With its New Year’s Eve show nearly sold out and the buzz it has received since forming just eight months ago, Queer As Funk is quickly developing a reputation for its relatable and danceable music.
But that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since Motown is Queer As Funk’s de facto band leader and trumpet player Alison Gorman’s go-to music. “I love Motown,” she says. “It is what I love to listen to and what I find myself listening to at home.”
Keeping their audience in mind, Gorman says that the reason the band chose Motown (with a little soul and funk for good measure) was its desire to get people dancing and an eye to the potentially lucrative wedding business.
“People like to dance to Stevie Wonder and Amy Winehouse. It is very danceable music. Besides, in the back of my mind I wanted to corner the gay wedding market,” laughs Gorman.
“It’s also very accessible music that most people are most familiar with and can sing along to,” adds lead singer Connie Buna.
An eight piece band – Ivan Coyote on saxophone, Sir Backs on drums, Ellen Marple on trombone, Luis Melgar on keyboards & vocals, Alex Mitchell on bass and Alex Prince on guitar – Queer As Funk saw its roots in another queer music group.
“A bunch of us are in Leadfoot, an all butch choir,” explains Gorman. “We all liked singing and playing together, but we realized that we weren’t using all of our musical skills.”
With the beginnings of a band from their work together with Leadfoot, Gorman put the word out through the “lesbian phone tree” to round out the band’s numbers, some who haven’t played for years or are stretching themselves by picking up different instruments for Queer As Funk.
“Members of the band are playing instruments for the first time in this type of setting,” says Gorman. “Ivan for example has picked up the sax for the first time in something like twenty years.”
“We are really pushing ourselves to try this,” adds Buna whose day job is a realtor, but grew up in a musical home. “My dad is a musician so there was always lot of singing at home. I had always considered myself sort of a ‘campfire singer’ so being able to sing in Leadfoot and now Queer as Funk has blown my mind a bit and I really feel like I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone.”
From Winehouse to Redding, Gorman says the band is conscious of how danceable a song is when they put together a set list.
“We even do CeeLo’s “F**k You!” and it all makes sense. People sing along and people are dancing,” says Gorman.
“We’ve even incorporated DJ Slade into our team who will play contemporary music before and after the band’s sets,” adds Buna.
In fact it is DJ Slade that is helping the band to branch out into original music of sorts, something that Gorman says they are looking at doing more of down the road. For the new year gig the band is working on a version of Macklemore’s “Same Love” with DJ Slade writing an original rap to go over top of it.
As for the band’s name, Gorman admits it came from an obsession with a certain television show. “I was watching a lot of Queer As Folk,” she says with a smile. “I think it was like my fifth time or something and it seemed like a good fit.”
The band’s fourth show and only the second that they have produced themselves, the New Year’s gig will not only include a set from Sweet Soul Burlesque, one of Vancouver’s longest running burlesque groups in Vancouver, but five dollars from each ticket will be donated to Friends Help Friends, a charity that helps queer women and their allies with financial assistance to cover medical crises in their lives where other forms of conventional support are not available.
“This will hands down be the best New Year’s party in the city,” enthuses Bana, “and you won’t see any better value for your dollar”.
“And you’ll dance your ass off,” concludes Gorman.