When I arrived at Hometeam New Year’s Rally in Lakeland, FL last December, After Funk was an unfamiliar name to me but their Jimi Hendrix tribute on the schedule caught my eye. Like everyone else, I wanted to see if they could pull off such a risky endeavor.
One of the best things about music journalism is seeing the spark of creativity within musicians when they are on the verge of breaking out. You see greatness in the making. That’s what I experienced with After Funk. They poured pure soul into resurrecting Jimi Hendrix that night. They put the f-u-n in funk.
Offstage, Yanick Allwood appears as the soft-spoken loner type, but on stage his voice transformed into a commanding thunder. Phil Tessis was THE electricity powering his guitar. When he got rolling the energy was intensely hypnotic. The mastery of Jaime Rosenberg on drums and Justin Bontje on bass further heightened the entire thrill. Like everyone else, I was hooked. Their second set the following night was equally impressive.
By the end of the weekend I wanted more. Coincidentally they were scheduled for Jacksonville a few days later on January 4th so we reached out for an interview. The guys talked with us about their video filming adventures in Sanibel Island and their upcoming album plans. We also got some background history on how they formed the group back in college.
Not only did they deliver a third amazing set that week proving they are a consistently good band, they also made some new Florida friends like Isaac Corbitt who came out to sit in on a couple tunes. Read more about the adventures below and put these guys on your ones-to-watch list.
Is this your first time in Florida? How long have you been in the state?
Phil: Yes, about a week. We left Toronto around six in the morning and drove straight here.
Tell us about the video you came here to shoot.
Phil: It’s for the lead single “All Rage” off our upcoming album coming out this fall. It’s a fun video. It’s essentially a cops and robbers video. That’s why I still have this mustache.
Justin: And I have this goatee.
Jaime: The premise is that we pull off a heist up north in Toronto. We escape down here, living the lavish life and these guys [the cops] are back up north gathering evidence.
Phil: We were running around the streets shooting the video with fake guns worrying about getting arrested. [laughs]
Phil and Yanick at the “All Rage” video shoot
I was checking out the photos you guys post on Facebook and it looks like After Funk knows how to have a good time.
Phil: Yeah, we rented a Mercedes.
Did you return the Mercedes in the same condition?
Justin: Yeah, the tires might have been a little bit balder.
Phil: We might have ghost rode that whip.
The Jimi Hendrix tribute you did at Hometeam was one of my favorite sets of the weekend. Is this a set you do often? Why did you choose to channel him through your music?
Jaime: We only did it once before that, to practice, but we’re doing it again at the end of this run.
Phil: We like his tunes a lot and wanted to re-imagine them for our sound and what we do.
Jaime: He has a lot of energy and we do too. It was cool to take what he does and put our own spin on it but still keep it to the same feeling he had behind it.
What’s your history as musicians before the band?
Jaime: I started playing piano when I was young and when I was eleven I started playing drums. I studied at Humber for music.
Yanick: I did a little bit of everything. I did gospel for a while and I was in music theater. Then I did classical piano. Now I’m doing funk. I started playing funk basically because of these guys. We started playing as a group and the common ground was funk.
Phil: I started playing guitar when I was eight and started taking it more seriously when I was about thirteen. I started studying with a really good Cuban musician. He taught me a lot about jazz. I went to Humber College as well. I graduated about six years ago. Since then I’ve just been playing with these guys. I worked on a cruise ship for a bit. That was interesting. [laughs]
Justin: I just started playing bass at the start of this band. I used to play drums. I played in high school bands and ended up going to school for music at University of Western Ontario. I auditioned on drums but ended up switching to bass.
From seeing you play and interact together, it seems like you have all been friends for a while. How and when did you form After Funk?
Jaime: Before I went to Humber I studied in a social sciences program at Western. I was randomly paired up with Justin as roommates through a survey. It worked out well. We moved the desk out of the room and had electronic drums, keyboards, and guitars. We pissed off our neighbors always having loud music. Eventually they just stopped complaining.
Justin: Then we met Yanick and invited them over to play.
Jaime: We played a couple of times but nothing really came of it for about a year.
Phil: There was a different guitar player before I joined the band. He broke his leg and subbed out a gig. I played the gig and stayed on with the band after that. The funny part is he ended up coming to the gig anyway. He stepped out of the gig for a broken leg – it’s not like he broke his hands or anything.
Justin: I broke my arm once and still played the gig. A bunch of gigs actually.
Phil: So I ended up staying on and we beefed up the band. We had a couple horns and percussion as well.
Jaime: We started off as four; then went up to eight; and now we’re back to four.
Is it just easier to keep things simple with fewer members? Do you ever invite guest players out to play with you?
Justin: We tried having more players for a little bit. We had a couple guys come with us for a run or two. The logistical part of this is easier this way.
Phil: It’s so much easier with just the four of us. We have better chemistry this way. We like having musicians sit in with us all the time.
Who all played with you at Hometeam? That was a good weekend for sit-ins and seeing people play together for the first time.
Justin: Isaac Corbitt!
Jaime: He’s playing with us tonight [in Jacksonville].
Phil: And Joe Marcinek sat in on guitar. Savi Fernandez sat in and I ended up sitting in with him as well. It was fun. In a place where we knew nobody coming in, we met so many awesome musicians we can call up to jam.
Justin: It was a good way to make our debut down here. We started out at a festival and then hit the cities around it. Now we have more of a following.
Jaime: The Hendrix set helped out a lot too. We didn’t know anybody and people were saying, ‘oh, you guys are doing the Hendrix set,’ and then that went well. So everyone who was at that came back to the second set the next day and told other people. Our second set was well-attended as well.
How did Florida end up being the kick off for this video shoot and tour run?
Jaime: Hometeam brought us down here. We were going to do it last year but it didn’t work out. We were going to do a couple of shows on the way down but Phil brought up the idea that we had access to this crazy property in Sanibel Island so we should shoot a video.
Phil: It was the right decision for sure. We felt like ballers getting to hang out there for a day, not that it was our place or anything but it was fun.
We wouldn’t mind you guys being snow birds and coming down every winter. After Funk puts on a good show.
Phil: We like to get away from the winter for a bit.
Justin: For some parts of the winter. We like to play winter sports.
What else is on your agenda?
Phil: We’re also planning a live album which we’re trying to release in May. It’s going to be a couple of tunes from the last few months as well as some from this run and some from the next run.