Music Interview: Neo-funk has a new name: Sekoya

By Kristin McVeigh

Oh, the glamour of being a Juno nominee. Just the thought of rubbing elbows with the likes of host Brent Butt and Canadian skater girl Avril Lavigne makes people shiver with anticipation. For the band Sekoya, that’s all well and good, but it’s the pride in recognition for a CD recorded largely in one of their bedrooms puts the other perks to shame.

Sekoya is coming to the U of C and it promises to be a good show. Seriously. Mark it on your calendar. It’s not every day an intensely talented Juno nominated group (in the Jazz Contemporary category) hits campus. The Vancouver-based band, winningly describing themselves as “ecclectronic”, promises to be a full on dance worthy show. Amalia Townsend takes the helm of the operation and beckons students to the show.

“I just think people need to check out new things and not be scared. New avenues, new voyages, new experiences.”

Her experiences have led to what Sekoya is now, driven by just that philosophy. When challenged in college by a hippie classmate to participate in a spoken word night in Vancouver, she was game. “She was kind of the girl I was always intimidated by, that would draw like, naked people with pastels [during class],” says Townsend. “And always had the most amazing questions to ask even though she looked like she wasn’t paying attention, drawing these naked people. One day she came up to me and was like ‘I really would love you to guest appear at one of my living closet art nights,’ and I did and had so much fun.”

This girl influenced Townsend’s life, also leading her into the art of spoken word, which is often included in Sekoya’s songs.

The latest trend in Townsend’s love for the new is writing love songs. Usually, her lyrics are politically charged and showcase her poetic and creative writing history. In her song Rebel, she investigates role reversal. “I’m going to relate it to gays and lesbians and reversing the role, so putting the man in the kitchen. Playing around with all the cliches and breaking social standards.”

But the love songs have Amalia mostly beat. In an industry riddled with love songs, she finds writing on that particular subject matter is her weakness.

“‘Come 2 my place’ is the closest to being a love song and that’s all about me wondering what it would be like to be in love.” Don’t worry though, she is currently writing a true blues love song comparing alcohol with love, based on a quote from Shakespearian times regarding a person being drunk in love.

With the lyrical prowess and business savvy of Townsend, combined with the two other bachelor of music wielding members of the band, Sekoya is unstoppable. Their last year has been an unbelievable one, having performed in Jazz festivals around the country, a Tsunami relief concert with Ivana Santilli and the BumberShoot festival in Seattle with the likes of fellow Canadians Sam Roberts and Nickelback.

One might say Sekoya’s philosophy is to boldly go where no man has gone before. But that’s probably someone else’s slogan already. So we’ll just say if you want some butt-kicking music, a girl rocking your socks and a reason to get you off of your mom’s couch, this band’s for you.