.
Freak Motif will release La Casa Blanca on December 15 at the Palomino.
By Ernesto Tomas
Photo (thumbnail): Glen Co
[bandcamp track=1174401955 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=f65e37 size=venti]AB, Alberta