You think community isn’t important? Take a look at the Boom Booms, dummy.
Some of the tightest, smoothest, sexiest soul and funk produced in the city right now comes courtesy of six guys who all grew up within a few blocks of each other on Vancouver’s East Side.
“I can walk around and still see everybody, friends that I see kicking around Hastings Street or the Drive that I went to school with,” says vocalist Aaron Ross, calling the Straight the day after a show in Penticton. “That’s one of the challenges as housing prices go up. I think it’s important for everybody to feel a sense of place and belonging. That’s what it comes down to, and ideally you also have a sense of tradition that’s rooted in something and passed down. I grew up in the same house where my grandpa grew up. And that’s cool! I like being there!”
With an ineffable groove that won them $75,000 at 2011’s Peak Performance Project and made them nascent stars in Brazil (where groove is a birthright), you could speculate that the Boom Booms’ chemistry comes from a lifetime of shared experiences and psychic proximity to one another. You could further speculate that the band’s relentlessly positive outlook comes from that same place of emotional security, as on their recent blue-eyed single “Real Love”. Or you could put it down to Michael Jackson.
“We’re listening to Off the Wall and Thriller,” answers Ross, when asked what’s in rotation in the tour bus. “They’re both such incredible records, man. We’re listening to that not just cause we like it but because, man, we gotta play in that pocket and write those funky lines and those funky tunes.”
The pocket was already there on the Boom Booms’ Latin-spiced 2011 debut album ¡Hot Rum!. With “Real Love” and the material the band has recently worked up for its forthcoming album, Love Is Overdue, the Boom Booms have toned down their more exotic inclinations and focused hard on making a straight-ahead soul record. Producer Chin Injeti was the obvious choice for the job, suggesting, among other things, an “Al Green-y kinda thing” for the Hammond-washed slow jam that gives the album its title.
“It’s been a treat getting to work with that guy,” says Ross, whose speaking voice is every bit as euphonious as his vocal work. He wanted to be Otis Redding when he started singing at 17, but as Injeti told him, “You can do the smooth thing”—and he does. The singer continues, smoothly: “We’ve definitely got something beyond the regular producer-band thing. We’re building together. He knows those genres that we’re referencing. We’ll be in the studio and maybe Tom’s playing a guitar part, and he’s like, ‘Nah, give me a Prince 1984,’ or, ‘Take it to Philadelphia,’ or he’ll be able to drop a reference to a certain track. He’ll say, ‘Listen to this, this is what you guys are trying to do.’ And we’ll listen—and it’s totally it.”
In short, Injeti has helped sex up the Boom Booms’ package, which is now primed for long, slow fucking. You can hear (or even act upon) the results when the band headlines the first annual East Van Summer Jam fundraiser in Strathcona Park this Saturday. They’ll be bringing the limited-edition East Van Summer Jam Mixtape with them—a five-track preview of the full-length (which is released later in the summer).
The Summer Jam itself, meanwhile, is the Boom Booms’ way of giving back to the borough that raised them. Proceeds from the fundraiser, which also features the Rascalz, the Funkhunters, and the New Royales, go to Ross’s nonprofit, the Music Tree. In past years, the Music Tree has donated money to organizations like the Vancouver-based CLICK (Contributing to Lives of Inner-City Kids).
See? See what kind of good things happen when you don’t trade in your neighbourhood for a bunch of glassy condos and a Whole Foods minimall?
The Boom Booms headline East Van Summer Jam in Strathcona Park (857 Malkin Avenue) on Saturday (July 5).