The chemistry was quick and sure when drummer Jaime Rosenberg and bass player Justin Bontje were paired as roommates at University of Western Ontario back in 2009. Fellow music majors, the duo cleared the standard-issue dormitory furniture out of their room and replaced it with a menagerie of musical instruments and a jumbo-sized crash couch. “It was like one big continuous jam going on in our room,” Rosenberg says with a chuckle.
But it wasn’t until months later , the duo having met keyboardist/vocalist Yanick Allwood at a local open mic, that the outfit now known as “the funkiest band north of the border” really took flight. “We were looking for a keyboard player, so we grabbed Yanick,” Rosenberg says.
“Then we signed up for two battle of the bands competitions, one right after the other. We weren’t even looking to stay together as a full-time band. But then we ended up winning both contests.”
And the rest is history, or so says the cliche, as the trio added guitarist Phil Tessis, not to mention various horn players who’ve come and gone along the way. And over the course of the last seven years, the hard-touring After Funksters have turned into Canada’s number one funk export, logging an average of 120 dates every year, most of them stateside.
Theirs is an elastic, jammy brand of funk, laced with bits and bobs of other genres, and emceed impeccably by Allwood, a silken crooner whose verbal flow is as smooth and facile as his keyboard chops. Meanwhile, all of the band members are suitably accomplished on their respective axes, equally comfortable stepping out for a lengthy improv, or laying back into a flawless groove.
“There’s a melting pot of influences going on in the band,” Rosenberg says. “We’ve got guys into jazz, classical music, hip hop, metal. But funk has always been our common denominator. It just feels right for us.”
AF have two albums to their name right now, including 2014’s self-titled debut, and 2015’s “‘Til the Sun Comes Up.” Acknowledging that many jam-worthy outfits give songwriting the short shrift, Rosenberg says the band strives to produce albums that are as memorable as their kinetic live performances.
“That’s one way we’ve evolved, in that we continue to write stronger songs,” he says. “We still want to have solos on our records, but we want to have more definition between the album and live. We’re more conscious of writing good songs, and then finding ways to expand and stretch out on them live.
“And live is where we stretch out. Our live shows are fun. That’s the one word we use to describe our sets. We normally get super high-energy crowds; we get them dancing and smiling and having a great time. Yannick is great at that; he commands attention and moves the audience. He’s great at getting people hyped.”
After Funk will play Preservation Pub Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 10 p.m.